07 June 2019
Last night, more than 450 community members gathered for Federation’s Homecoming event. People were smiling, laughing, talking—in the room were people of all ages and backgrounds there to connect and reconnect with each other and touch base with the community as a whole.
At one point, I took a pause from mingling to take in the scene. In that moment, I thought about how a community as dynamic and engaged as ours doesn’t just happen. Instead, what we have in Greater Washington is the result of many people’s efforts over many years.
For more than two centuries, Jews in the area have been actively building the infrastructure of Jewish life and anticipating and responding to some of the greatest needs in modern Jewish history.
It was in 1925 that Jews in Greater Washington began coordinating their local service efforts. That year, community members first came together to collectively raise funds as part of a “united Jewish Appeal.” Over the next hundred years, community leaders found new ways to address the needs of Jews locally and globally, including by establishing The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
During this time, local community members were instrumental in helping Israel to recover from the Six Day War in 1967; organizing and participating in the March for Soviet Jewry in 1987; helping Ethiopian Jews to immigrate to Israel in the 80’s and 90’s; and much, much more.
Indeed, our community has long been at the crux of the American and global Jewish stories. Whether as leaders or passionate participants, Jews in Greater Washington have had a tangible impact on the course of Jewish history.
I hope that this fact gives all of us an immense sense of pride. I also hope that it sparks in each of us an immense sense of responsibility to carry our legacy of impact forward.
Just as we have led the way in responding to the needs of the past, now is the time to come together to address the crucial challenges of today. Whether it be engaging the next generation in Jewish life, evolving our relationship with Israel, ensuring our community is reflective of all its members, or standing up for the values we hold dear, many urgent questions are calling to us for answers.
As part of last night’s program, we heard personal stories from three community members, including incoming Federation President, Mark Levitt. The stories they shared highlighted just how far our community has come and how effective we can be when we work together to build something special.
The responsibility now rests with us. Each of us has a role to play in ensuring that our community continues to grow and evolve. Each of us is responsible for ensuring that future generations have a chance to be part of something relevant and meaningful.
It was Wayne Gretzky who said, “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” As a community, I think we can do even better. Rather than simply predict where we are headed, we can chart a new trajectory. We can decide where the puck will go.
With this in mind, I invite you to make your voice heard and help us shape what comes next. You can start by getting involved in our new community forums. These are discussion groups of 15-20 people that dive into pressing issues. Visit our webpage to learn more and sign up to be a participant or volunteer as a host!
Now more than ever, we are relying on your ideas and perspective to guide the direction of Jewish communal life. Together, let’s renew our energy, lend our insight, and share our ideas so that we can continue living up to our true potential.