Creating a Community of Belonging

In today’s social and political landscape, American society and the Jewish community are facing growing divisions on topics that define us – from politics to identity to core values and beyond. As we grow more deeply divided on significant issues, finding a sense of belonging can sometimes feel out of reach. And yet, doing so has perhaps never been more important for the future of our Jewish community.

As part of Federation’s ongoing partnership with the Shalom Hartman Institute, and to help consider just how we can pursue a community of belonging in this climate, I invited my friends and colleagues, Dr. Mijal Bitton, Scholar in Residence at the Shalom Hartman Institute, and Yolanda Savage-Narva, Federation Board Member and Assistant Vice President of Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the Union for Reform Judaism, to join me in conversation this week.

Together, we dove into the concept of belonging, explored the nuances and complexities necessary to move forward in building a vibrant Jewish community, and considered challenges in both expanding a sense of belonging to more people while enabling communities to shape critical boundaries that help define them.

While the conversation offered many important takeaways, a few remarks by both Mijal and Yolanda have stayed with me. When asked what belonging means to them, Mijal said, “If you believe you’re part of a community, you don’t just believe you’re allowed or have permission to be there. You feel you are needed to make that community whole. You also feel you have a stake in the outcomes and future of that community and are able to effect change, not only to reflect you but to continue welcoming in different voices.”

Yolanda reflected on the ever-changing demographics of our community and the critical perspective needed to ensure we don’t become static. “Not only is belonging created by the members of a community, it’s also members working together and co-creating what spaces look like. More importantly, it takes recognition that community is fluid and constantly changing as new members emerge. There’s a critical need to adjust over time and continue evolving.”

Conversations like these offer important and critical insight into how we, individually and as a collective, can create a community that reflects its members today and evolves for those of tomorrow.

If you’d like to hear more of Mijal’s and Yolanda’s thoughtful teachings and insights, I encourage you to watch the recording of Monday’s webinar.

As Federation pursues our vision of an open, connected, and vibrant Jewish community, we are committed to ensuring that everyone who seeks to be part of Jewish Greater Washington has somewhere to turn, feels that they belong, and is able to play a role in shaping our collective future. Our evolution continues, and I’m grateful, as always, to be on this journey with each of you.


Shabbat Shalom,


P.S. Next week, I will embark on Federation’s Rabbis Mission to Israel alongside several Greater Washington rabbis from across multiple denominations. I look forward to sharing what I’m sure will be many learnings and new ideas with you upon our return. For real-time updates and reflections from our travels, follow Federation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

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