BY DEBORAH MOON
The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland’s 101st annual meeting, held on Zoom June 14, 2021, looked at lessons of the difficult past year and shared plans for moving strongly into its second century to enhance local Jewish life.
JFGP Chair Lauren Goldstein shared how Federation grants, programs and resources helped Jewish organizations come through the pandemic and meet the social isolation and other challenges of their constituents. “Sometimes we were unsure of where things were headed, and perhaps now, as of tonight, we see a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
Just as Federation forged ahead to meet the challenges of the past year, it is now charging toward that light and into its second century. (see allocations to agencies below)
The 38-minute annual meeting was packed full of news. This included a record campaign, two new initiatives – the most comprehensive socio-demographic community study in our history and a three-year grant to enhance Jewish life on the eastside – and plans for the relaunch of two major projects – the Wexner leadership fellowship and Community Israel trip.
JFGP President and CEO Marc Blattner announced the board’s decision to undertake a comprehensive community study over the next two years, the first since 2008.
“There has never been one (community study) of this scope and magnitude,” said Blattner. The study will provide “accurate and actionable data that informs community planning … (and) the findings will be made available to everyone in our Jewish community.”
More information on the community study and how to participate will be available once a demographic research firm is selected to conduct the study. Results should be available in about 24 months.
“I also want to highlight one new and special grant – a three-year investment in the Eastside Jewish Commons,” said Goldstein (read about the space at jewishportland.org/jewishreview/jr-stories/eastside-hub). “We’re excited about this new Jewish community space on the east side of town and look forward to many programs and services being provided there.”
Set to begin last spring, the Wexner Heritage Program now is set to launch in August. Read about the 20 Portland fellows and the program at jewishportland.org/jewishreview/jr-stories/wexner-announces.
The Federation postponed its Centennial Trip to Israel that was poised to take 400 people to Israel in March 2020; new dates in March 2023 will be announced soon.
Nominating Committee Chair Ed Tonkin thanked outgoing board members Debbie Frank, Rick Haselton, Jim Meyer, Jeff Robinson and Mark Zeitzer, and presented the slate of new members for consideration. Meeting attendees elected four new board members: Jodi Fried, a Jewish professional (formerly program chair at Kesser Israel, now operations manager for Sephardic Adventure Camp) and women’s empowerment coach; Simon Gottheiner, an allocations committee veteran and COO of the Presentation Company; Stuart Kirschner, who participated in the first PDX Pathways young adult leadership cohort and has since served on allocations and Jews Next Dor at Beth Israel; and returning board member Mindy Zeitzer, incoming allocations chair and a past campaign co-chair who is also active at Neveh Shalom and Portland Jewish Academy.
Blattner also praised the community’s agencies and synagogues for working to ensure that the needs of the community were met during this turbulent year. He thanked outgoing Oregon Board of Rabbis Chair Rabbi Eve Posen and retiring Oregon Jewish Community Foundation CEO Julie Diamond for their partnership in meeting community needs.
“When we come together, great things happen,” said Goldstein.
Blattner added that Federation and its partners had to “look at everything differently … ways we can enhance this Jewish community going forward. But the essence of our work is about people – but we do this through our organizations and institutions we help fund to make this a reality.”
The Federation Campaign for Community Needs increased by 6½ percent, the largest single year increase in more than 20 years. Thanks to the additional $300,000, Federation was able to allocate more funds both locally (see story below) and overseas.
Federation’s OSP committee spends months researching and reviewing various proposals from Israeli nonprofit organizations. All allocated funds in Israel are used for social services, and none go over the “Green Line.” You can read about the eight nonprofits in Israel receiving funds at jewishportland.org/marcs-remarks/101st-annual-meeting-and-special-projects-june-18-2021.
Community Chaplain Rabbi Barry Cohen summed up the year in his invocation. Noting our community and the world have faced tremendous challenges, he said, “We have also strengthened each other emotionally and spiritually…. virtually or in person. What we created and experienced this year reminds me of the wisdom of Rabbi Tarfon recorded in Pirkei Avot: ‘It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but you are not free to desist from it either.’” Rabbi Cohen added that even though we will never be able to completely fulfill all the needs of the community, “collectively we can handle any challenge that comes our way.”
Community generosity increases Federation allocations
BY DEBORAH MOON
The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland was able to allocate 6.3% more money than in the previous year to its 18 local partner agencies (see below).
“That’s reflective of the success of the campaign, which is reflective of the generosity of our community,” says Caron Blau Rothstein, JFGP’s director of community planning & allocations.
“Our committee was inspired by the many great agency leaders who were nimble, flexible, brave, visionary and creative (in the face of COVID),” adds Caron, who staffs the allocations committee.
“The pandemic brought out the best in our agency leaders, employees and donors,” says allocations chair Jack Birnbach. “Our allocations committee certainly focused on how COVID was impacting their agencies, but the mission of the agencies was still carried out (some in person, some online and over the phone). They did not lose contact with those who they serve.”
Caron and Jack rattled off an impressive list of some of those innovative adaptations:
• Oregon Jewish Museum and Holocaust Education created exterior window exhibits and developed a virtual tour of the Holocaust Memorial in Washington Park.
• Oregon Hillel had to close its building, but they had Shabbat meals-to-go available for even more students than would have come to Shabbat dinners.
• OneTable created Herefor with holiday resources for all ages to remain connected to community during lockdown.
• Portland Kollel painted an office wall green to create a green screen so they could continue to deliver Jewish learning via Zoom and podcasts.
• B’nai B’rith Camp served meals to fire victims and low-income students who couldn’t get their free lunches when schools closed.
• The three day schools found creative ways to teach and keep students and families engaged.
• Tivnu started the year with tents to keep their students quarantined until everyone was safe and innovated virtual, remote internships when local, in-person internships became unavailable.
“The committee was inspired by the resilience of our institutions and because of the generosity of our community, we were able to support our agencies,” says Caron.
All the agencies were able to keep aloft during the pandemic and are now ready to carry forward to the future. Many pandemic-inspired innovations likely will continue in some form in the future. For instance, the museum will continue to use its windows for exhibits, day schools will continue to use technology to reach students when they can’t be physically in school and virtual-hybrid models will continue at many organizations.
This was Jack’s final of three years as chair of the allocations committee. Incoming board member Mindy Zeitzer will chair allocations for the coming year.
“Jack has really been a remarkable chair,” says Caron. “He combines the best of head and heart in making decisions. He is a retired CPA … he creates spreadsheets, but he understands the nuance and humanity of what we do.”
Jack takes the committee’s work seriously.
“Allocations spends hundreds of hours each year researching our 18 partner agencies on behalf of our very generous donors,” says Jack. “Almost none of our donors have the time to put in that we do. And we do this with them in mind. In Portland, we allocate block grants to agencies to help them continue to do their good works. We are not project focused, but outcome dedicated.”
The allocations committee focuses on providing the block grants to partners in five impact areas: Building Jewish Identity, Jewish Education, Advocacy & Social Justice, Jewish Culture & Engagement, and Social Services.
The full allocations report will be available in the JFGP annual report being released this summer.
JFGP LOCAL PARTNERS
B’nai B’rith Camp
Cedar Sinai Park
Chabad of Hillsboro
Chabad of NE Portland
Greater Portland Hillel
Jewish Family & Child Service
Maayan Torah Day School
Maimonides Jewish Day School
Mittleman Jewish Community Center
Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education
Portland Jewish Academy
Reed College Chabad
TIVNU: Building Justice