02 December 2022
I have always believed that Judaism is counter cultural. Even when society might be focused on the individual, we recognize and insist that community is at the core of who we are; that we must care for and be responsible for the other, and that we must live in community with one another.
Conversely, when society might be centered on the collective, we focus on the fact that each person is important and unique, having been created in God’s image. The communal cannot override the needs of the individual. Judaism operates within this tension, elevating both the individual and the communal.
Society today is in a unique moment, grappling with the same tension of simultaneous pressures often not congruent with one another. I began thinking about this more deeply after reading an article by economist Bryce Ward in The Washington Post. Ward highlighted that spending time with others has been on the decline for large portions of Americans over the last 10 years. He outlined how, across demographic indicators, Americans are spending more time alone, without friends, family, coworkers, etc., as a result of increased social media use, growing political polarization, and general technological advances. The pandemic, of course, exacerbated the trend significantly.
Ward’s perspective was familiar — Federation identified these cautionary trends and challenges a few years ago and has continued to track larger communal engagement as lockdowns ended. We found that, even during the height of the pandemic, people continued to search for spaces to deeply connect with one another and the community at large. They sought places where people cared for them and they could care for others, and not simply singular experiences. They wanted opportunities to grow and learn about themselves alongside their peers.
This is one reason why, as we focus on building vibrant Jewish life, Federation continues our efforts to ensure that every member of the community has a place where they feel they belong, where everyone has the opportunity to develop deep, long-lasting friendships with others, and that people are able to deepen those connections over time.
In particular, our work is focused on engaging and supporting those in the midst of significant life transitions: becoming a teenager, growing into adulthood, becoming a parent for the first time, and moving towards being an empty nester. We have a responsibility to help people connect with others and build long-term and deep relationships, no matter their stage in life, within the larger context of Jewish Greater Washington. We are also committed to continuing to support our community’s Jewish organizations — Federation’s partners in this essential work — as they provide learning, identity-building, and other key opportunities for individuals and families along their Jewish journeys.
The commitment to building community was in place before the pandemic began and will remain core to our strategy for the long term. As Ward’s findings indicate, there has perhaps never been a more important time for us to double-down on this commitment to continue connecting with purpose and with one another.
P.S. Thank you to all who gave so generously to Federation this Giving Tuesday. In choosing to care for our community, you are collectively building a more vibrant Jewish future. Thank you for making our work possible, and for trusting Federation as your partner in philanthropy. Our 2022 Annual Campaign remains open through December 31st. To make your gift before the end of the year, please visit shalomdc.org/donate.
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