I rarely have religious experiences.
But yesterday I attended a truly remarkable strategy meeting including a briefing and discussion at the White House. The program was co-facilitated by Jumpstart and JStreet (check em out) and attended by a couple dozen other participants from around the country who are engaged in social entrepreneurship. Roughly speaking, the entire sampling (myself on behalf of JDub included) represented Jewish initiatives that reach over 500,000 participants via about $500 million dollars worth of non-profit investment. Cooler stat: almost none of our organizations existed 10 years ago.
We met with Obama’s newly created/rebranded/reshaped Office of Public Engagement and Office of Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships all within the Executive Office of the President. (P.S. They have a new first cousin too – the Office of Social Innovation. Read that again.)
But here’s why my eyes are still teary: after we listened to the core issues Obama has asked these Offices to focus on, they not only took our questions, but also listened intently. They brainstormed with us, took notes, talked about next steps and where the White House fits in, and then encouraged us to communicate with them. I have never felt so immediately empowered – not even the time I told the then Chairman and CEO of Sony Music that Matisyahu was not " the rapping rabbi" and to please stop calling him that. Sure, there’s a bit of campaign hangover in my bloodstream (as an individual of course and NOT on behalf of JDub), but this is follow-through I can believe in.
I have now seen with my own teary eyes that there are A LOT of actual people working incredibly hard and efficiently to make sure that the next generation will not have to deal with the same set of issues we currently face. Bluntly put, the White House has a conscience.
We were of course only there for a couple hours, but I walked away with the genuine feeling that the administration understands the complexities of Jewish social issues, the need to broaden the discussion about Israel to actually achieve peace during this Presidency (like I said – rarely have optimistic experiences – I mean religious), and how deeply leadership dynamics play a part in our communities and beyond. Moreover, they are thinking past the band-aids. They are seeking out resources to resolutions on a well-written laundry list of issues and they want our help. As I often say around the Office of JDub: "Let’s do it!"