11 September 2020
Today, on the nineteenth anniversary of September 11, 2001, I begin this reflection with a remembrance of the thousands of lives lost on that tragic day. May their memories be for a blessing.
As I wrote about last week, marking time in this unusual year has felt different for many reasons. It is more important than ever that we connect to sources of meaning and comfort, find creative ways to be in community, and discover ways to feel connected to one another.
Jewish life and community offer us those opportunities. Six months into the coronavirus pandemic and economic recession, individuals, families, and organizations in Greater Washington have adapted and responded to immediate needs with unprecedented leadership, generosity, resilience, and compassion.
Looking ahead to a New Year, our community is also considering our continued response to these challenges. I’d like to share with you three priorities that will guide Federation’s next steps in the coming two to four years.
- Caring for individuals and families in need
Members of our Jewish community have encountered job losses, reduced working hours, loss of childcare, illness, and other hardships. Those who struggled financially before the recession now face even more dire situations. Many are struggling to cover basic expenses, while others can no longer afford to participate in Jewish communal life. As a community, we have a responsibility to make a difference for these individuals, to ensure they can meet their basic needs and continue to feel a sense of belonging in the Jewish community.
- Building resilient communal organizations
Jewish institutions that were secure a year ago are grappling with financial shortfalls and staffing layoffs as a result of the pandemic. This year, our community’s agencies face unprecedented challenges both in significantly reduced revenue and increased expenses. These institutions provide critical human services and serve as wellsprings for Jewish engagement and identity building for tens of thousands of people. We cannot allow the pandemic to determine the viability of local Jewish organizations. We must thoughtfully engage as we think about the future ability of our community to offer these services and identity-building experiences.
- Sustaining vibrant Jewish life in our region
Even in the midst of the significant changes we are experiencing, the core elements of our community—connection, caring, and belonging—remain constant. In the coming years, the ways in which community members engage Jewishly, strengthen their Jewish identities, and connect with one another will continue to shift. Our collective understanding of what vibrant Jewish life means and looks like may evolve. Together, we have the opportunity to reimagine vibrant Jewish life in Greater Washington, and, guided by our community’s shared core values, shape it anew.
As I reflect on these priorities and the work we have ahead of us, I recognize that there are some things that didn’t change this year. Identifying the most critical issues that impact our community and bringing together community leaders, organizations, and resources to address them remain at the core of Federation’s work—in good years and in challenging years.
Together, we will move forward with the same compassion and resilience that have brought us through the last six months. And thanks to and in partnership with community members like you, we know that we will be able to continue to care for one another and nurture vibrant Jewish life in Greater Washington during this time and long into the future.