This has been quite the week. The Jewish Federation Board made its final local and overseas allocations decisions (to be shared with the community at our Annual Meeting on June 13 and in future Marc’s Remarks). The Oregon Jewish Community Foundation renamed its legacy society the Julie Diamond (z”l) Legacy Society in memory of their extraordinary professional leader. Over two days, 300 Ethiopians made aliyah to Israel through Operation Zur with our community’s financial support. I had the opportunity to join Co/Lab at the Eastside Jewish Commons for their inaugural Art/Lab event where Portland-based artists shared their work exploring Jewish and contemporary themes (I encourage you to see the exhibit open until June 12). And Wednesday was my 28th anniversary (!) working in the Jewish Federation field. Nice to share good news.
But not everything is as we would like. More shootings. Economic challenges. And the war in Ukraine is on day 100 with no end in sight.
Too often, major news stories have their “cycle” and then fade into the background. In addition, we forget the long-lasting impact of these major events. With the war raging on, it is important to share how Jewish Federations and our partners continue to ensure that urgent relief reaches the neediest in Ukraine and border countries.
- According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, 60-100 Ukrainian soldiers are killed every day in the fighting, as well as around 500 others who are wounded.
- Zelensky stated that shipments of 22.5 million tons of grain are being blocked by Russia in the Black Sea.
- President Joe Biden announced that the United States will provide High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) as part of an aid package to Ukraine. The systems, however, only have a range of 44 miles. The US is resisting the request for longer range rockets, due to concerns they would be capable of striking Russian territory, thereby potentially escalating the war.
- In response, Russia's foreign minister said Ukraine's demands to the West regarding the supply of advanced rocket launchers go beyond “all limits and decency” and is a “direct provocation.” The US insists that Ukraine has pledged not to use the new weapons against targets in Russia itself.
- According to the UN Human Rights Council, 6.6 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the beginning of fighting. One-third of those refugees have since returned.
- An estimated 50,000 Jews have been displaced since the start of the war with most remaining in Europe.
Jewish Federations continue to raise money for Ukraine relief efforts (you can donate here), and have collectively raised more than $64.3 million ($400,000 from our community) – more than triple the initial goal when the war began. With our collective support, we are funding 46 organizations operating on the ground in Ukraine and neighboring countries. See here for an article on where Jewish Federation funding for Ukraine has gone.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) continues to help Jews in need across Ukraine. Since the start of the war, 900 volunteers have played a vital role in JDC's Ukrainian assistance efforts, helping over 17,000 people, most vulnerable elderly, across Ukraine. These volunteers take on a wide array of responsibilities and are risking their own lives by unloading shipments of humanitarian aid, preparing hot meals, packing and delivering food, medicine, and personal products to these isolated and ailing individuals.
The Jewish Agency for Israel continues to help Jews make aliyah to Israel. Since fighting began, more than 21,000 Ukrainian (10,019), Russian (9,777), and Belarusian (455) immigrants eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return have arrived in Israel.
The Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC), a Jewish Federation partner, is supporting and training approximately 2,500 Ukrainian trauma professionals, including doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers. Training topics include trauma among victims of assault, how to respond remotely, grief counseling, and treatment of child trauma.
ITC has also been active in countries surrounding Ukraine. The work there includes training teams at refugee absorption sites in emotional first aid, trauma care, and self-care tools.
And let us not forget the work of other groups. Here is an interesting report about Chabad’s activities in Ukraine.
It is heartbreaking to see the ongoing conflict. I know we all want to see this war end. But for now, let us not forget the ongoing needed relief efforts.
On Monday, June 13 at 4:30 p.m., the Jewish Federation will host its 102nd Annual Meeting in-person at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center or via Zoom. The meeting will include highlights of the past year, recognize Lauren Goldstein for her outstanding three-year leadership as Chair of the Board, celebrate our successes, and recognize our Laurie Rogoway Award and scholarship recipients. We will also thank and recognize outgoing Board members: Jack Birnbach, Karen Blauer, Ted Nelson, and Ed Tonkin for their service. We will welcome new Board members: Craig Berne, Christie Moore, and Jeffrey Weitz. And we are excited that Mindy Zeitzer will be installed as our next Chair of the Board.
Please join us. Register here if coming in-person to the MJCC. Or register here for the Zoom link.
Starting Saturday night until Monday evening we celebrate Shavuot. The holiday celebrates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai as well as the grain harvest for the summer. In Biblical times, Shavuot was one of three pilgrimage festivals in which all the Jewish men would go to Jerusalem and bring their first fruits as offerings to God. It is also customary to eat dairy (cheesecake anyone?) and learn throughout the night.
Why dairy? There are many explanations. One of the most popular is that when the Israelites were receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai, they were pure and innocent like newborn babies, and babies subsist on milk.
Why learn all night? The day the Torah was supposed to be given, the Jews overslept. Yep! Now, we are making up for the mistakes of our ancestors and stay up late learning Torah.
Shabbat shalom, enjoy Shavuot, and note the Jewish Federation’s office will be closed on Monday in observance of the holiday.