Chag Sukkot sameach. I hope everyone is enjoying the festive holiday. Once again, my son and I have been sleeping in our sukkah. Despite the magnificent weather, I must admit it does not feel as comfortable as in past years.
When I moved to Portland two years ago, the first two things I received were a copy of Steven Lowenstein’s book, The Jews of Oregon 1850-1950 and a DVD copy of the OPB documentary, The Three Rabbis (detailing the incredible tenures of Rabbis Geller (z’l), Stampfer, and Rose). These were excellent introductions to several of the “communal heroes” who have made this Jewish community what it is today.
But there are two other heroes that I have had the chance to get to know, the Legends of Goose Hollow, Lillian and Joe Corcos (an educator at Portland Jewish Academy for many years and an engineer, respectively). The Goose Hollow neighborhood is one of the oldest in Portland, adjacent to downtown and within walking distance of the Portland State University campus. Tucked away in the neighborhood is an unassuming old house that hosts one of our community’s greatest treasures, the Jewish Ritualarium of Portland, or as others refer to it, the community mikveh (ritual bath). Yes, inside the first floor of this home is an actual mikveh.
Soon Lillian and Joe will be moving from Portland to be closer to one of their children. As you can imagine, this is a major transition for them, as well as our community. Joe and Lillian came to America 45 years ago and moved from Seattle to Portland 5 years later. They originally lived in the house next to Rabbi and Goldie Stampfer on the Neveh Shalom campus. One day, they were asked if they would move into the home where the mikveh was located for six months when the previous couple moved out. At that point in time, the house was in shambles. Well, six months turned into 35 years! And the house and mikveh have been beautifully maintained by Lillian and Joe. From our entire Jewish community to you, Lillian and Joe, thank you (which is not gratitude enough) for all you have done for Jewish Portland in your quiet and unassuming manner. May you continue to go from strength to strength.
Going forward, the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and the Oregon Board of Rabbis are working collaboratively to make sure the mikveh continues to be accessible and available to our Jewish community. More details to come in upcoming months.
Many of you will recall I wrote a Marc’s Remarks column several weeks ago during the start of the Summer Olympics. In that email I noted the resistance of the International Olympic Committee to hold a moment of silence in memory of the Israeli athletes and coaches murdered in Munich 40 years ago.
I am proud that our community did not and will not remain silent. On October 18, the Jewish Federation (along with many other organizations) is partnering with Chabad of Oregon's Benaroya Jewish Learning Academy to host an evening with Dan Alon, one of five Israeli athletes who survived the “Munich Massacre.” The event will be held at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center at 7:00 p.m.
Mr. Alon recently authored a book, Munich Memoir, detailing his excitement as a fencer representing the State of Israel leading to the harrowing experience and its lasting effect on his life. Come hear his personal account of what took place in the early morning hours of September 5, 1972.
As Mr. Alon describes it, "We were all asleep. Eight Palestinians attacked our building. They went to apartment No. 1, and they caught all the coaches, and they killed two Israeli athletes. Then, they went to apartment No. 3."
Mr. Alon was “fortunate” to be in apartment No. 2. He says he and four other teammates sat in petrified silence, listening for an hour as the terrorists took nine athletes hostage. "We saw how they threw out the body of the wrestlers on the pavement. We took a chance, and we ran out," Alon said. It was a choice he believes saved his life.
The hostage situation would end in a shootout with German authorities later that day. All nine hostages, along with five of their captors and one German police officer, were killed.
Despite the hostage situation taking place, the games continued as scheduled. After a failed rescue effort, Mr. Alon was assigned the difficult task of reentering the Israeli compound and gathering the belongings of his murdered comrades. Shortly afterwards, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, Alon flew back to Israel with eleven coffins draped in Israeli flags. He quit fencing.
Come join our community on October 18 and hear Dan Alon share his personal story of Olympic dreams being shattered.
Finally, our community’s Annual Campaign is in full swing. Thank you to those of you who have already made your commitment to the campaign. To date, we have raised in excess of $319,797 with a goal of $2.5 million by November 30. With YOUR support we can make our goal and energize our community.
Shabbat shalom and enjoy the remainder of the Sukkot holiday.