David Boris: From “Congregation” to Washington Hebrew Congregation

Photo of the band "Congregation" onstage with guitarist David Boris in the center wearing a pink satin shirt

“Do I wish that were my life and my career? God damn right I do.”

David Boris and I are sitting on his porch, just a few minutes away from Temple, and he’s reflecting on his time as one of the hottest local bands of the 1990s – Congregation.

If you asked him 30 years ago if he could see himself as a family man, and member of the Washington Hebrew Board of Directors, he’d be the first to laugh. “I thought it was funny that I was invited to the board because I never came,” he says. Despite his kids being part of WHC from ECC to confirmation, Boris says when that was done, “I wasn’t doing anything. I stopped going to high holidays. I really wasn’t a participant at all.”

But the same determination he had to “make plays,” the former college athlete says, is what launched his musical career and now has him investing his own time in the Temple.

Boris’s musical journey began in his high school years when he developed a love for jazz. However, his musical tastes were not confined to a single genre. “I also listened to complex music like Yes and Rush,” he reveals, showcasing his eclectic musical palette. His college years marked a pivotal shift in his musical preferences as he delved into alternative music, immersing himself in bands like The Clash, The Smiths, and Echo & the Bunnymen.

It was during his senior year in college that Boris experienced a life-changing encounter. His fraternity big brother introduced him to the soulful sounds of Otis Redding. The impact was profound, as Boris recalls, “I took all of my Smiths and all of my The The, and I sold those discs and I bought all of the Isley Brothers and Bobby Womack and Curtis Mayfield I could get.” This pivotal moment ignited a desire within Boris to capture that same energy and sound, blending it with the spirit of bands like Sly and the Family Stone.

Congregation, the band he founded quickly gained recognition and made waves in the DC music scene. The band’s achievements include headlining at the renowned 930 Club and being picked to play one of the last shows at the legendary Bayou, accomplishments he cherishes. However, it was their performances in New York City that truly left a lasting impression on him. Boris describes the atmosphere of a New York City show, where he would gaze out at the audience, a small club packed with 200 people, and realize that amidst countless options, these individuals had chosen to be present, fully engaged in the music. It was a powerful experience that evoked deep emotions: “It almost makes you want to cry when people are responding to music you wrote with the band you put together.”

While Boris looks back fondly on the success of Congregation, he also recognizes the transient nature of opportunities in the music industry. “There’s sort of a window, I think, with all things,” he muses. Nevertheless, he takes immense pride in the band’s achievements, acknowledging that they ventured farther than many other groups.

As his musical window closed, he transitioned into a different life as a husband, father, and businessman. Last year, he added Washington Hebrew Board Member to his resume. For years he was not an active participant in the synagogue, attending only on significant occasions. However, once on the board, his perspective shifted. His unique position as someone who had been somewhat detached from the synagogue community allowed him to bring a fresh perspective and act as a voice for those who may not traditionally engage in congregational activities.

“I could engage in a conversation with people around, ‘What do you like about this place? What do you think we can do to improve?'” Boris explains. This role enables him to bridge the gap between the congregation and the synagogue’s leadership, ensuring that diverse voices are heard and considered.

For Boris, spirituality finds its expression in action rather than mere beliefs. He emphasizes the importance of volunteerism, philanthropy, and meaningful outreach to congregants and the wider community. It is through these tangible acts of kindness and service that Boris believes true spirituality is embodied. “Our volunteerism, our philanthropic work, stuff we’re doing for the congregants to be meaningful for them, our outreach outside of the synagogue — that’s the stuff that matters to me,” he affirms.

Boris’ passion for music, coupled with his unwavering commitment to his faith, exemplifies the power of pursuing one’s passions while making a difference in the world. Whether strumming his guitar in a neighborhood “mom and dad band” or advocating for meaningful change within his congregation, his dedication serves as an inspiration to others seeking to find harmony in their own lives.

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