What Texas Has Taught Us About Community

By Nancy B. Greer
President & CEO
The power of relationships and how they do so much to strengthen our Jewish community came home vividly this week.

Over the past few years, I have been meeting regularly with my peer CEOs around North America who lead what we call large, intermediate Jewish federations. We call ourselves the LIFE group. We exchange ideas, learn from each other, and are cementing relationships that have helped all of us as we go about serving our communities.

Two of those large intermediate federations are in Dallas and Houston. The stories our peers in those two cities have shared about the catastrophic week that Texans have endured are heart-rending. No power. No heat. No water. Millions of people without basic life services day after day. Tragically, dozens of people died in the cold. The suffering and damage have been immense.

After reaching out to the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) earlier in the week to inquire about a national fundraising effort and learning that one had not yet been established, on our own volition, the LIFE group agreed to do what we can immediately to support our friends in need and help their communities recover from the disaster. Each of the other large, intermediate federations agreed to pitch in with emergency grants. Your Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle has approved a $10,000 grant, divided equally, for the Dallas and Houston federations. Inspired by the LIFE group’s action, JFNA contributed $25,000, over and above JFNA’s own relief efforts.

As a collective, we responded rapidly because of the relationships we had formed over the past few years. There’s a lesson there about the power of relationships, for lifting each other up and changing and repairing our world.

That’s why I am so excited about the Courageous Leadership Initiative that your Federation has undertaken in collaboration with the Shalom Hartman Institute. Jewish communal professionals, lay leaders, and rabbis have begun meeting online, working with Hartman educators, and building and strengthening cross-community relationships. We’ve been getting to know each other, learning more about how our organizations serve Jewish Puget Sound, and understanding how we approach the common goal of strengthening community from different vantage points.

As we imagine our post-pandemic Jewish future, the Courageous Leadership Initiative is helping Jewish Puget Sound expand our social capital. We are deepening mutually supportive, trusting, and resilient relationships; encouraging more collaboration; and gaining better understanding of challenges and opportunities as we pursue our shared goal of ensuring Jewish continuity.

Strong relationships are foundational, for coming to each other’s aid in times of crisis and for doing the patient, day-to-day work that ensures a brighter Jewish future for us all.

JFNA has just established a form for accepting contributions to support people and communities suffering from the devastation in Texas. If you’d like to contribute, please click here.