The High Holidays are a great time for reflection. We have the opportunity to consider the past year and ways to improve ourselves and the work that we do. Moreover, it is an occasion to look back on our lives and think about those experiences and people who helped shape and guide us.
Before attending services, I logged onto Facebook (which I do not do often) and saw that I had a private message. It was from Rodney Bradley, someone I had not seen nor heard from in 27 years.
When I was a sophomore at Emory University in Atlanta, I wanted to do something more than go to classes and work my school job. So, I contacted Big Brother/Big Sister League of Atlanta and applied to be a “big.”
I was paired with a kind 9-year old African-American boy named Rodney Bradley. He was raised by his mother (who passed away when he was 16) and grandmother in a not so great neighborhood in Atlanta. His mother worked two jobs to make ends meet. He never knew his father. Rodney was born with a medical condition where the muscles in his shoulders did not fully develop, so he had a hard time playing sports.
For two years (as I think back I am filled with such fond and heartwarming memories of our time together) I would spend my Saturdays with Rodney. We would visit many of the sites in Atlanta, I would help him with his school work, and we would play games at his home. His mother greatly appreciated Rodney having a male role model in his life and I appreciated her incredible southern cooking.
It was so wonderful hearing from Rodney and learning about his life today. He lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee and is the father of a 12-year old girl. He is a long-distance truck driver for a national flooring company and travels throughout the country making deliveries, including the Portland area. I shared with him about my family (he remembers meeting my wife when she visited me in Atlanta while we were dating) and my professional career. But my conversation was mostly focused on him and the man he has grown to be.
Reconnecting with Rodney was an incredible and heartwarming way to start the new year. It was fun reminiscing on the “insider jokes” we shared and all the things we did together. I did make him promise to call me the next time he has a delivery in the Portland area so we can spend quality time together.
Interestingly, I am having lunch today with a newcomer to Portland who asked me two weeks ago whether we had a Jewish Big Brother/Big Sister program in Portland. Timing is everything. There are a handful of communities that have a Jewish big brother/big sister program, including Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and New York. It would be wonderful if we could create a Jewish big brother/big sister program in our Jewish community. We do have our own local Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Columbia Northwest for people.
Rodney shared with me that I made a major impact on his life. I was more than touched by his warm and kind comments. We can all look back at “mentors” in our lives and the role they played in shaping who we are. Therefore, I am delighted to announce that the Jewish Federation is seeking applicants for its next cohort in the PDX Pathways programs. PDX Pathways is a unique group networking, mentorship, leadership development, and community involvement experience for Jewish young professionals.
Whether new to town or a life-long Portlander, this initiative will provide fellows with networking opportunities, exposure to meaningful Jewish experiences in Portland, as well as access to and mentoring from prominent community and business leaders. Participants will be matched with mentors who support them along their career and Jewish journeys. Participants will gather for social, cultural and other Jewish activities such as Shabbat dinners, volunteer programs, and other social networking opportunities. Participants will be exposed to other Jewish organizations that do incredible work in the community.
We believe, as was evident last year, all participants of PDX Pathways will come away with new and meaningful connections that can advance their careers, social networks and sense of Jewish community. And many now serve on Jewish agency boards and committees.
The application for our third cohort is now available. Please share this opportunity with loved ones, colleagues, and community members who would benefit from this dynamic program. And don’t wait – applications are due by October 19th. If you have questions, please contact Nadine Astrakhan at the Jewish Federation.
We have two Centennial Trip to Israel Information Sessions scheduled in private homes for October 4 (SW Portland) and October 29 (NW Portland) at 7:30 p.m. at the homes of our co-chairs. This is an opportunity to learn more about the trip and for us to answer any questions you may have. The early-bird pricing ends in seven weeks -- do not miss out on saving $500 per person beyond the already subsidized price.
Please RSVP (required) to either information session (let us know which you will be attending) by clicking here and we will provide the location address for the meeting.
Speaking of Israel, please join us for the Jewish Federation Gala on Sunday, October 14 with Former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak. This is a very special evening for our community and one you do not want to miss. Get your tickets here.
Finally, Sunday night marks the beginning of Sukkot, my personal favorite holiday of the year. My sukkah is ready and I look forward to eating and sleeping in it each night (weather permitting). Here is a super cute Lego video explaining the holiday from Bim Bam. In observance of the holiday, the Jewish Federation office will be closed Monday and Tuesday of next week.