Weekly Reflection – February 14, 2020: A Message from Gil Preuss

Weekly Reflection – February 14, 2020: A Message from Gil Preuss

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington is committed to building a vibrant, connected, and flourishing Jewish community. To achieve this vision, we are working closely with long-time partners and new organizations to push our collective thinking, expand existing ideas that work, and develop new ideas and programs that have never been tried before to address new and evolving opportunities. We feel that it is part of our responsibility to strengthen a Jewish communal culture that addresses the most critical issues we face as a Jewish community and Jewish people.

Last week, Federation hosted our second annual Pitch Night. As you may recall from last year, Pitch Night is a chance for organizations throughout Greater Washington to present their ideas for new ways to engage the next generation in Jewish life across the whole region and/or strengthen Jewish life in Northern Virginia. This year, after putting out a call for proposals, we received 71 submissions, including 22 requests for renewal. For a solid two hours, person after person got up to pitch their idea in a two-minute burst. Each new idea, each new person, and each new organization brought to life the vibrancy and the even greater potential of our community. Without a doubt, our community’s propensity for innovation and impact is alive and well.

We heard about programs for Jewish families with young children in parts of the city that have not seen programming to date; efforts to expand Jewish learning for young adults by, perhaps, linking it to a drink on tap; collaborative efforts to build community for individuals in their 20s with intellectual, developmental, and/or physical disabilities; a variety of adult learning initiatives across the region with new partners and approaches; and many efforts to reach out to segments of the community that have not felt welcomed or included. These ideas were all among the new proposals received, and the list goes on and on.

The 22 proposals seeking renewed funding based on their work in the current year also had a chance to spotlight their work and ideas. As part of Pitch Night, these organizations focused extensively on their progress and impact. It was clear to all that the investments made last year are changing the landscape of our community. The proposals focused on ways to expand their impact, including by hiring new staff to engage people across the region and opening new physical locations that can serve as hubs for activity. There was also a great deal of learning as to what has worked to date and what needs to happen going forward.

Beyond the sheer creativity of their ideas, I continue to be astounded most by the remarkable passion of our fellow community members. There are so many volunteers, entrepreneurs, and organizational staff who are seeking to make a change and make our community stronger. There are so many people driven to connect others with Jewish life in ways that matter deeply to them. Should you ever have doubts about our community’s future, I hope you will think of Pitch Night and the people who are out there channeling their energy into making our community that much more inviting and that much more vibrant.

In terms of next steps, now that teams have presented their ideas, they will receive feedback from our dedicated Federation Task Forces and have the chance to amend their proposals. Once the final proposals are in, the Next Gen and Northern Virginia Task Forces will review each proposal in detail and submit a series of recommendations to Federation as to which proposals should receive funding. Last year, we granted more than $1 million across 31 ideas. This year, we hope to be able to support as many promising ideas as possible, with an eye, as always, toward learning, risk-taking, experimentation, and impact.

I look forward to keeping you posted on the process and introducing you to the exciting new initiatives!

Shabbat Shalom,