Navigating Uncertainty: Reflecting on the Future of American Jewry

A recent article by Franklin Foer in The Atlantic raised important questions about the future of American Jewry and American democracy. Foer asks about the evolving landscape of American Jewish life within a changing American society and the impact of these changes both on American Jewry and the United States. He asks these questions when considering if we may have passed “the golden age of American Jewry.”

Today’s outlook, as Foer points out, is not rosy. In particular, a significant rise in antisemitism across the political spectrum in America has placed the Jewish community and many individual Jews in a much more precarious position. Hatred that was once tacit or hidden has risen to the surface with incredible virulence.

There is no question that the Jewish community that I experienced growing up in the last few decades of the 20th century in America is under attack. A community built on confidence in engaging and expressing its Jewishness publicly within an increasingly open and welcoming America is facing growing threats. While there have been other phases of American history with significant antisemitism, the rise in antisemitism over the past decade, especially since October 7th, has led to an uncertain future.

At the same time, the past couple of decades have also seen a resurgence of creativity and energy in Jewish life in the United States as a result of openness and opportunity combined with deep knowledge and commitment to building new ways to connect and shape Judaism and Jewish communities. Education and experiences provided to so many through Jewish day schools, day and overnight summer camps, and other opportunities have broadened the number of people who not only participate in Jewish life but also build it.

As a result, I believe that we are at an important inflection point. The Jewish community, in many ways, has never been stronger and more vibrant in the United States while at the same time under greater collective attack. When we look back in 10 or 20 years, will we see these years as a temporary moment within a longer trend of strengthening Jewish life and American society, or will we see it as an important shift leading to long-term challenges?

I write today not only to ask for your perspective, but to learn what ideas you may have about how Federation and the Jewish community should engage in this moment. Specifically, I ask you to share ideas that may not fit neatly into existing frames – ones that might surprise others or even yourself – about how we respond in this moment.

Sometimes our best ideas are those that push our own thinking as well.

I would love to hear from you as we collectively – both in Greater Washington and beyond – approach questions about the future of our community and how we can come together to answer them.

Thank you for your continued partnership as we work together to build vibrant Jewish life in our own community, Israel, and around the world.

Shabbat Shalom,
Gil Preuss
CEO, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington