During The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s 2022 annual meeting last week, Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt spoke of the many ailments plaguing the world, from gun violence and climate change to hate speech and the war in Ukraine.
Holtzblatt, rabbi of Adas Israel Congregation, where the meeting was held, also spoke of the 18 Jewish young adults The Federation was honoring as leaders in its first Capital Chai event, for their effort to make change across a wide range of areas, and their “continual push to heal this broken world,” as Holtzblatt put it.
“Now more than ever, our world needs bold, compassionate, innovative, thoughtful, inclusive leaders,” said Holtzblatt at the June 17 event. “And as we honor young leaders, we also honor an ancient teaching in our tradition. Even as the world is in pain, we are commanded to never lose hope for the future that we can build together. Our very origin story tells us that God created the world with light and together we will uncover the light that is still here.”
In addition to presenting recipients with the Capital Chai awards, the event, the first in person since the beginning of the pandemic, also focused on electing the new members of its board for fiscal year 2023.
Stepping up to the bimah, Federation CEO Gil Preuss thanked his staff for their hard work, while reflecting on the challenges The Federation has experienced in recent years, from the pandemic to the war in Ukraine, and how it had risen to meet those challenges. Specifically, he noted how The Federation had established the J-Caring hotline to provide financial assistance and support to those who were struggling, and how The Federation had raised more than $2.3 million for Ukrainian refugees.
Samuel Kaplan, president of the Federation, gave his thanks to the outgoing executive committee members, Joshua Brown, Bradley Buslik and Jocelyn B. Krifcher, for their service and leadership. Johanna Chanin, the vice president for leadership and volunteer development, thanked to The Federation’s outgoing board members, including Jason M. Conway, Michele Hymer Blitz and Kim Price, for their dedication and leadership.
Kaplan then welcomed the incoming executive committee members: Melanie Franco Nussdorf, co-vice president for financial resource development; Robin Hettleman Weinberg, co-vice president for financial resource development; and Julie Kass, vice president for strategic planning and allocations — local, among others.
Chanin read out the names of those nominated to serve on the board for fiscal year 2023, including Nancy Duber, Ilana Rothberg and Lisa E. Silver. Kaplan then invited the 300 people present to confirm the slate of at-large board members by a voice vote of “aye” or “nay,” with the “ayes” carrying the vote.
Then the evening transitioned into the Capital Chai event, meant to honor 18 young adults active in the Jewish community.
“Every single one of you, in your day-to-day lives and your passion and your commitment is changing the direction of this community, of this region of this country and in many ways of this world,” said Preuss. “And for that, I want to thank you.”
“The honorees tonight include leaders that are working to make change from grassroots organizing, the arts, politics, media, the Jewish world, the LGBTQ community and the broader community,” Holtzblatt said. “We honor our leaders tonight for their vision, their action and the continual push to heal this broken world.”
A video rundown of the honorees and their work was followed by Dan Rosenberg and Dana Gansman, of the Capital Chai Awards’ selection committee, who elaborated on the accomplishments of the honorees and called them some of Greater Washington’s most inspiring Jewish leaders under 40.
Among the 18 was Alan Paul, associate artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company. As Paul received his award, Gansman commended him for his role in a Tony Award-winning theater company, and for being nominated for five Helen Hayes awards, winning one for best director.
“His reimaginings of musicals are among the theater’s highest grossing productions,” Gansman said.
Preuss added, “In a day and age, where it is so easy to lose hope, in a day and age where it’s easy to despair … everyone here is showing us that there’s actually an alternative.”