In my last email, I mentioned that the Governing Board of Federation was going away for a working weekend retreat. The program, led by Campaign Chair Michael Weiner, included challenging conversations on the “hallmarks” of a great Jewish community, as well as the driving values for Federation. We brainstormed both short-term and long-term programs while raising the bar on creativity and new ideas. And, beyond the important bonding, we were able to inspire one another to break out of the “status quo” and look at ways to truly become a model Jewish community of tomorrow. Once the Board finalizes its deliberations and sets a clear course of action we will share our exciting plans for the future.
For the past few weeks I have tried to provide a great deal of “food for thought” in my weekly emails on how our community can continue to evolve. I am grateful for your many thoughtful replies and ideas – please keep them coming. This week, however, I want to go back to the basics – to make sure you are aware of one key aspect of our community that does not receive much recognition – our Jewish communal professionals.
After only two months, I already recognize the incredible Jewish communal professionals (I prefer we not refer to them as “staff”) we have throughout our community, whether those I work with every day at Federation or people at all levels of our Jewish communal organizations and synagogues. I am motivated by their continued passion and commitment, despite oftentimes being overworked and underappreciated. These people are devoting their professional lives to strengthening Jewish education and traditions, providing needed counseling care, serving our elderly, engaging college students, inspiring Jewish families, and so much more.
Based on my early experiences, it is my goal to reinvigorate J-PRO – the association of Jewish communal professionals in Portland. The role of this group is to provide professional development and networking opportunities. It is essential that our professionals find opportunities to meet and know one another, hone their skills, and express hopes and dreams for our Jewish community. By creating avenues for collaboration and idea sharing we can create an even more vibrant Jewish community.
The idea to write about this came from the passing of Alex Anderson on October 22. Who was Alex Anderson? He was the cartoonist who developed Rocky the flying squirrel and Bullwinkle the moose in that famous cartoon of the late 1950s and early 1960s. As a child I remember watching reruns of Rocky and Bullwinkle facing off against those evil spies, Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale (I will even admit I had Rocky and Bullwinkle bed sheets as a child). I, of course, laughed at the pratfalls and the silliness, while my parents truly understood the political satire and smart humor (which served as an inspiration to Portland’s own, Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons). While Jay Ward, the show’s producer, received the accolades, it was Alex Anderson who was the person behind the scenes.
Let us always recognize the incredible professionals (at all levels of our communal organizations and institutions) who serve our Jewish community each and every day. You may not always know who is “behind the scenes,” but just know they are there – for us. On behalf of our entire Jewish community, I say “Thank you!” to these special people. You are truly making Portland the premier Jewish community in America.
Please, the next time you see an educator, youth worker, development professional, rabbi, counselor, administrative assistant, etc., express your own gratitude – it will mean a great deal.
PS – Don’t forget to cheer on our hometown Blazers for their annual Chanukah Night on December 5 – click here for ticket details.