Reflections on Year One: A Message from Gil Preuss

Reflections on Year One: A Message from Gil Preuss

As I approach my one-year anniversary as the CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, I marvel at how lucky and honored I am to be in this role. Every day, I recognize the responsibility and the opportunity afforded to me. Moreover, I love this job and this community.

I have met and worked with amazing people throughout Greater Washington – people who have chosen to work for the Jewish community as their professional path and others who volunteer their time and money in support of the community. I’m proud to lead this organization in a region that is home to some of the most interesting, innovative and impactful organizations in the country – organizations that are changing our community and serving as models for others across America.

The National Capital region is also home to one of the largest and fastest growing Jewish communities in the country, as highlighted by the recent demographic study conducted by The Morningstar Foundation. Our Jewish population of approximately 300,000 people has grown by nearly 40% over the past 13 years.  This is astounding, and we should have every expectation that this will continue. The study was clear – people move to Washington and stay, establishing their families and careers here. Many people have lived here for decades, though they did not grow up here. For many, we are a first-generation community. This dynamic has helped lead to innovation and creativity in Greater Washington, but also to some challenges with increasing numbers of people seeking to build or join the Jewish community for the first time.

I’ve most recently had the opportunity to launch and lead our Federation strategic planning process. This work is especially meaningful to me, as it offers an opportunity to hear from those our Federation serves and the many voices who make up our vibrant community. As we have sought to answer key questions about our hopes and dreams for the Jewish community and the role of Federation in bringing about that vision, we have heard from more than 1,500 people through surveys, town halls, community forums and one-on-one conversations. From this work, it is clear that within our dynamic, growing community we are looking to build open, connected and vibrant Jewish life.

Ours must be a Jewish community where we care for each other in good times and bad; where everyone can pursue their particular Jewish journey; where each person can develop a deep, personal connection with the Jewish people and with Israel; and where we can individually and collectively strengthen the world in which we live. A vibrant Jewish community is made up of all these pieces coming together regardless of any individual’s entry point.

I head into the next phase of our strategic planning work, and into my second year as CEO, with important work for us to undertake together. We must engage in personal Jewish journeys and ongoing learning, while also caring for each other and doing what is necessary to strengthen the world in which we live.  We can only hope to sustain the Jewish future and truly have impact if we link it to the 3,500 years of history and values that have shaped who we are today and pass them on to future generations through engagement and education.

As I look back to my first year and towards the year to come, I have three clear thoughts. First, ours is a strong community with incredible people, living in a critical moment of American and Jewish history, in a city that will help define the future of Jewish life in this country. Second, our history is such that leaders in this community effectively seize on opportunities and address challenges as they arise and as we grow and change. Finally, I have no doubt that this community will continue to evolve and change as we work to provide the opportunity for every member of the community to live a vibrant Jewish life.  This is both my prayer and expectation for the coming year and years.

Thank you to everyone who has welcomed me and my family to Washington. I look forward to partnering with you, and with every member of our community, for many years to come.