Friends, our Federation is delighted to have Nathan Schachter serving as an intern during the month of May. Nathan is no stranger to our community; many of you may already know him or his parents. For this week's Shabbat message, I've asked Nathan to share his thoughts on Greater Hartford's Jewish community and its future. Shabbat Shalom. - Howard
"You won't understand the power of community until you're a part of one."
What I've gained from this community, already at a mere 20 years old, is a testament to what it has to offer.
I'm originally from New London, Connecticut, and for many years my parents talked about moving in search of a larger, more vibrant Jewish community. They decided on Greater Hartford, and it has not disappointed us. From my years at Solomon Schechter Day School and Hebrew High School of New England to my time as the teen representative on the Mandell Jewish Community Center's Board of Directors, it's safe to say that I have done my time at almost every Jewish institution here (I have a slight obsession with the Crown's brownies!).
Jewish community involvement was instilled in me from birth. Ask me to volunteer, and I'll be there. But my commitment is more an exception than the rule. The reality is that the majority of Millennials - our future leaders - aren't willing to engage with or commit to the Jewish community as it stands right now.
Now, as a rising junior at UConn and an active member at our Hillel on campus, I feel an urgent need to learn how to create Jewish community in the 21st century. Our community is ever-changing, and we must equip ourselves to embrace that change. Professionals and lay leaders must actively evaluate their goals and missions. We need to start listening to the younger generation - their ideas, their wants, and their needs. The only way our Jewish community will survive and thrive in this evolving world is to evolve with it, by innovating and listening to our future leaders. What worked in the past doesn't necessarily work today, and it most definitely won't work in the future.
We need to become bilingual - but perhaps not in the way you'd expect. Not everyone can understand "Jewish" - so we must learn to speak "human," the global language of today. We must meet the next generation on their terms. Only then can we expect them to engage Jewishly with us. Reciprocity - the idea of servant leadership, meeting the demands of the community we serve - allows us to do so. We need to understand our market, those we are trying to engage, and our marketplace, the context in which we are engaging them. I can't assume that the same narratives and motives that got my parents' and grandparents' generations involved will apply to people my age today. Millennials have different priorities, and they want to engage in new dialogues within their respective Jewish communities. "Jewish" may not have the same role in their lives that it did in people's lives even 20 years ago.
The basis of our community is the Federation. It's the only organization that brings every Jewish organization in the Greater Hartford area together. Whether you donate to the Annual Campaign, sit on a committee or simply attend a program, you are supporting the Federation's mission now, so that people like me have an assured community in the future. By supporting the schools and organizations that have shaped me, and through its direct programs, Federation has supported every aspect of my journey to Jewish adulthood - and that has prepared me to shape the future. I'm excited to lead, innovate, and take risks in our Jewish community, and I know Federation will be right there working beside me. This community, my community, would not be what it is without Federation.
Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford
University of Connecticut
BA Communication, 2019
MPA Nonprofit Management, 2020