Funds to Help and Virtual Seder Options, April 3, 2020

“Social connection is such a basic feature of human experience that when we are deprived of it, we suffer.”
Leonard Mlodinow,
Jewish American theoretical physicist
Being isolated is difficult. And being together with the same people 24 hours a day has its own challenges. I just hope you and your loved ones are staying healthy and safe. It is amazing how much our community and world changes daily. We do our part by staying home and maintaining social distance. Let’s work hard to flatten the curve.
These are difficult times. Many people are losing their jobs, see their incomes being reduced, require food assistance, feel isolated at home, etc. It is daunting with no real end in sight. Because of these growing needs, our Jewish community opened an emergency crisis fund. To date, we have raised over $735,000 towards our goal of $750,000. Every dollar will make a difference in the life of someone else – please give generously.
This past week we started the process of allocating these funds. We have encouraged every Jewish organization to apply for funding. We have five task forces reviewing proposals and then their recommendations go to a final decision-making committee. This will take place every week for the foreseeable future. We will be transparent and share how these dollars are being used.
Our initial funding cycle was focused on meeting people's basic needs during these uncertain times. Here are the grants:
  • $91,515 – Jewish Family and Child Service for emergency financial assistance and mental health support. JFCS is serving as our lead social service agency during this crisis -- if you need help, please call them at 503-226-7079.
  • $25,000 – Jewish Free Loan to provide an additional 25 $1,000 interest free loans for those impacted by COVID-19. In just the past few days we have provided five loans. One went to a woman who recently lost her job so she could purchase two Chromebooks for her children so they can do their schoolwork and access their online music lessons.
  • $12,500 – Passover food for people in need. These funds will provide a Passover box for 150 local families, enable Jews around the State with financial need to purchase Passover foods, and help the Sunshine Pantry provide Passover food.
  • $10,000 – Jewish Federation of Lane County to enable their Jewish Family Service agency to provide emergency financial assistance to Jews around the State of Oregon (outside of the Greater Portland area).
Next week we will evaluate numerous other grant requests.
Beyond these grants, today is an important day for many non-profit organizations and small businesses. The CARES Act, which includes the Payroll Protection Program and provides $349 billion in loans to keep people on your payroll, starts accepting applications. Almost every Jewish organization in the Greater Portland area is applying to this program since the loan can be forgiven if you meet specific criteria.
I am proud that the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), our national umbrella organization, led the charge for all Jewish institutions in the country. They hosted multiple webinars, trained volunteers to help organizations fill out the loan paperwork, and are a true resource. Yasher koach to JFNA for all their hard work.
Thinking ahead, next Wednesday night marks the beginning of the Passover holiday with the first seder. Every year we ask, “Why is this night different than all other nights?” Well, I bet you can think of a few things. Sadly, instead of a seder table surrounded by extended family and friends, we should be in our own homes. The Oregon Board of Rabbis have issued a statement encouraging us to stay home. Even so, we will have the opportunity to retell the Passover story. We can virtually have our family and friends join us. But it may seem strange hiding the afikomen without many children around. Most important of all, Jews around the world will be enjoying their seder and conclude by saying “Next Year in Jerusalem.”
Our community rabbis also understand that not everyone has a seder to participate in. The following organizations are making a virtual seder available to you:
  • Congregation Neveh Shalom -- Thursday, April 9 at 6:00 pm -- register here -- will receive link to Haggadah after registration
  • Congregation Beth Israel -– Thursday, April 9 at 5:00 pm -- use this Zoom link or call (669) 900-9128 and use meeting ID 628-621-551
  • P’nai Or -– Thursday, April 9 at 6:00 pm -- RSVP is required -- -- Suggested donation of $18 per adult for nonmembers; no one turned away for lack of ability to pay. 
  • Beit Haverim -– Thursday, April 9 at 6:00 pm -- use this Zoom link – they will provide a digital Hagaddah
  • Congregation Kol Ami -– Thursday, April 9 at 6:00 pm -- use this Zoom link.
We are grateful to these groups for opening themselves to our Jewish community.
And, check out the Jewish Federation’s Passover resource page for great ideas on how to make the most of your seder.
I want you to mark your calendar for two great upcoming events:
Ever wanted to be a part of a world record? On Friday night, April 17 at 7:10 p.m., please join with Jewish communities from across Oregon and SW Washington for a unity Shabbat candle lighting. We plan to set a world record for the largest virtual Shabbat candle lighting! Join us! We need you to be a part of it. Details on how to participate coming soon.
Speaking of gathering together, mark your calendar for April 29th at 11:00 a.m. for a truly global happening as we celebrate Israel’s 72nd birthday with music, celebrity performances, interactive activities, and more! I promise you the entertainment will make this very worthwhile.
Remember, if you need help, please reach out! Our community is here for you!
Stay healthy, allow yourself some humor, and Shabbat shalom!


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