Craving Connection in a COVID Reality

By Staci Eichelbaum

What if the system we’ve been building for the last 100 years is actually the system that can help propel the Jewish community forward as we weather the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Conventional wisdom tells us that we need new and flashy to attract young Jewish adults to the Jewish community. The last 10 years have brought amazing innovation and new organizations to the forefront of the Jewish community. NextGen Federation is the way finder for Jewish Atlanta and aims to inspire and support journeys to foster meaningful connection and experiences in our community, Israel and around the globe. 

NextGen Federation loves working with partners on the ground in Atlanta, including OneTable, Moishe House, Repair the World, and Honeymoon Israel, to name a few. Each new organization that calls Atlanta home brings a wealth of energy, knowledge, and exciting engagement opportunities.   

But what we’ve discovered during the pandemic is that no matter how new or old something is, whether it’s an idea or an organization, everything boils down to this: we are all craving community. Therefore, philanthropic organizations should pivot to focus on creating meaningful connections among constituents during a time when everyone is so hungry for it. 

COVID-19 disruption unearths new relationships  

Like everyone else across the globe, COVID-19 has thrown our world for a loop. The usual connection points we crave disappeared overnight; anxiety is running high. And, for many in the NextGen space, the uncertainty of what lies ahead can feel overwhelming. This pandemic has shown us what we have always known – it’s not either/or and it’s not a competition between the new and the old – we are better together.  

Over the last year, NextGen Federation has worked to build relationships with a variety of national and local organizations in Atlanta – a virtual day camp with Trybal, programming with Moishe House, exploring food injustice with Repair the World, taking an hour to focus on our mental health with The Blue Dove Foundation, and a variety of themed Shabbat dinners with OneTable, just to name a few.  

While we work together as a community to create a variety of engagement opportunities, these partnerships also allow NextGen Federation to dig into the issues we know best – philanthropy and leadership. Over the past year we launched four giving circles, a variety of pop-up giving opportunities, including a few virtual opportunities launching in December, created additional pathways for philanthropic involvement, and partnered with Slingshot Fund to expand our leadership pipeline.  

Community and connection prevail 

The last few months have brought many challenges to conventional Jewish engagement, but on the flip side, we have seen so many opportunities arise as we navigate this new world together. There will come a day when we can safely gather again, and when that time comes, I see a brighter future for young adult engagement. I’m proud of the community we have built with our partners on the ground here in Atlanta, and I know that, together, we will continue to create a community that we are proud of.   

At the heart of what we all do is building community and connection. NextGen Federation deeply understands the future lies with the next generation, and we know working with the next generation comes with a deep responsibility. When we work together to engage, create, and explore philanthropy and leadership, we know our community will flourish – and we’re proud to help lead that charge here in Atlanta.  

Staci Eichelbaum is Director of NextGen Philanthropy and Journeys at Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.