Weekly Reflection – July 2, 2020: A Message from Gil Preuss

Weekly Reflection – July 2, 2020: A Message from Gil Preuss

As we plan for what will certainly be a different kind of Fourth of July celebration than those of years past, I have been considering the work ahead, both for strengthening our nation and building our local community.

The events of the past several months have brought deep divisions within our society into a sometimes-harsh spotlight. At the same time, we have seen powerful change in this short period—the type of shifts that can happen only when people come together to insist upon that change and see it through. Even within all of the pain, I am lately noticing an awareness and willingness to come together to address recent and long-term challenges. I recently spoke to Michelle Molitor, the Executive Director of The Equity Lab, who works on diversity, equity, and inclusion. She noted that an increasing number of people are open to new ideas simply because they are less certain about long-held beliefs. The world in which we are living is forcing us to challenge our own assumptions, ask questions we did not consider earlier, and therefore open ourselves up to new possibilities.

So how do we use that new willingness to come together in order to strengthen our nation and our community amidst the very diverse visions and aspirations that drive us?

There are, of course, clear distinctions between building and strengthening the United States and building and strengthening the Jewish community of Greater Washington. There are also similarities. Both require a belief in mutual responsibility and a sense of a shared future even in the absence of a collective past. And at the foundation of both are authentic connections between people. Though the scale is massively different, national and communal ties are, at their core, the same; they are both built on relationships of trust, mutual assistance, and shared belonging.

As a community, relationships allow us to elevate, discuss, and address the critical challenges we are facing. That is why Federation works to bring people together: to build a healthy and vibrant culture of discourse on critical issues facing our community. That approach is at the heart of our strategic plan and has been particularly necessary in this time of crisis.

Shared conversations provide clearer paths forward and weave the fabric of community through the discourse itself. They empower us to develop a common language and broaden our perspectives. They strengthen trust and enable us to act in new ways—to build new components of the infrastructure that will sustain us through crises and into a more vibrant, equitable future. And by laying this groundwork, these conversations will enable us to respond collectively to the new challenges that arise as we seek to define and create a common future.

Federation approaches this community-building work in many ways. We support individual members of our community, locally and around the world, through cash and emergency assistance, camp and day school scholarship funding, investing in agencies, and more to meet pressing needs—often in close partnership with other important institutions. Beyond that, as Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer recently remarked during a virtual gathering with local leaders, “Federation is investing in the infrastructure of community itself.” We are committed to strengthening the ties that serve as the foundation of our community by fostering connections, conversations, education, and engagement with vibrant organizations that help create Jewish communal life.

This particular Fourth of July presents an invitation to invest our time, our resources, our ideas, and our spirit toward building the infrastructure of a vibrant, healthy, and connected community and nation. We have seen what happens when the fabric holding us together frays. As we celebrate our nation’s independence, we can also celebrate this opportunity to grow and build a collective future, for all of us, together.

Shabbat Shalom, and Happy Fourth of July,