15 May 2020
This is the time when the rubber meets the road. For the past several years, those with an eye toward the future of the Jewish community have been underscoring the need for collaboration. Stakeholders across the country have seen for some time how important it is that organizations of all types and sizes work together in pursuit of a strong and healthy community. But what was once simply important has now become urgent.
In order to emerge from this pandemic more effective and responsive to our community’s needs, we need leaders who are thoughtful in their principles, forthcoming with their challenges and ideas, and eager to work in service of the greater whole. I am proud to say that these are the kinds of leaders we have at the helm in Jewish Greater Washington.
Last week, Federation, in partnership with the Shalom Hartman Institute, hosted a virtual convening that brought together agency executives, rabbis, and CEOs of organizations large, small, local, and national. The purpose of the gathering was to discuss how Jewish values might guide us in making tough choices about our work in the weeks and months ahead. The Shalom Hartman Institute’s Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman framed the discussion and reminded us that our role as leaders was not to arrive at “right answers” but rather to balance many conflicting values at once.
What ensued was an open and honest conversation among people who care greatly about our community. It was so heartening to be in conversation with such a thoughtful, passionate, and deeply committed group of leaders who are rising to the challenge of navigating through these murky times in as principled a way as possible. It is an honor to lean on them as partners and to walk alongside them as we make our way through a dark tunnel toward eventual light.
Of course, leading in these times is not just about navigating immediate concerns, it is also about asking big, open-ended questions about the future. What role should our organizations play moving forward? How can we work together to fill in gaps or collaborate on overlaps? In what ways will people’s habits and preferences change and how can we help them engage with each other? How do we hold on to and honor the diverse voices that make up our Jewish community?
Though it is clear we are only just beginning to fully comprehend the fallout of the pandemic, our conversation gave me a lot of hope. At a time when so many organizations are worried about their own ability to survive, leaders are going out of their way to reach out to one another. They are dissolving traditional boundaries and choosing to stand side by side in the trenches for the good of the broader community. Rather than remain set in their ways, they are doing what they can to keep up with this time of rapid evolution.
If there was ever a time to come together in common purpose and effective action, it is right now. As author Dov Seidman described in a recent interview with columnist Thomas Friedman, the most successful leaders in this “Age of Corona” will be those who work not just to save people in the moment but also to better serve people in the long haul. Our Jewish professional leaders in Greater Washington know this and are working overtime to ensure that they answer the call to save people, serve people, and transform Jewish life for a transformed world.