17 September 2020
Tomorrow, Jews around the world will pause our busy lives to greet the new Jewish year. Rosh Hashanah is a holiday layered with meaning, but at its core, it is a holiday about the future. Jewish tradition tells us that Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of creation, the birthday of the world. And for us, it is an opportunity for a new beginning.
I can’t remember a year when a new beginning was more welcome. Although Rosh Hashanah 5781 will feel different in many ways, I hope that we can each still participate in our own way including dipping apples in honey, enjoying round challah, and hearing the shofar blast in-person or online. We can celebrate new beginnings as we look towards a more vibrant future for our community.
Last week, I shared with you Federation’s three priorities for the next few years: caring for individuals and families in need, ensuring the continued success of important communal organizations, and building and sustaining vibrant Jewish life in our region. Each of these is critical as we strengthen the core components of our Jewish community.
Today, as we look ahead, I would like to share with you some steps Federation is taking to ensure that our community can effectively and collectively pursue this vital work.
First, we are working to ensure we have significant resources to tackle these critical issues and others that will continue to arise over the coming years. While we cannot yet define the precise needs of our community members nor what changes will occur in Jewish life in 2021 and beyond, we are building our collective capacity to address a broad set of issues that may arise.
As part of this effort, we have sought to bring together the financial resources for this critical work to happen over the next few years. I am pleased to share that Federation is committed to creating a pool of $20 million from a variety of funding sources to meet our community’s evolving needs over the coming two to four years. Most immediately, we are raising an additional $1 million for individual needs and human services by December 31, which will trigger a national match of $500,000 from The Jewish Federations of North America and other national organizations.
In order to best understand the new directions our community will take, we are gathering data regarding individual and organizational needs to understand the challenges we face, the responses already available, and any gaps that we need to address. This information is critical in shaping our communal response.
We are also considering the impact of the pandemic and recession on participation in Jewish life. The ability of community members to participate in synagogues, JCCs, day schools, preschools, and camps is being impacted in significant ways just as the ability of these organizations to meet the evolving needs of individuals is being redefined. What new challenges and opportunities will arise from the current crisis? How do we make sure that we can effectively meet the changing needs of the community?
More recently, we collaborated with Brandeis University researchers to conduct the Jewish Community COVID-19 Impact Survey for Greater Washington. With more than 4,000 people participating, we are learning a great deal about the needs our community is current facing and potential areas of focus for our response. We look forward to sharing the results with you soon.
As we approach Erev Rosh Hashanah, I am encouraged that leaders and individuals in our community continue to find new ways to connect with one another and strengthen community during this critical time. Together, in this New Year, may we all continue to forge new paths towards our shared future.
Wishing you a healthy and sweet New Year.