Carrying the Torch of Jewish Community: A Message from Gil Preuss

Carrying the Torch of Jewish Community: A Message from Gil Preuss

As my family prepares for Thanksgiving and my kids prepare to journey home from their various posts, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to pass on wisdom and tradition from one generation to the next.

My deep connection to the Jewish people and Israel has had a profound impact on my life. Growing up in youth group and at Jewish summer camp, I learned what it meant to be a friend, a leader, and even a person. I built relationships that have lasted a lifetime—relationships to individuals and a broader community.  I became part of an ongoing story—a particular history and an ethical tradition that is complex, beautiful, ancient, and timeless.

My wife also grew up with a strong Jewish identity and, together, we did what we could to help our four children immerse themselves in the joy and fulfillment that comes from being part of a vibrant Jewish community. We wanted them to experience the powerful sense of place and purpose that we did.

Of course, there comes a point when you realize that your children will decide what’s next for themselves. No matter how much I might want them to pursue a specific path, they will and should define their own journeys forward. I also know that their generation is stepping into a world radically different from the one in which I grew up. They are facing different challenges and different questions. They need and expect different things from Judaism and Jewish life.

This fact informs my parenting as well as my work at Federation. Indeed, our dedicated teams of professional and volunteer leaders are asking: how can we effectively convey the incredible beauty of Judaism and its relevance today? How can we best welcome and support people on their quest regardless of their starting point? How can we engage and support the next generation in bringing their own ideas to life?

The answers to these and many more questions must come from our whole community. Together, we can ensure that every single person who comes looking for guidance and belonging has the opportunity to find what they are looking for. With your support, we can not only pass on the gift of Jewish community, but also impart the opportunity and the mandate to shape it anew.

You can support this work when you donate to our Annual Campaign. All new or increased gifts made through November 30 will be matched dollar-for-dollar.

My Jewish identity has helped me answer core questions about who I am, who I want to be, and what my role is in this complex thing called life. As a parent, I hope that I have provided my children with the tools to grapple with similar questions and define their own futures.

I know, however, that my job – our job – is not over. It is up to all of us to work together to ensure that the next generation has everything they need to answer the questions in front of them.

While their answers will be different than those that I might have, I, for one, cannot wait to see what they do.

Shabbat Shalom and a Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,
Gil

This message was adapted from remarks I shared at the recent FedLab conference hosted by The Jewish Federations of North America.