Balancing Optimism and Concern

This Sunday, January 14th, marks 100 days since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas and the captivity of over 130 Israeli hostages. We mourn the lives lost to senseless violence and pray for the swift recovery of the wounded and all those affected. Additionally, Federation unequivocally supports Israel’s defense against allegations of genocide. Read Israel’s Foreign Ministry legal adviser and frequent presenter to Federation, Tal Becker’s, opening address to the International Court of Justice in the Hague from earlier today.  


I recently spoke to a group of Jewish communal leaders at the kickoff event for Federation’s second cohort of the Jewish Community Leaders Program. Following my presentation, we engaged in a thoughtful and meaningful discussion about the challenges and opportunities facing our community and their role in moving Jewish Greater Washington forward.

As we neared the end, a participant asked a question that is still on my mind nearly a week later. “In regard to our Jewish community and global Jewish peoplehood, what are you most optimistic and worried about in the coming year?”

While I answered it in the moment, my response has continued to evolve. It also sparked some of my own questions that I am still grappling with, ultimately creating an answer that is as open ended as it is interconnected.

I am optimistic about the engagement and solidarity we have seen over the several months since October 7th, and it has given me hope about our future and showed what we are capable of collectively in moments of need. Our sense of connection to and responsibility for the Jewish community and Israel is inspiring and has created a powerful and tangible sense of collective accountability as we look forward. The attacks on Israel and the ensuing dramatic increase in antisemitism globally has emphasized our common fate as a Jewish people. Our future is inextricably tied together across our community and the world. And, as I wrote last week, building upon our momentum in this moment is critical for our future and our ability to address existing and new challenges.

This optimism, however, is accompanied by a palpable concern; a tension that underscores the challenges of maintaining and harnessing this belief in mutual responsibility long term. How do we ensure that the sense of connection and understanding of our common fate, which has been so evident, is not merely a response to adversity but a lasting foundation for our community’s growth? Can we transcend the immediacy of challenges and translate this into a sustained commitment to one another, to the Jewish community, and to Israel?

While it’s necessary we ensure that we fight those seeking to cause us harm, we need to simultaneously build a Jewish community that elevates each and every one of us. We must continue to build upon this moment of connection, engagement, and responsibility, and build a community of meaning and purpose for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, and everyone else in our Jewish community.

As always, I would love to hear from you to learn what you are optimistic about or causing you concern in the coming year, as well as your thoughts on the questions I have posed above. Your ongoing commitment to our community and Federation is pivotal as we navigate the delicate balance between optimism and concern and build vibrant Jewish life. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do for Jewish Greater Washington.