It is time to truly begin our annual Campaign for Community Needs. For over 100 years, the Jewish Federation has served as the guardian of our entire Jewish community. I hope you understand the critical role we play in helping to provide critical services for our seniors, children, and everyone in between – including YOU. Our work is only possible with our community’s ongoing philanthropic support.
I shared a few weeks ago that the Jewish Federation does not plan to hold any in-person or virtual fundraising events through the end of the calendar year. Facing another uptick in COVID-19 cases, we made the difficult decision to forgo plans to gather in person for everyone’s safety. We also decided not to add to your Zoom schedule while providing you the chance to support our community's campaign from the comfort of your own home.
Next week you will receive an invitation to the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland’s first-ever Please Don’t Show Gala. It is a fundraising “event” for these challenging and unpredictable times. We hope you will “RSVP” by making your commitment to the 2022 Campaign for Community Needs (and enjoy staying home). If you prefer, make your gift today by clicking here.
In addition, we are delighted that once again a donor will match all 10%+ increases to our campaign. We have already raised over $1 million, but need your help to reach our goal. We are turning to you -- Your Mitzvah Moment Starts NOW!
With this morning's announcement of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize recipients, this is a perfect time to share the following.
Several years ago, Daniel Gordis wrote an incredible biography about Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. He was always a person of great interest to me and I wrote a term paper about him in college. Gordis’s book provides incredible insight into the man who was deemed a “terrorist” and later became Israel’s sixth prime minister.
As Gordis explains in his book, Menachem Begin had strong Zionist leanings from his youth, would later be imprisoned by the Soviets in 1940, joined the Free Polish Army in 1942, and shortly thereafter arrived in Palestine. There he joined the underground paramilitary Irgun where he achieved instant notoriety for the organization’s devastating bombings of British military installations and other terrorist acts. Begin was intentionally left out of the newly established Israeli government coalition in 1948, thus becoming the long-standing opposition leader and thorn in the side of the Labor-dominated government of David Ben-Gurion and his successors.
In 1977, in a close election, Begin was afforded the opportunity to form a new coalition government and became Prime Minister. Later that year, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat made his historic visit to Jerusalem, which eventually led to a peace treaty between the two countries signed in 1979. Begin accomplished what his predecessors could not.
Interestingly, almost 43 years ago on October 27, 1978, a little over a month after the Camp David talks, the two leaders were named recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in bringing about peace between Israel and Egypt. Some observers believe that the awarding of the prize to Begin and Sadat, before the peace treaty was formally signed in 1979, was insurance to make sure that the two leaders did in fact go forward with the talks and conclude them with a treaty.
Following the Nobel Prize ceremony in December 1978, Begin told the press, “I thank the Nobel Prize Committee for the honor bestowed for our peace effort...I believe that the negotiations will end successfully. But the prize, given to me even before the successful conclusion, has in fact been given to the entire people of Israel and I am nothing but the emissary through which the prize has been bestowed upon our people. As I have claimed all my life, no people yearn for peace as we do and surely no more than we do.”
Many years ago, at a synagogue art auction, my parents purchased a signed copy of Menachem Begin’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech. I used to have it hanging on my office wall. His powerful words emphasized his values and ideals concerning the Jewish people and the State of Israel – as well as his desire for peace. He never wavered.
Gordis wrote that following the failed 1982 invasion of Lebanon to end the PLO’s shelling of Israel’s northern cities and the loss of his wife, among other things, he resigned and spent the next nine years in virtual seclusion. He died in 1992 and unlike most other Prime Minister’s buried on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, Begin was buried alongside the Irgun comrades who died in the struggle to create the Jewish national home to which he had devoted his life.
I share all of this because I am excited to announce Congregation Neveh Shalom, Israel 360, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland invite you to a free online screening of the new documentary, Upheaval: The Journey of Menachem Begin. The movie will be available to view for all registrants anytime between October 31 - November 5. We will have the opportunity for a community-wide virtual discussion with the film’s director, Jonathan Gruber, on Thursday, November 4 at 7:00 p.m.
This is a must-see documentary detailing the incredible life story of former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Upheaval includes rarely seen archival materials and revealing interviews with those who knew him. It does a magnificent job portraying the life and essence of this proud man who never compromised when the survival of Israel and the Jewish people were at stake.
Click here to view a trailer for the movie. And reserve your space to receive the links to the movie and discussion by clicking here. It will be well worth it.
Marc N. Blattner
President and CEO