Difference Makers

I want to clarify an inaccurate report about the Portland Trail Blazers canceling a partnership with a company that does business in Israel. Last night, the Washington Free Beacon published a story claiming the Portland Trail Blazers had caved to pressure from the Democratic Socialists of America and other pro-Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) groups urging them to cancel a contract with Leupold & Stevens because they have a contract with the Israel Defense Force. The story was quickly picked up by the Jerusalem Post. Unfortunately, this is an example of the press taking a BDS group’s press release and not checking the facts.
The Trail Blazers put out the following statement last night explaining the situation.
The Trail Blazers had a partnership with Leupold & Stevens in support of the Hometown Hero program. ... Leupold's sponsorship contract officially expired at the end of last season and Leupold & Stevens made the decision not to renew. ...
The past few weeks I have felt very reflective in my Marc’s Remarks as we approached the High Holy Days. Today, I thought I would take a break and share some interesting things happening locally and around the Jewish world.
I am pleased to share that the Jewish Federation once again has been awarded the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for our commitment to accountability and transparency. “This is the highest possible rating and indicates that the Jewish Federation adheres to sector best practices and executes its mission in a financially efficient way. Attaining a 4-star rating verifies that the Jewish Federation exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in America.”
I believe we remain the only Jewish non-profit in the entire Pacific Northwest with such distinction!
A few weeks ago, The Oregonian had a major story about the tragic homeless situation in Portland. Portland State University estimated that 38,000 people in Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties experienced homelessness at some point in 2017. This is astounding and deeply concerning. Moreover, the Jewish population of the metro area is approximately 1.7% of the overall population. This means that there could be 650 Jewish individuals who experienced homelessness.
Our Jewish community, in partnership with the greater community, must do what we can. One option is to help build “tiny houses.” Join Tivnu: Building Justice , Portland Jewish Academy , and Cascadia Clusters (the group working on the parcel of land next to the Mittleman Jewish Community Center) on Wednesdays to make this a New Year of opportunity and community, working alongside the people who really need it. Tools will be provided – just bring your hands and heart. Sign up by emailing Erik@Tivnu.org
There are also open volunteer hours (ages 10 and up) on October 13, 20, and 27 from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm.
Another opportunity is to join Positive Charge! PDX for Amplify Kindness! PDX. A special event ( think art therapy meets positive psychology) is planned for Sunday, October 27 from 1:00 - 4:00 pm at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center. People of all ages, religions, ethnicities, and races are invited to create tokens of kindness (painted rocks with messages, cards to attach to roses or crocheted hearts, kindness bookmarks) to share. Ultimately, spreading random messages of kindness fuels a feel-good spark and a sense of community—for the giver as well as the receiver.
Registration is required at www.PositiveChargePDX.org. You can also learn more about monthly volunteer opportunities here and stay up to date on their projects at PositiveChargePDX.
Here is a touching story from Israel.
Israel’s women’s lacrosse team recently competed in the 2019 Women’s Lacrosse U19 World Championship and played Kenya’s national team. Israel won handily. The Israeli players left the game disturbed when they realized that they had enjoyed an unfair advantage -- the Israeli players wore state of the art cleats while the Kenyan team wore plain old gym shoes (slipping on the muddy field).
After the game, several of the Israeli players called their parents asking if they could help pay for new shoes for the Kenyan players. One player, Ella Duvdevani, was in a position to help since her father owns a ped-orthic clinic in the US. That night he called the team’s coaches, committee members, and other parents, and soon everyone was pitching in to buy new shoes for the Kenyan team.
The following morning, the Israeli team surprised their Kenyan friends with brand new pairs of shoes. It was an emotional moment, with the Israeli and Kenyan players hugging and crying together.
Lielle Assayag, Israel’s goalie, said, “This is the moment I will remember 20 years from now.”
After donning their new cleats, Kenya went on to win their next game. “1 game in cleats today = 1 win!” they Tweeted, adding “You can’t help everyone but everyone can help someone.”
As Hillel said in Ethics of the Fathers, “In a place where there are no leaders, strive to be a leader” (Pirkei Avot 2:6). We each have to make a difference wherever we find ourselves.
In this week’s JTA, a study from Brandeis University reported that there are an estimated 7.5 million Jews in the United States, a 10% increase from only seven years ago.
“The cynicism about American Judaism, and that we are a vanishing population, is incorrect,” said Leonard Saxe of Brandeis University.
Here are five key things from the study:
  • There are 7.5 million Jews (1.6 million are children) in the United States – We are about 2% of the population, but it now makes the United States home to the largest Jewish community in the world (Israel has 7.2 million Jews).
  • More than one in 10 Jews is not white -- Among the 11% of American Jews who are not white, 2% are black, 5% are Hispanic and 4% are another ethnicity.
  • Jewish Americans are disproportionately elderly -- In the United States, 21% of the population is 65 or older. Among Jews, the number is 26%.
  • Jews across the country are overwhelmingly liberal and vote for Democrats – I am unsure if this is surprising. Oregon has the 4th highest percentage of Jewish democrats in the country.
  • 91% of American Jews live in just 40 metropolitan areas (which includes Portland).
Finally, one of my great pleasures is reading PJ Library books at the MJCC/PJA “indoor playground” program. This time, while being introduced, an employee at the MJCC said, “We take pride that the MJCC is the living room of the Jewish community, but I always see the Jewish Federation as the heartbeat of our community.”
I hope we live up to that.
Sukkot, my favorite holiday of the year, begins Sunday night. I need to put up my sukkah and hope the weather stays nice so I can sleep in it again throughout. I am also delighted about all the Sukkot gatherings in the community, including those sponsored by the Eastside Jewish Commons where the Jewish Federation is providing the lulavim and etrogim.
Shabbat shalom and chag Sukkot sameach.


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