A Northern Virginia Update: Looking back and forward at Jewish life in NOVA

As The Jewish Federation’s Field Manager for Northern Virginia (NOVA), I am grateful to the nearly 100 of you who met with me during my first few months in the role. Through each conversation—with an array of rabbis, lay leaders, community members, and Jewish professionals—I have gotten to better understand our expansive and growing Northern Virginia Jewish community from a variety of perspectives. Thank you to those who have shared your stories and insight with me. I am excited to meet with many more of you in the coming months, and to continue the conversations already begun.

This feels like the perfect time to reflect on how our community has moved forward during a challenging year, and to look ahead to what is to come. I would like to update you on Federation’s efforts in NOVA, from how we continue to respond to emergencies in the wake of COVID-19, to the ways in which we are growing Jewish families, and how we are sustaining vibrant Jewish life. A detailed update is included below.

I would also like to thank Scott Brown and Michelle Stravitz, members of Federation’s 2020-2021 Executive Committee, for their guidance and leadership this year and their ongoing work to strengthen Jewish life in Northern Virginia. I know our community will benefit from Scott’s and Michelle’s efforts for years to come, and I look forward to working closely with Northern Virginia community members David Selden and David Yaffe to continue this work as they join the Executive Committee this year.

As summer continues, we have many new opportunities ahead. If you have any questions, are interested in learning more about our work, or would like to meet, please contact me at [email protected] or 301.230.7300.

Wishing you a wonderful rest of the summer,

Anne Greenspoon
Northern Virginia Field Manager
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

 

Vibrant Jewish Life in Northern Virginia: An Update from The Jewish Federation

Responding to COVID-19
Our community’s needs increased dramatically during the pandemic. Federation quickly worked to address the most immediate and urgent concerns while simultaneously focusing on sustaining the foundations of vibrant Jewish life for the future. Emergency relief funds were provided to help bolster organizations and made available to our local rabbis to assist in meeting the most immediate needs (food, rent, medical bills, and more) of individuals and families across Greater Washington.

 With an eye towards the future—including the coming school year—Federation is also addressing the barriers to participation and access presented by the pandemic. We are:

  • Providing scholarships and financial aid for families attending day camps, overnight camps, and to deepen the grant pool for Federation’s One Happy Camper (OHC) program.
  • Empowering more families to send their children to local Jewish Early Childhood Education Centers (including 12 NOVA centers), with a goal of increasing enrollment following a nearly 50% decline in those numbers due to the pandemic.
  • Helping more families send their children to one of our region’s six Jewish day schools (including Gesher Jewish Day School).

These collective efforts represent nearly $800,000 in incremental funds benefiting our families, children, and organizations.

Growing Jewish Families
PJ Library, a program that provides families raising Jewish children from newborn–8 years old with a free treasury of Jewish books and connections to the community, continues to reach across NOVA. 2,922 NOVA children across 93 zip codes are receiving books from PJ Library and PJ Our Way, the program for children 8.5-12 years old. Our virtual programming and initiatives, co-sponsored by nine* NOVA Jewish organizations, kept thousands of families involved this year. Our newest “grandfriends” initiatives have done a particularly wonderful job keeping multiple generations connected. This summer, PJ Library’s Sweet Summer Series is providing an opportunity for Jewish families across NOVA to gather for fun and popsicles at local parks.

Sustaining Vibrant Jewish Life
For the third consecutive year, Federation is prioritizing and strengthening Jewish Life in NOVA and engaging the next generation (NextGen) with Innovation and Impact grants. Through our investments in programs and initiatives that connect community members with one another, we are proudly laying the foundation for a more vibrant Jewish future in our region. In total, 11 of Federation’s 24 grants for fiscal year 2022 are for organizations or programming in NOVA.

And finally, I would like to highlight JOIN: Federation’s grassroots effort that seeks to explore what it means to be Jewish in Northern Virginia, and in an ever-changing world, as well as to identify shared passions. Federation launched this initiative to bring people throughout NOVA together around a common purpose. These conversations, which take place at “house meetings,” foster connections that lead to deeper interpersonal relationships and collaborations between community members, helping to cultivate new leaders and engaged stakeholders while benefiting the larger Jewish community. To date, we have hosted 11 meetings with a total of 91 participants from 30 zip codes throughout Northern Virginia. If you’d like to learn more about the initiative or to host or facilitate a meeting, please at any time! 

Thank you
I am grateful to belong to our generous, passionate, and dedicated community. Thank you again for welcoming me to my new role! I look forward to sharing future updates and to connecting with you again soon—virtually or in-person—in the coming weeks and months.

* PJ program partners from the past year include the Pozez JCC, Agudas Achim Congregation, Beth El Hebrew Congregation, Congregation Etz Hayim, Congregation Olam Tikvah, Temple B’nai Shalom, Gesher Jewish Day School, Congregation Sha’are Shalom, and Temple Beth Torah.