After study, NoVa’s year in the spotlight

Young Jews gather in Northern Virginia. Last year’s demographic study found the area to have the largest Jewish population in Greater Washington. Photo courtesy of Nova Tribe Series.

A year after a demographic study of the Washington region’s Jewish community revealed that the largest segment of the Jewish population lives in Northern Virginia, institutions there are hoping that with more attention comes more funding.

“There’s a groundswell of excitement and activity around the opportunities that were illuminated in the community study,” said Jeff Dannick, executive director of the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia. “It’s my hope that the proportion of funding that ends up supporting the community in Northern Virginia will increase in historic numbers.”

Released last February, the study found that of the 295,500 Jewish residents of Greater Washington, 41 percent live in Northern Virginia, 39 live percent in the Maryland suburbs and 19 percent live in the District.

Now, one year later, the Federation is pledging to increase support for Northern Virginia institutions and groups targeting people in their 20s and 30s, another significant demographic noted in the survey.

(The study was done in cooperation with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and funded by The Morningstar Foundation established by Susie and Michael Gelman. The Gelmans are members of the ownership group of Mid-Atlantic Media, which publishes Washington Jewish Week.)

Dannick said he expects that the Federation’s funding for his and other Northern Virginia organizations will increase. But he’s already seen increased focus and energy from Federation staff since the study was released.

Last year, Federation staff took part in a listening tour of sorts, an early step in a strategic planning process that could reshape the way the Federation operates in the region. The tour had a particular focus on Northern Virginia, according to Gil Preuss, the Federation’s CEO.

“I’ve seen it. The study has led to significantly more focus from the staff and leadership of the Federation on the challenges and opportunities in Northern Virginia,” Dannick said. “And it’s amplified engagement between professional and lay leadership in Northern Virginia and the Federation.”

Preuss said that the Federation is also in search of a staffer to work exclusively on Northern Virginia community matters.

Already, the Federation has begun a new strategy of targeted fundraising for areas highlighted in the study. Of the $21,177,043 it raised in its 2018 campaign, $1,340,653 was raised specifically for Northern Virginia, young adults and adult Jewish learning. In particular, Preuss said, Northern Virginia and young adults were highlighted in the study, which found that 35 percent of the region’s Jewish population was between the ages of 22 and 39.

In an effort to increase its focus on young adults, the Federation recently released a request for proposals for pilot initiatives and to expand programming around those three areas. As a result of the study and the strategic planning framework it released last year, the Federation will offer $375,000 in grants for Northern Virginia and young professional engagement, Preuss said.

In addition, he said it could increase its annual outlays for other institutions operating in those areas.

For Stacy Miller, who runs the Edlavitch Jewish Community Center’s young adult program EntryPoint DC and a Northern Virginia young adult group, Nova Tribe Series, it’s a welcome opportunity. When she started Nova Tribe Series in 2012, she said she participated in leadership training organized by the Federation, but the Federation wasn’t offering financial support for fledgling young adult initiatives.

Without funding, she had to scale back her ambitions for the group and cut down on the number of events it held. Perhaps with increased funding from the Federation and others as a result of the demographic study, she might be able to expand its offerings, she said.

“This could be a way to bring some of those programs back and bring more synergy between the young professionals of D.C. and Northern Virginia,” Miller said, pointing to study findings that Jewish young adults in Northern Virginia are largely clustered in Arlington and Alexandria. “I think a lot of organizations in the community want to support grassroots programming and organizations and make sure there’s future funding.”

Dannick said he knows that the Federation is targeting those millennial-heavy areas of Northern Virginia for future investment.

“Particularly in the eastern section of Northern Virginia, there’s an intersection between [the young adult and Northern Virginia] cohorts, which creates this sweet spot of opportunity,” Dannick said. “And that’s become a key focus of the Federation and a key focus of donors.”

With large organizations like the Federation, Dannick and Preuss agreed that change comes at a methodical pace, and most of the ways in which the Federation uses the study’s information are still to come. But already, Dannick said, he’s seen the region’s community reorient its focus, in both fundraising and programming.

“If you’re asking if the needle’s going to move, I’d say yes, it’s already moving as a result of the study,” Dannick said. “Any movement beyond that is up to not only the Federation, but all of us in
the community.”

[email protected]

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here