Weekly Reflection – July 12, 2019: A Message from Gil Preuss

Weekly Reflection – July 12, 2019: A Message from Gil Preuss

I have written to you recently about Federation’s strategic plan, our core priorities, and some of the ways that we are bringing our strategy to life. A key component of this work is our ongoing commitment to strengthening Jewish life in Northern Virginia.

Northern Virginia is a crucial part of our community, as well as a microcosm for the broader Jewish landscape. The work we do in this region will have an important impact on local community members and Greater Washington as a whole. It will also serve as a model for how we can strengthen the Jewish future.

Home to 41% of Greater Washington’s Jews, Northern Virginia represents one of the fastest growing Jewish populations in the country. It also faces many of the challenges that are testing and shaping Jewish life today. Despite its numbers, Northern Virginia is where Jews report feeling the least connected to the Jewish community. Residents of the area go to fewer events, attend services less frequently, and fewer families participate in Jewish education.

Indeed, the feedback from the 2017 Greater Washington Jewish Community Demographic Study funded by The Morningstar Foundation was clear: Jewish life in Northern Virginia feels less cohesive and less accessible than in other parts of our region.

This feedback is one of the main reasons we named strengthening Jewish life in Northern Virginia as one of our top strategic priorities. We want to partner with and support local institutions and community members in building out dynamic Jewish life in the area.

Of course, this work is already underway with new and old institutions, including the JCC, Gesher Jewish Day School, and many synagogues, running innovative programs that engage Jews of all backgrounds and life stages.

In Fairfax, the Pozez JCC of Northern Virginia is being turned into a 21st century hub for Jewish life. This past spring, they received a significant investment to complete their capital campaign from Norman Pozez (who chaired Federation’s Strategic Planning Committee) and his wife Melinda Bieber. Norman and Melinda were inspired by Federation’s commitment to strengthening the Northern Virginia Jewish community and saw the JCC as essential to providing residents with modern and inclusive offerings.

Additionally, as many of you know, in the past year Federation has increased our ongoing investment in Northern Virginia with an additional allocation of more than $500,000. We have already invested some of these funds in innovative and impactful projects—including several initiatives that engage young adults with Jewish values and social justice and build connections among families with young children.

To help shepherd this work, we are also hiring for two new positions at Federation. We are searching for someone to serve as our NOVA Relationship Manager, who would be focused on expanding Federation’s presence in Northern Virginia through a range of strategic partnerships. We are also looking for a Director of Innovation to serve our efforts across Greater Washington, including Northern Virginia. We would rely on them to support our strategic plan by sourcing, managing the implementation, and evaluating the impact of new ideas in our community.

In Northern Virginia, our community has the opportunity and the responsibility to experiment with effective ways to engage a growing and diverse population with Jewish life. We have heard directly from residents about how much they—like many around the country—want interesting, meaningful, and accessible ways to connect with each other and Jewish wisdom and tradition. Our work to date is only the beginning. Our task now is to come together and put innovation to the test to the benefit of Northern Virginia, Greater Washington, and American Jewish life.

Shabbat Shalom,