Congregation Kol Emes (Young Israel of Richmond)
(Video of Rabbi Kolakowski)

Congregation Kol Emes is located in the near West End area of Richmond, Virginia surrounded by a family neighborhood of houses and schools. The majority of the congregation is comprised of older men and women from the surrounding areas, with a few children. Attendance averages about twenty persons. The synagogue is deeply rooted in Richmond Jewish history. The earliest Richmond synagogue was Beth Torah, a Haredi (the most theologically conservative form of Orthodox Judaism) congregation. When Beth Torah closed, there was a need for a Jewish academy. What is now Rudlin Torah was originally established on the current site of the Kol Emes synagogue. The academy later moved to its current location on Patterson Avenue. The Jewish Academy changed its name to Congregation Kol Emes not long after the formation of the Jewish Academy.

The congregation holds a service each Friday and Saturday of the week. There are morning and afternoon services on Saturdays. The Friday night service is a candle lighting service. The Saturday morning service involves reciting verses from the Torah and readings from the Torah. A hot meal consisting of fish and kugel is serviced preceding the Saturday morning services. The afternoon services at Congregation Kol Emes include a shalosh seudo. It is mandatory in the Orthodox tradition of Judaism to consume three meals on the Sabbath, the Holy day. The shalosh seudo is usually the smallest meal on the day, and is taken after Minhah and prior to the evening service. The services follow the traditions of Orthodox Judaism. There is a lattice wall in the sanctuary that serves as a partition between women and men during the services.  

Congregation Kol Emes is one of the few synagogues to have its own mikvah, a term from the biblical book of Genesis that translates as “gathering of water.” The mikvah has four important ritual cleansing functions in Judaism. It is utilized after a female’s menstruation cycle, when new dishes are bought from someone who is not Jewish, for the conversions of those who are converting to Judaism, and by Jews before going into the Temple.  

The current rabbi of Kol Emes assumed the position of mara d’asra in the synagogue in 2007. He has established as a high priority finding more student and community members to join their services and become part of the congregation, as well as educating the community about the beliefs and practices of Orthodox Judaism. The congregation is committed to finding all of those interested in Orthodox Judaism and encouraging them to attend services at Congregation Kol Emes. Since young boys become men at the age of twelve in Judaism, Congregation Kol Emes is constantly searching for these young men to help with the services.

Congregation Kol Emes
4811 Patterson Avenue
Richmond, VA 23226

Kol Emes Rabbi
Congregation Kol Emes website

Profile prepared by Robbin Arrington
March, 2008