A plan to create a stronger Jewish community


In December 2019 I sat in a Newport living room with more than 25 members of our community, and I listened. The group was diverse in age, diverse in denomination, and diverse in politics and professions. They ranged in age from their 20s to their 80s. They represented three congregations. And as I listened, I found it remarkable how united they were in their views about Jewish community.

The same scenario played out again and again as we listened last year. More than 250 people participated in these living room conversations throughout the region. And while there was diversity in thought, there was uniformity in their hopes for our community. Over and over again we heard similar themes, and we used those themes, along with the data from over 450 community survey responses to develop our new strategic plan. It is not just a roadmap for the Alliance, but for the entire Rhode Island Jewish community over the next few years.

In the survey responses and community meetings, the recurring theme was the need for greater connection. This included connection between parts of our community, and on an individual to individual level. People want to connect, but need the tools to do so. At the Alliance, we are well-positioned to help people throughout our region connect to each other and to the larger Jewish community. We have already created an engagement team at the Alliance to focus on connecting people to the community in a way that meets the needs of each person. We will continue to provide programming to support this community building. And we are exploring ways to connect people more closely, even in the midst of a pandemic when we cannot do so physically. Our goal is to make connections throughout the state and region, supporting Jewish life wherever it may be.

Collaboration also emerged as an important focus for our community. At a time when needs are high and the resources to address those needs are a bit more scarce, Jewish agencies and synagogues must work more closely to create community. As the largest organization serving our entire Jewish community, we see it as our responsibility to lead by example in this area. Earlier this year we began convening our Jewish agencies on a regular basis to share ideas, resources and better coordinate our efforts. Additionally, we continue to convene synagogue presidents and leaders to share ideas and problem-solve together. We are also working with synagogues to partner on events and programs, and to explore opportunities to bring Jewish Community Center programs like J-Camp to other parts of the state. These collaborations, big and small, will create better coordination among Jewish institutions, and will provide more support for members of our community.

The community was also clear on some other areas where the Alliance should focus. Specifically, bringing the community together around social action and social responsibility. In the next few years we plan to expand volunteer opportunities, as well as opportunities to get involved on issues important to the community, like climate change and racial justice. And we will continue our work to fight anti-Semitism and keep our community safe.

This plan is ambitious, and it will take resources. We estimate that it will take approximately $10 million over the next three years to accomplish the goals in this plan. That is $1 million more than we raised in the previous three years. But I have confidence that a plan built by the community, for the community, will attract investment from supporters in our community, those who have invested for decades and new donors who are excited about the future.

In that Newport living room, and in every living room we visited, the last question we asked was, “What are the first things we should focus on as a community?” So often, the first answer was, “More of this.” More opportunities to come together to discuss our community and the role we all play in making it better. More opportunities to get together and collaborate. And more opportunities to simply get together and build Jewish community and individual Jewish relationships. At the Alliance, this is not just our plan, it is our commitment to you. But we can only do it with your help. And we look forward to working with you during the next few years to create the stronger, more vibrant community we all desire.

ADAM GREENMAN is the president and CEO of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.