This has been an eclectic week with many things happening.
Last night, I joined 150 others at the 20th annual Intergroup Seder, coordinated by the Jewish Community Relations Council. Religious leaders and volunteer leaders from different faiths and ethnic backgrounds came together to experience a model Seder. The theme was “How can I know you?” The evening was filled with new friendships, learning, joy, and ruach (spirit). In many ways, this was “the” model seder.
We are grateful to the Emily Georges Gottfried Fund of the OJCF for their support of this event. In addition, this year we used new Haggadot, Welcome to the Seder: A Passover Haggadah for Everyone, purchased through a grant from the Oregon Jewish Community Youth Foundation (OJCYF). A special thank you to Rabbi Eve Posen and Cantor Eyal Bitton from Congregation Neveh Shalom for leading the seder.
On Tuesday, Israel held its elections with 68% of eligible voters voting. The Likud party won 36 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, while the new Blue and White party won 35. Prime Minister Netanyahu will remain in his position as th e bloc of Likud and its ultra-Orthodox and right-wing allies finished with 65 seats, compared to 55 for the center, left and Arab parties, giving him a clear path for building a majority coalition.
On the right, Aryeh Deri’s ultra-Orthodox Shas party emerged as the third-largest Knesset faction with eight seats, United Torah Judaism had seven, the Union of Right-Wing parties won five, Yisrael Beytenu won five, and Kulanu won four.
On the other side of the spectrum, Arab party Hadash-Ta’al won six seats, the Labor party crashed to a record low of six, Meretz won four seats, and the second Arab party, Ra’am-Balad, also won four. Likud’s 36 seats was the party’s best result since the 2003 election (when it won 38 seats under Ariel Sharon), and its best under Netanyahu.
Everyone will have their own opinion on the election and what it means for Israel going forward. With his election to his fifth term, Netanyahu will soon surpass David Ben-Gurion as the longest-serving Israeli prime minister. In fact, in the 70 years of Israel’s history, Ben-Gurion and Netanyahu will have served as Prime Minister for 37% of Israel’s existence. That is equivalent to two U.S. Presidents serving for 90 years.
The Israeli spacecraft Beresheet was scheduled to touch down on the moon’s surface yesterday afternoon, but unfortunately it crashed during landing. The four-legged spacecraft created by SpaceIL suffered technical difficulties with the ship’s main engine and then lost communication with the spacecraft at 12:24 p.m. our time.
Israel would have been only the fourth country after the Soviet Union, the United States, and China to land a spacecraft on the moon. Israel did become the seventh country to enter the moon’s orbit.
If it had landed on the moon, the spacecraft was to leave a time capsule containing a database of hundreds of digital files ranging from details about the SpaceIL, the craft itself and the crew of the project to national symbols, cultural items and materials collected from the general public over the years, as well as the entire Bible printed in microscopic text on a coin.
“Small country, big dreams,” was written on the flag of the ship with an image of the Israeli flag. The dream continues as Israel has already announced it will try again.
Last weekend was the 8th annual TechFest at Portland State University. The Jewish Federation (via its JCRC and Israel Advocacy Committee) sponsored Zohar Sharon, Chief Knowledge Officer of Tel Aviv-Yafo. Zohar is the first Israeli to take to the main stage, where he presented his award-winning digital city concept which earned Tel Aviv-Yafo the title “Best Smart City in the World” in 2014. He had the opportunity to also present it to Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly.
His concept -- improve the quality of life through smart engagement and give citizens a reason to see their city hall as something other than a bureaucracy. Zohar states “we have to think outside of the box, and Israelis don’t know there is a box.”
Over a six day period, Jewish Federation Chair, Ed Tonkin, Jewish Federation Chair-Elect, Lauren Goldstein, and I had the pleasure of meeting with the leadership of our partner agencies, Oregon Board of Rabbis, synagogue executive directors, and local Chabad rabbis to discuss two important questions:
1. How can the Jewish Federation be more supportive of your work (beyond more financial resources)?
2. What does success look like for our overall Jewish community?
We were on a “listening tour.” Based on the conversations we heard several common themes for what the Jewish Federation can do:
● Fulfill “macro” community roles that individual agencies/synagogues cannot do on their own (i.e. leadership development, community security, etc.)
● Initiate more dialogue between organizations
● Enhanced marketing and communications, especially in regard to social media.
Hearing how people view success was very interesting. Among a broad array of comments two themes emerged – “More Jews doing Jewish” and “Silos need to come down because ‘community’ is a not a zero-sum game.” We will be happy to share a more detailed summary of our meetings in the next few weeks once everything is compiled.
Next Friday night is the start of the Passover holiday. During my seder, I always look forward to reading the Hagaddah, using props for the ten plagues, and eating the afikomen (for dessert). Years ago, I got an idea from another family of something to add to our seder discussion. Each person was asked to bring a current events article with them (this included the children). At different parts of the seder, each would read their article and a discussion would ensue. It is something we have incorporated into our seder meal ever since. Please share if you have your own interesting seder rituals.
Click here to find out about community seders and other Passover happenings in town.