Hannah Dreyfus is a staff writer at the New York Jewish Week. She covers abuses of power in non-profit and religious settings. She heads up the Investigative Journalism Fund, an initiative to fill a gap in investigative and enterprise reporting. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
If ever a time called for forging a new set of connections between people, it is now.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced a reckoning: we’re all essential, all tied by an invisible web suddenly made eye-glaringly visible. It’s a lesson the three dozen-plus young leaders profiled here have already taken to heart. They’re acting locally — bringing together Jews throughout Queens, empowering Brooklyn’s chasidic community, trash-walking the streets of Manhattan for a cleaner city. And they’re acting globally — fighting for the oppressed Uyghur people, serving on a Global Covid Taskforce, providing education for disadvantaged Jewish children in Odessa. They are pressing for change on societal ills from vaping to gun control to bullying to online hate.
But this crop of 36ers has a special gift, one that’s perfectly attuned to this time: Like the biblical Abraham, they are opening the Jewish tent — widening it and diversifying it. Guided by their Jewish values, they are connecting interfaith couples to rabbis and cantors, carving out a space for women who feel marginalized, creating political alliances across ethnic lines, advocating for queer Jews. All are welcome, they are teaching; everyone counts.
Given this singular moment, we saved the last profile for a collective honor. We shine a light on five first responders on the frontlines of the Covid fight — two doctors, a rabbi, the founder of Feeding the Frontlines and a dedicated food bank volunteer. They, too, are steered by their Jewish values, moved by a selfless kind of service and sacrifice. They are a balm in Gilead.