Gil Preuss, the new CEO and executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, couldn’t have picked a better community to lead. Granted, we’re a bit biased in our assessment, but the fact is that no other locale in the United States offers the same unique combination we have here in terms of the size, area and impact of a Jewish community stretching from the furthest reaches of Northern Virginia to Howard and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, and including the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C.
We may not be the largest — with a quarter of a million Jews living in the Washington area, we’re actually the fifth largest Jewish community in North America — but with our access to the nation’s political leaders and our partnerships with the national Jewish organizations who operate in Washington, no other community in the diaspora can match our potential influence. In selecting Preuss, who most recently was the No. 2 head of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, our Federation has chosen a leader whose vision matches that reality.
The JFGW board, led by new co-presidents Gary Berman and Liza Levy, also selected a local, of sorts. Preuss’ family moved here from Israel when he was 10.
“For me, this is in many ways coming back to a community where I have been coming to for many years,” the father of four told WJW in an interview in the Federation’s conference room in Rockville. “But more importantly, this is Washington, D.C. This is the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. The importance of this community, the importance of having a strong Jewish community in greater Washington — it’s almost the most important community of any in the country.”
Leading a community of this size and complexity, however, will not be easy. In addition to all that he must learn during the listening tour that will likely take up much of his time in the coming months, Preuss must find a replacement for Avital Ingber, the Federation’s gifted chief development officer who is leaving for Houston, where she will be the president and CEO of that city’s Jewish federation. And he will need to navigate our dynamic community, full of regional, religious and ideological factions all magnified by our proximity to the halls of power in the White House and Congress.
With more than 100 synagogues, havurot and minyanim in the area — Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Humanist, Renewal and independent, as well as many Orthodox congregations — three Jewish community centers and eight Jewish day schools at the forefront of Jewish education, the Greater Washington Jewish community will challenge Preuss in his plan to bring everyone “together as part of a vibrant whole.”
We believe that Preuss is the right person for the job and enthusiastically welcome him home.