02 June 2023
As I wrote this reflection, I learned of the passing of one of my personal heroes, Dr Amitai Etzioni, z”l. Dr Etzioni was an academic who challenged ideas about humanity and what ties us together. His work elevated and brought meaning to an idea called communitarianism, which I believe flows deeply from Judaism in its integration of individualism and collective responsibility. Like so many of us in Greater Washington, Dr. Etzioni was not satisfied with simply thinking and writing about these important ideas. Instead, he dedicated his life to bringing them into practice. Dr. Etzioni’s work has shaped my own perspectives on the meaning of community – a concept that, on its own, can feel rather amorphous.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, community is “a group of people living in the same place or having particular characteristics in common,” or “a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” Both definitions reflect interactions amongst individuals, guided through common characteristics or interests. Our experiences in Jewish Greater Washington, however, prove that community is also defined and reflected by the presence of institutions that hold people together and through which people can care for each other and sustain their collective bonds.
When we look around, we see the myriad ways our connections and interactions are significantly shaped by the many synagogues and agencies working every day to bring people together, connect us with each other and our faith, care for us in times of need, create mechanisms for us to learn and educate our children, and act as an expression of commitment to one another, including those we may never meet and yet who are part of our community.
Moreover, it is the leaders of those organizations who are constantly asking themselves and each other how we can build a more caring, learned, and engaged community. Their passion elevates us all and strengthens our lives in ways that we frequently don’t even see.
In Greater Washington, our community’s Jewish organizations are critical pieces of the robust and diverse ecosystem that ensures we can move forward together and take on the evolving, and sometimes unpredictable, challenges we face. These organizations are a significant part of what holds us together and enable us to enact our common attitudes, interests, and goals in our daily lives.
That’s why I am proud and excited for the opportunity to honor and celebrate our communal agencies at Federation’s 2023 Annual Meeting on June 15th. Together, we will recognize their accomplishments in building vibrant Jewish life, turning challenges into opportunities for growth, addressing vital human service needs, and more.
I look forward to seeing you on Thursday, June 15th for a wonderful evening together as we celebrate all that our local agencies make possible. To join us, please register today at shalomdc.org.