As I continue to make (and eat—boy, people love to meet when they can eat) my way around the community, I learn more and more about Jewish Portland's incredible history, the wonderful men and women who helped build this community, and all that is currently happening.
Over the past several weeks I have had the honor of hearing incredible stories about a rabbi, an accountant, and a lawyer. Unfortunately, these stories were shared during the funerals of three brilliant men (Rabbi Harry Spector, Lester Rosenberg, and Stan Samuels) who recently passed away. Each was a wonderful husband, caring father, successful professional, and deeply passionate about the Jewish community. While at each funeral service I gained greater insights into the lives of each of these individuals, one of whom I had never met and the other two whom I had met no more then three times. I was truly inspired by the lives they lived—they are true role models for future generations. May these families all be comforted by the mourners of Zion.
I am currently reading a book given to me by Lora and Jim Meyer, The Jews of Oregon 1850-1950, written by Steve Lowenstein, so I can learn more about the history of the Jewish community. I must admit, before reading the book I had my east coast bias that everything Jewish out here must be relatively new. Let me tell you I could not be more wrong. The book includes many fascinating stories of Jews who truly sacrificed to come to Oregon and many of the names in the book are family names that even I recognize that are still here in Oregon. Portland (and Oregon as a whole) is not one of those "new Jewish communities" on the west coast, it is one with great history and vibrancy for Jewish life and activities.
This past Thursday a small group of community leaders from the Federation Board, Community Relations Committee, the Agency Council (Agency Presidents and Executive Directors), and several rabbis met with United States Senator Jeff Merkley at Federation's offices. Senator Merkley reached out to Federation to dialogue about key issues impacting the Jewish community. The hour-long discussion included issues revolving around hunger and poverty in Oregon, support for the State of Israel, and eldercare needs. Senator Merkley was very open and shared his perspectives, yet made it very clear to those in the room -- make your voices heard. I recall while living in Baltimore, Federation would go to Washington, DC several times a year to meet with our elected officials. I was stunned to learn then how few people actually make that trip, or send letters, or contact their elected officials.
As we enter this election season (I still cannot believe I will not get to go into a polling place and click the levers to vote and instead will send my ballot in by mail), please exercise your right to vote. And make your voice heard in regard to key issues impacting the Jewish community and the general good. If you would like to learn more about any of the issues, please contact Bob Horenstein, Federation's CRC Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One thing that I want to do is be "out and about" in the community. Therefore, over the next few weeks I will provide a list of dates/times/locations where I will be to meet, greet and talk about Jewish communal issues in a myriad of locations around the Greater Portland area (if you have suggestions of locations on the east side or in Vancouver please let me know). These will be scheduled at various times (7:30-9:30 a.m., 3:30-5:30 p.m., or 7:00-9:00 p.m.) and you are welcome to come (please do not make me sit there all alone).
Have a wonderful week.