16 November 2018
“How strange we are in the world, and how presumptuous our doings! Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder, for the gift of our unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great.”- Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
This has been a challenging season. From the attack in Pittsburgh to the current rocket barrage in Israel, more mass shootings and deadly fires, there is a lot to mourn and to question. We should continue to take the time to heal, to support each other, and to speak out against atrocities.
As Thanksgiving approaches, however, I also want to take this moment to give thanks.
I am truly grateful for this community. We are strong, caring, and optimistic. We are creative and passionate.
Take this past Wednesday, for example. Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy hosted more than 400 women for a night of conversation with celebrated chefs Michael Solomonov, Steven Cook, and Joan Nathan.
Beyond the delicious food, what stood out to me were the personal stories that two speakers shared about the direct impact our community has had on them
Rose Haas, a recent college graduate who aspires to be a rabbi, spoke about her quest for Jewish identity: “I am proud of myself for charting a path that has led me to find such profound meaning in my personal and professional life. But I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of the community around me.” In particular, Rose mentioned American University Hillel as pivotal to her development –one of the 11 local Hillels in which Federation proudly invests.
Jennifer Miller shared her story of how she survived an emotionally abusive husband: “Tonight, I can tell you that I was able to rebuild my life thanks to support from fellow Jewish women. I can tell you that this is a community that cares for one another, that meets each other’s most personal and most important needs. This is a community that helped a single mom get her life back.” Jennifer credited the talented leadership and fellow survivors at Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (JCADA), another Federation partner agency, for giving her back her sense of self.
These stories captured what I think is one of Greater Washington’s most critical assets: our ability to lay the groundwork for vibrant Jewish life in the future, while also responding to pressing challenges as they arise.
The ability to operate successfully on two timelines—short-term and long-term—is key to creating the community we envision. It takes tremendous strength and savvy, and I am grateful that this community has both.
This is not to say that our work is done. For our part, we are committed to enhancing our ability to function in more dynamic, community-centered ways.
In order to help the Jewish Greater Washington flourish, we believe that we must become better at convening a wide range of partners in undertaking collective work; at inspiring donors to see the impact of their current and potential gifts; and at finding new ways to identify, invest in, and support innovative people and ideas.
Indeed, important work remains…and I look forward to tackling it together with you after some apple pie. For now, I want to say thank you. Thank you for showing up. Thank you for going the extra mile for your neighbor. Thank you for lending both hands to lift up those in need.
Thank you for keeping a watchful eye on today as together we build our community for tomorrow.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Thanksgiving,