Pursuing Vibrant Jewish Life Post-Pandemic: March 2021

Since well before the start of the pandemic, Federation has worked to connect people and organizations to build a Jewish community greater than the sum of its parts. Below, you will find a snapshot of just a few of the ways we are continuing our mission-driven work, fueled by your support and partnership.

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy, healthy, and meaningful Passover,

In November, Federation began a year-long intensive interrogation of how to accelerate our strengthening of Jewish life in Greater Washington in a world shaped by COVID-19.

Earlier this month, in partnership with the Shalom Hartman Institute and leveraging our unique communal role, Federation gathered 100+ agency executives, clergy, and lay leaders for the second of three leadership convenings on this topic. Guided by Shalom Hartman Institute’s Dr. Elana Stein Hain, participants explored how people connect Jewishly—from the art of leading, to what makes a community Jewish, to the varied dynamics of how we serve our people.

In parallel, Federation is working with strategic planning consultant Orlee Turitz to facilitate a series of stakeholder focus groups to better understand the characteristics of vibrant Jewish life in our region and the current barriers to achieving that vision. By this summer, we aim to consolidate the input from these conversations to shape our strategic work for the coming years.

In convening diverse voices to tackle big questions, we are committed to encouraging the intersection of ideas with lived experiences, to elevating and addressing issues in Jewish life today, and to creating space for exploration in ways that will define and shape the future. These leaders are developing relationships that enable new ideas, collaboration, and change—and translating theory into communal action.

Federation continues to address critical needs exacerbated by the pandemic, while simultaneously developing a comprehensive anti-poverty initiative. Food insecurity is among the most critical pillars of need today, nationally and in our local Jewish community. Since COVID-19 began:

  • Locally and inclusive of the Jewish community, food insecurity has increased by 50%.
  • The Capital Area Food Bank is serving 600,000 Greater Washington families each month.
  • More than 1,500 individuals have received help from Federation’s human service relief fund—including parents who had initially been skipping meals to pay for their child’s formula after losing their jobs.

With these needs in mind, and driven in part by initial learnings from our new anti-poverty initiative, Federation has reconfigured our annual community volunteer effort, Good Deeds Day, to focus on a central theme of food insecurity, and expanded it to a full week. To date, we have convened 60+ communal partners—including agencies, schools, synagogues, and other organizations—for the first-ever Sara & Samuel J. Lessans Good Deeds Week, taking place April 11th-18th. Together, we will make it possible for participants to give back through hundreds of online and in-person volunteer projects, and I hope you will join us.

Good Deeds Week marks an opportunity for Federation to further our mission of mobilizing our community in common purpose, intentional innovation, and effective action. We expect that thousands from across the region will come together to volunteer—continuing our tradition as host of the largest Good Deeds Day effort in North America. Longer-term, we are eager to continue deepening our partnerships with local organizations in pursuit of a vibrant Jewish future and to continuing our collaborative efforts to meet evolving needs.

The work outlined above provides just a glimpse of what you make possible through your investment in Federation. 

I look forward to highlighting additional endeavors in future updates, including our efforts to secure our Jewish community, to continue tapping into the vast Jewish life in Northern Virginia, and to deepen our local relationship with Israel and global Jewry.

In the interim, I would love to hear what’s on your mind for our community as we mark one year of building and sustaining our Jewish community during the pandemic.

Though we still do not know exactly what Jewish life will look like for the long-term, because of meaningful partnerships, generous and thoughtful community builders like you, and a continued commitment to caring for one another, we do know our communal future is bright.

Thank you for placing your trust in Federation and joining us to light the way forward.