Tuesday night was quite a treat. It was the 100th Annual Meeting of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and our first one entirely online! Pretty cool. In fact, the Jewish Federation was founded on February 2, 1920.
We are grateful to everyone who joined us and heard inspiring words from Lauren Goldstein, Federation Chair, Eric Fingerhut, CEO of Jewish Federations of North America, Rabba Yaffa Epstein, Director of the Wexner Heritage Leadership Program, and Ed Tonkin, who served as our nominating committee chair. We shared our Sussman Award (college scholarships) recipients, saluted Laurie Rogoway Outstanding Jewish Professional of the Year Award recipient Sonia Marie Leikam of the Oregon Jewish Community Foundation, and welcomed the members of our new community-wide Young Adult Board. We said “thank you” to Sharon Stern and Marshal Spector who rotated off our Board and welcomed four new people: Sarah Rosenberg Brown, Les Gutfreund, Alan Montrose, and Eliana Temkin. We were also very proud to announce that our total campaign effort, including our community COVID-19 crisis campaign, raised over $4.6 million this year. THANK YOU for your generosity.
The meeting was fun, uplifting, and informative. Watch recording of the meeting here.
One personal thought from when I ended the meeting. Since we did not have an in-person meeting when typically at the end everyone gets to schmooze – it ended more like a typical phone call – one click on "leave meeting" and it was over. I missed the interaction of being with people and taking our time over warm farewells. Let’s hope that happens again sooner than later.
Please watch here to see an amazing video about our accomplishments since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, last week we made two additional grants from our community crisis fund: one to B’nai B’rith Camp for $45,500 (their grants total $84,000) and to NCSY for $1,800 (their grants total $6,800). We have now granted out over $697,000 from the fund to 36 Jewish organizations across the State of Oregon and SW Washington.
Our challenges are not over from the pandemic. If you would like to contribute to our community’s crisis fund, and help us meet a $50,000 match from an anonymous donor, please click here.
I know much is being written about Juneteenth today, but I wanted to add some additional information about this special day.
Juneteenth is an unofficial American holiday and an official Texas state holiday, celebrated annually on the 19th of June in the United States to commemorate Union army general Gordon Granger's reading of federal orders in the city of Galveston, Texas in 1865 proclaiming all slaves in Texas were now free.
By the time Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued orders to free enslaved people in Texas, slavery had technically been abolished two years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which covered the Confederate states. As Union troops retook territory, they emancipated enslaved people living there. And the orders issued on Juneteenth applied only to Texas. Slavery did not end in states like Kentucky and Delaware, which had not seceded and therefore were not covered by Lincoln’s proclamation, until Dec. 18, 1865, when the 13th Amendment was adopted.
Why the two-year gap? President Lincoln used the telegraph to send and receive information about the war. News of the final proclamation was disseminated from the War Department’s telegraph office on Jan. 1, 1863. The proclamation was common knowledge by the time Granger arrived in Galveston. On Jan. 14, 1863, a Houston newspaper reported “the resolution endorsing Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation was adopted in the Federal House of Representatives 78 - 51.” More than 100 Texas newspapers mentioned the Emancipation Proclamation between 1862 and 1864.
The real reason people were still in bondage when Union troops arrived is because of local leaders. The Texas Confederate constitution prohibited releasing someone from slavery. Lincoln’s directive was enforced only when federal soldiers got to Texas much later.
Let’s remember that following the Civil War, a trio of constitutional amendments abolished slavery (the 13th Amendment), made the former slaves citizens (14th Amendment) and gave all men the right to vote regardless of race (15th Amendment).
Juneteenth certainly has experienced a surge of interest this year amid nationwide protests against racial injustice.
June 19 is also an auspicious date for another historical milestone. It is when the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, passed the Senate (no easy task) following a lengthy filibuster. Two weeks later it was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Nonetheless, many states - particularly in the South - used poll taxes, literacy tests and other measures to keep their African American citizens essentially disenfranchised. They also enforced strict segregation through “Jim Crow” laws and condoned violence from white supremacist groups.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was nothing less than a “second emancipation.”
The Civil Rights Act was later expanded to bring disabled Americans, the elderly and women in collegiate athletics under its umbrella. It also paved the way for two major follow-up laws: the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibited literacy tests and other discriminatory voting practices, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which banned discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of property.
One little known fact -- The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were drafted in the conference room of Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
One event capitalizing on this year’s Juneteenth timing is an online Juneteenth Kabbalat Shabbat service (this takes place prior to our community's Father's Day special Unity Shabbat). Organized by Be’Chol Lashon, an organization advocating for Jews of color, and Keshet, which focuses on LGBTQ+ Jewish issues, the event features two Black rabbis, Sandra Lawson and Isaama Goldstein-Stoll.
“We are celebrating what it means to live freely in the United States, and we also must remember that for many of us freedom is a journey,” Rabbi Lawson wrote in the Forward last year. “The fight for freedom for all is not over. There is still work to be done. June 19 is one important reminder to all of us of why we fight: The struggle for freedom for all must continue because until we are all free, none of us is free.”
Shabbat shalom and Happy Father’s Day!
Marc N. Blattner
President and CEO