Tonight begins Shemini Atzeret, which literally means "the assembly of the eighth (day)." It is unlike the rest of Sukkot – no more shaking of the lulav and etrog; instead, it's a day for reciting memorial prayers and a prayer for rain in Israel. Sadly, the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) is at its lowest point in 100 years. Last winter, the lake received just 10 percent of its average annual rainfall.
Thursday night we celebrate Simchat Torah when we complete the annual cycle of reading the Torah and we recite those famous words, “Bereishit: In the beginning...”
The Jewish Federation office will be closed on Thursday and Friday in observance of these two holidays.
One of the most important things to me as the CEO of the Jewish Federation is to provide professional development opportunities for my team. I am delighted that Ben Winkleblack, our Director of Finance, just Co-Chaired the national Finance Technology and Professionals Institute (FTPI) Mission to Israel. The FTPI is an annual conference of Finance, Technology and HR Professionals from Jewish Federations across North America. This was the group’s first mission to Israel since 2005 and Ben was its leader.
There were over 100 participants on the mission. One of the participants worked for her Federation for 50 years (!) and this was her first chance to go on a mission or visit Israel! In fact, many in the group had never been to Israel. It had been 16 years since Ben was last there as a teenager.
For all the participants, many of whom spend their workdays reconciling statements, preparing for audits, and ensuring Federation financials are in order, the mission was eye opening. They saw firsthand the impact of the work Jewish Federations do in Israel and met the beneficiaries of our community campaigns (they became more than just a name on a check or ledger sheet). In Tel Aviv, the group visited the JDC Accessible Health Zone, a program that provides people with special needs the tools and support networks for healthier lifestyles. In Haifa, they visited the Ethiopian National Project’s School Performance and Community Empowerment program and met with children at the school. The heartfelt stories of their families’ immigration to Israel were both tragic and uplifting.
As Ben said to me when he returned, “I am blessed to be a part of such an amazing organization that not only allowed me to participate, but encouraged me to be the Chair for this important mission.” We are proud of Ben’s leadership and accomplishments on a national level!
A few notes of interest:
On Friday night, Maccabi Haifa basketball team will play a preseason game versus the Portland Trainblazers at the Moda Center. It is a shame this is the second year in a row when the game is on Shabbat. But for those who choose, go out and support both teams!
For women in our community, please join us for the IMPACT: The Women’s Event on Thursday, October 26 from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center. The event features Nancy Spielberg, film producer and philanthropist. She will be talking about three films she has worked on along with her own experiences growing up in an anti-Semitic world and why she thinks community is so important. The event is selling out fast, so RSVP now!
Join us on Sunday, November 5 from 9:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center for our annual Super Sunday. This is a wonderful opportunity to support our Annual Campaign and to reach out to members of our community for their support. Please be a "community superhero" and join us.
This year, we are #Doing Tuesday (instead of our annual #Giving Tuesday) on November 28. We will be hosting volunteers at the Oregon Food Bank’s main location AND Beaverton location. 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.
The natural disasters, unfortunately, keep on coming. Hurricane Nate recently landed in Louisiana and the wildfires in northern California are continuing. Sadly, the Union for Reform Judaism’s Camp Newman, an hour north of the San Francisco Bay, has been “mostly destroyed” by the fires burning in Sonoma and Napa counties. Camp is not currently in session, yet everyone living at the campsite — along with its Torah scrolls — were rescued before the fires reached the area. I am sure we have Camp Newman alumni, campers and counselors in our community, and please know that we are thinking of you.
Enjoy the holidays and an early Shabbat shalom.