Challenges in our World Continue

Challenges in our World Continue

This is a special weekend for me as I will be at a family reunion with 80 relatives from my maternal grandmother’s side of the family. Most of these relatives I’ve either not seen in over 25 years or never met (especially the younger generations). When you live far from relatives it can be a struggle to get to know one another. It also seems that once a generation in the family passes away (grandparents or parents), one often loses touch with others in the family.

Unfortunately, for many, genealogy is a “lost art.” Less than 2% of the American population can name their eight great-grandparents. This experience made me realize how important family history and connections are – so we are making the most of it. For those interested in learning more about their own families, please check out the Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon.

In news from yesterday, we in Portland were deeply saddened to hear of the senseless violence during the Jerusalem Pride Parade and send our prayers for healing to our Israeli family and friends. The Jewish Federation condemns the stabbing of six people at the parade. We are proud that Israel’s democratic state has fostered a culture where people can be free to organize and march in a pride parade. Yesterday’s heinous attack runs counter to the values on which Israel was founded. It is because of Israeli democracy that its citizens are able to hold this annual parade in the ancient streets of Jerusalem, allowing thousands of people to openly and proudly be themselves. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, and we pray for a swift and full recovery for all those involved.

The debate about the Iran deal continues to spark deep feelings both within and outside the Jewish community. Many community members have asked the Jewish Federation to provide additional information. On July 23, Jewish Federations of North America hosted an exclusive webcast on the global implications of the Iran agreement with Dr. Robert Satloff, Middle East expert and influential executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a well-respected think tank.

The New York Jewish Week shared an interview with Aaron David Miller, former U.S. Mideast negotiator and VP of the Woodrow Wilson Center. His comments throw doubt on both supporters’ and critics’ certainties about the pact.

Finally, here is the full text of the agreement.

Earlier this week ejewishphilanthropy shared a new study about Anti-Semitism on the college campus. In the wake of the Israel-Hamas war in summer 2014, college campuses across North America were the settings for many anti-Israel activities, including the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. This according to a new report, Antisemitism on the College Campus: Perceptions and Realities from the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. The report has two aims: first, to understand the extent of hostility toward Israel and anti-Semitism on North American campuses and second, to assess the relationship between these trends and Jewish students’ support for and connection to Israel. The study draws on a survey of US and Canadian college students and young adults who applied to Taglit-Birthright Israel.

The complete report, “Antisemitism and the College Campus: Perceptions and Realities,” is available here. Locally, we’re delighted that Shiran Halfon, the Israel Fellow with Greater Portland Hillel for the past two years, will be staying for another year in an expanded role. Much of her efforts at Hillel are focused on this issue on the college campuses.

Beyond news connected to Israel, there is a challenge for the children of Oregon. Last week there was a troubling story in the Oregonian that captured my attention about the many Oregon families struggling as if we are still deep in a recession. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2015 Kids Count report, which measures and assesses family and child well-being, says 22% of Oregon’s children, about 182,000, were living in poverty in 2013, an increase from 18% in 2008 when the nation was in the depths of the recession.

If there are 3.97 million people in the State of Oregon (2014 census) and maybe 55,000 Jews in the state, then we represent 1.4% of the population. Using the above data this means there are approximately 2,500 Jewish children in our state living in poverty.

Jewish Family and Child Service and other agencies are a source of support and guidance during these times. Please, if you know of any family, individual or child, have them contact a Jewish organization. In addition, our Jewish Community Relations Council advocates in Salem and with our Congressional delegation, and the Jewish Federations of North America advocates in Washington, DC on behalf of these children and their families. There is so much that we can and must do for these families.

Challenges in our world continue. Let’s look forward to more positive discussion points in the weeks and months ahead. Shabbat shalom.



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