Nearly every interaction I have begins with this little word. In-person, it’s often accompanied by an arm squeeze, a two-handed handshake, an elbow bump, or, if you are comfortable, a hug (I’m a hugger). In emails, I usually add a smiley emoji. With texts, it’s “Hiya!” 😃 .

I love meeting new people, and helping others make connections and begin long relationships is so personally fulfilling. As WHC’s new Director of Member Engagement, I have found my dream job!

Although I’ve started a new position, my name may look familiar to you. For over a decade, I’ve been on the Communications Team, most recently as the Temple’s Director of Communications. Throughout this time, I have worked closely and developed wonderful relationships with our gifted clergy, staff, and lay leaders, crafting messages, writing stories, and creating graphics and videos. I wanted to interest you in learning more – by scrolling further, clicking another button, and turning more pages – to discover ways of engaging and finding fulfillment, joy, compassion, and connection.

A Synagogue Is About People

Washington Hebrew offers so many ways to connect with Judaism and community—spiritually, educationally, culturally, socially, and faith-in-action(y). Washington Hebrew is where you have pastoral support during life’s challenges and partnership for the most meaningful simchas. At WHC, children fully explore and embrace their heritage in and out of the classroom. Nearly every day, adults can find an opportunity to gather with clergy, authors, and experts to learn, consider, and wrestle with every aspect of Judaism. With folding chairs and blankets, we meet on the lawn at JBSC for sunset concerts. We gather for worship and we roll up our sleeves to make the world a kinder, more equitable place.

People join Washington Hebrew at all stages of life. Young professionals discover us through our amazing 2239 programming. Engaged couples and individuals seeking a Jewish life develop personal relationships with our clergy as they prepare for significant life events. Expectant and new parents and families with young children create lifelong friendships as they bond over shared experiences. Teens celebrate each other at b’nei mitzvah, learn how to be partners and leaders, and support each other during the college application process. Adults find communities within communities based on interests and life phases.

Communities Within Communities

There are so many ways to find your “home” at WHC. In addition to our age- and gender-based auxiliaries, we have affinity groups for Jews of Color and LGBTQ+ communities, and expectant and new moms. Small groups are currently forming for interfaith couples and families, and for families who have children with developmental and physical disabilities. And more are coming! Next spring, we will be launching our WHC Connections program with a variety of interest-based groups to choose from. They will be member-driven and member-led, so if you have an idea for a group (hiking, challah baking, politics, or sports, for example), let’s talk!

One of My Favorite Times at WHC Is Shabbat

On Friday afternoons, the building begins to buzz with activity and energy. Our outstanding facilities team sets up the bimah, checks the camera and audio feeds for our livestream, and transforms the lobby in preparation for our oneg (while I wonder how I can sneak a sample of their delicious brownies). I can hear Cantor Bortnick and often one of our student cantors warming up with the musicians, and I walk by the rabbis’ offices and hear a preview of their compelling sermons. It’s warm and lovely, and I cannot wait to see you. It’s 5:30 pm, and our newly revitalized Greeter Corps arrives. I can see smiles behind their masks as we catch up, put on our name tags, and check to see that the table of blank name labels and markers is well-supplied. Whether it’s been a long while since you attended services in person or you are coming to Temple for the first (or second, or third) time, name tags make connecting and reconnecting an easier, friendlier, and more personal experience.

Each person’s journey is unique. I’d love to learn more about yours and how we can help you discover and grow your WHC connections.

You can reach Jen at jmillstone@whctemple.org and 202-895-6328.