The Urgency of Communal Responsibility Has Never Been Greater

The guiding Jewish principle of my life is the Talmudic expression kol Yisrael arevim zeh l’zeh, which is the concept that the entire Jewish community is responsible for one another.

I’m grateful for the many opportunities I have had to live up to this ideal, from being a member of my synagogue’s BBYO chapter in my youth to multiple leadership roles at major Jewish institutions throughout my career.

And as the coronavirus pandemic has unfolded around the world, I feel an even greater sense of urgency to make a difference, to playing my part in our Jewish communal responsibility. To ensure a secure a meaningful Jewish future for all, we must act now so that no one is left behind.

The newest collaboration at the Jewish Federations of North America, where I serve as national campaign chair, promises to meet this objective. JFNA recently developed a partnership with the Jewish Future Pledge, a worldwide movement formed to ensure that vibrant Jewish life continues for generations to come by encouraging Jews to designate 50 percent or more of the charitable dollars in their wills/estate plan to Jewish causes, which can include giving to Israel.

This partnership is particularly powerful in several critical ways.

For one, JFNA is an established network with a wide reach and immense ties to an engaged audience that cares deeply about their local Jewish communities. This partnership will connect the mission of the Jewish Future Pledge with the work of JFNA, and offer a great tool to support meaningful conversations about how individuals can come together with their peers and family members to cultivate a vibrant Jewish future. Further, the Pledge has the potential to secure $600 billion for Jewish causes over the next 25 years, giving organizations and individuals an incredible opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to sustaining the Jewish people and creating flourishing Jewish communities. Finally, we have already shown our network that we believe every gift matters, whether it is for $10 or $10 million, and Jewish Future Pledge aligns with that in saying that every pledge contributes to securing a Jewish future for all.

Most Jews are familiar with the Hebrew word tzedakah (meaning “righteousness”), which asserts that charitable giving is a moral obligation. The Jewish Future Pledge is particularly special because it builds on tzedakah by adding the concept of kol Yisrael. By encouraging signers to prioritize Jewish giving, its goal is to create an influx of financial resources to benefit the entire landscape of Jewish organizations — not just one or two of them. In this way, it presents us with the greatest capacity to make a lasting positive impact within the Jewish community.

And that impact is especially needed during these uncertain times. We are seeing rising antisemitism and security concerns across the board, which are dangerous trends that threaten our communities everywhere. Then there is the rising cost of Jewish living. While it may be easier for some of us to afford everything from day schools to continuity of Jewish education to synagogue membership, it’s not always as accessible for everyone who wants to live out their Jewish values.

When my wife and I were asked to take the Pledge, we immediately said yes. We took the Jewish Future Pledge because we view it as an investment that will pay off for years to come. We want to show our five children what we are doing to enhance Jewish life for their generation and for future ones as well. While all giving is good, we want them to know that Jewish giving must be prioritized. We believe that those who are fortunate must share with others less fortunate.

While we express this commitment with pride, we know that securing a strong Jewish future doesn’t come down to any individual person, family or organization. We are all family, and we need to join together to enhance Jewish life for all. So as we stare down this existential moment and a continuing public health crisis, it’s imperative that all of us take every possible step to boldly exemplify the principles of tzedakah and of kol Yisrael.

This op-ed was originally published in JNS.

David Brown is the National Campaign Chair of The Jewish Federations of North America.