23 October 2020
Many of us will spend time in the next two weeks voting and volunteering, donating and discussing, all so that we might have an impact on the future of our country. Indeed, the role of citizen has taken on new significance in this era of civic uncertainty and change. We are reminded, as we have been in key moments throughout our history, that participation matters. It is up to us to make our voices heard and come together to help move the American project ever closer to its ideals.
The same is true for the Jewish community: we have both the privilege and responsibility to shape the future we want for ourselves and generations of Jews in Greater Washington.
We have seen how fast the wheels of change can turn when we move from passive to active citizens—embracing our fundamental role in bringing our country’s promise to life. At The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, we want to cultivate that same sense of ownership and responsibility for transforming the Jewish future as well. Much like our country, our community’s ability to live up to its potential hinges on broad and passionate participation.
But while we are becoming intimately familiar with how to fulfill our civic duties, getting involved in the design and construction of the Jewish future is perhaps less clear. We will not receive ballots in the mail nor will there be a designated time to elect our leaders and approve our policies. But deciding on what the future of our community can and should look like will indeed take all of our input. It requires that we give of our time, our energy, our creativity, and our resources, early and often.
Of course, like many Jewish endeavors, participation is as hard as it is rewarding. It can be frustrating at times to steer communal ships in new directions or to translate abstract goals into concrete results. But I hope that all those who give both their patience and persistence to this great venture feel a sense of fulfillment. To participate in shaping the Jewish future is to make a profound difference in the lives of individuals and the world at large.
Louis Brandeis, the first Jew nominated to the Supreme Court, said, “The most important office, and the one which all of us can and should fill, is that of private citizen.” When it comes to our community, the most important role we can and should fill is that of engaged community member. Your voice and your leadership will be what guides the course of Jewish history. I hope that whenever possible, you find a way to make your mark and ensure that our community reflects the dreams and aspirations of its people.