This past week, nine volunteer and professional leaders from our Jewish community attended the annual Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) General Assembly (GA) in Los Angeles. The three-day conference included large plenary sessions with noted speakers (including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel President Reuven Rivlin, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti), smaller breakout sessions, and plenty of opportunities for networking and learning “in the hallways.” This GA was very focused on Jewish engagement and education, connecting with millennials, and strengthening bonds with Israel. Sessions included:
• Imagining and re-imagining the present and future of Jewish life
• Being a more universal people and celebrating diversity in Jewish life
• Global Jewish bridge-building
• Community security in today’s new normal
• Successful models to Jewishly engage adolescents and millennials
One of the key issues for JFNA, the umbrella organization for 148 Jewish federations, and local communities is the 2016 Israeli government-brokered agreement with leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements, Women of the Wall, and other groups to officially establish mixed-gender prayer section at the Western Wall. Access to the wall is currently segregated by gender.
Unfortunately, this agreement has been “frozen” by the government.
The Jewish Federations of North America passed a resolution Monday saying the government’s stance had “deep potential to divide the Jewish people” and “undermine the Zionist vision and dream…to establish Israel as a national home for the entire Jewish people.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin addressed the conference and stated, “On the painful issue of the Kotel (Western Wall) agreements, it causes such pain that the symbol of unity, the wall of our tears and joy, has become a symbol of division and disagreement. The challenge of building the relationship between us must begin with getting to know each other better.”
Israel is a Jewish state for all Jewish people. So, the full pluralism and diversity of the Jewish people needs to be not only recognized but embraced by the State of Israel as represented by its government.
President Rivlin continued, “The Jews of the Diaspora, especially in North America, are full partners – not only in the establishment of Israel, but also in its development. You are true stakeholders in this wonder called Israel. You stand beside us at times of crisis and joy. You dream with us. You challenge us. You help keep us strong. I am here today to say this cannot be taken for granted.”
Perhaps my favorite line of the whole conference was during a panel discussion on Israel. Ambassador Dani Dayan, Consul General of Israel in New York, emphasized the strength of ties between Israel and U.S. Jews. “Despite the fact that we are Jewish, our marriage is Catholic — there is no divorce in this marriage,” he said, adding that, “Our obligation is to put aside our different opinions and promise never to neglect one another.”
Our community participants at the GA spread out to attend a multitude of breakout sessions. Great insights were gleaned from other communities and leaders in the Jewish world. In one session, our Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy efforts were recognized for our “ahead of the curve” thinking and strategizing.
In addition, I was honored to be selected to serve as Chair of the intermediate-sized Jewish Federations cohort for the next two years. This group includes some 50 Jewish communities across North America of similar size.
Some community news:
I would like to welcome Martin Baicker as the new CEO of Cedar Sinai Park (CSP). Marty previously served as the CEO of Jewish Geriatric Service Lifecare, a Jewish elder care community located in Western Massachusetts. We welcome Marty and his family to Portland.
In addition, the new Robison Health and Rehabilitation Center is now open and accepting patients for post-acute care. It is a wonderful facility and I encourage you to visit. Plus, check out their new website. To learn more, call 503.535.4300 or email@example.com.
I want to also welcome Ruth Scott, the new interim Executive Director at Jewish Family and Child Service. Ruth has more than 30 years of nonprofit experience and most recently was interim Executive Director at Lift Urban Portland and the Oregon Energy Fund. Ruth also served as President of Innovation Partnership from 2000 to 2015, and is a former chair of the Institute for Portland Metropolitan Studies at Portland State University.
Mazel tov to The Gan (pre-school) at Maimonides Jewish Day School achieving accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Only 14 other early childhood programs in the Portland area have this accreditation.
Now for some fun. I am pleased to invite all children in grades 3-6 to participate in the Oregon Chanukah Essay Contest sponsored by Maimonides Jewish Day School. The essay topic is “What Chanukah Means to Me” and should be typed and no longer than 150 words (deadline is December 6 and must include name, age, grade, phone number and their school). Winners will be announced on December 10 and will receive a video drone and an autographed book by award winning author Eric Kimmel. Plus, winners can read their essays at the Director Park Public Menorah Lighting on Tuesday December 12. To enter, send essays to SSanders@PortlandJewishSchool.com with the subject Chanukah Essay Contest 2017.
I look forward to seeing what our children write.
Make sure you join us at the Federation Gala on Thursday, November 30 for Belly Laughs with comedian Joel Chasnoff and Chef Einat Admony for an evening of comedy, stories, and inspiration. There will be great food and a cooking demonstration! This event is selling out fast! Register today!
And, we are #Doing Tuesday (instead of our annual #Giving Tuesday) on November 28. We will be hosting volunteers at the Oregon Food Bank. This is an evening of service, gratitude, and tzedakah as volunteers (ages 6 years old and up) will prepare food to be distributed to hungry families in the Portland area. We hope your family will join us – RSVP here.