Fooled you! This column is not about a jolly man in a red suit. It is about the Commonwealth of Virginia, Northern Virginia specifically and in particular Jewish Northern Virginia.
An organization to be named later has come to lay and rabbinic leadership to talk about what the future of Northern Virginia's Jewish community should be. It is no secret that we are an atomized aggregate of individual institutions – synagogues, agencies, fraternal groups – each of which operates as if it were the only venue for Jewish life in our region. Occasionally, one group or another announces a "community event," that is, a program it plans and invites others to contribute their names and perhaps a small amount of money. But it is rare that we collaborate on imagining, let alone realizing, what being a Jew in our time and place means beyond the walls of sanctuary, center or school.
Of course, everyone agrees that we should have a stronger and more cohesive community. And we also agree it should be centered within a five-minute drive of our home, and not interfere with the established program of our favorite institution. Oh, and make no demands on us religiously with which we don't agree. And cost nothing. But that's it.
Maybe our history of self-reliance is a source of pride, and maybe it is an impediment to cooperation, or both. But since we all believe that we are running at capacity with programs, expectations and financial commitments, the only way to achieve the goal of a more unified community is by letting go of the some fiercely-held sense of self-centeredness that afflicts all of our institutions.
We all know the joke about the rabbi who announces that he has solved the problem of poverty in his community – the rich will support the poor. "We are half-way there," he continued. "The poor are willing to accept." The shortcomings in our community will not be determined or funded from outside our community – and that includes Montgomery County. We have some hard work ahead of us, but we are not alone. You will be asked to dream and make happen. And you will be assisted by a team that includes some dear friends – Ann Bennett, Steve Meyerson, Arnie Hiller and Irene Kaplan among them. The organization mentioned above willing to help us is the Jewish Federation, and it has committed dollars and resources to the process, but put the responsibility on us.
We may be on the verge of a new community culture and a leap forward in the intensity of local Jewish life. As Herzl said, "if we will it, it is no dream." And as Moline said, "yes, Virginia, we are a real community."