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I started this email on Sunday night at 36,000 feet flying back from dropping my daughter off at college. Yes, college! I am unsure how to even process this.
It seems like just yesterday she was a beautiful baby girl in our arms. Then she was entering 4th grade when we moved to Portland nine years ago. And "all of a sudden", she is a now a college freshman (is that term even politically correct anymore?)!
It is amazing to think about what experiences she may have in college. Will she get along with her roommate? Meet new people and make new friends quickly? Will she participate in Hillel and other Jewish activities on campus? How will she decide what classes to take? Will she be safe? Has she decided what she wants to major in? Is she prepared to deal with those on campus who wish to delegitimize Israel? Will she ever attend a sporting event? And, of course, will she miss us back here in Portland?
Interestingly, there was a study done several years ago that researched how often college students communicate (phone, text, email, social media) with their parents. Thirty years ago, when you basically could only make a pricey phone call (and in some cases there was only one phone in the dorm hallway), the average college student communicated with their parents once a week. Today, the average student communicates with their parents 6 times a day!
Times sure are different for college students:
When it was time to leave and say our goodbyes, we shared a long hug, some tears, and smiles filled with pride. She was starting a new phase in her life and I could not be more excited for her. But when I returned home late Sunday night and awoke the next morning, it finally hit me. Her bedroom door was open (which I am unsure ever happened throughout high school) and she was not inside. Instead, she was far away at school. And will be for quite some time. Sarah and I only wish her great joy and fulfillment in all her college endeavors.
I salute all the proud parents whose children are entering college this fall and wish all students a wonderful year.
While there, based on the suggestion of a community member, we visited the Touro Synagogue, America’s oldest standing synagogue and the only synagogue to survive Colonial times. What a special treat that was and I highly recommend a visit. You can learn more about the synagogue’s fascinating history here .
The Touro Synagogue (originally Congregation Yeshuat Israel) is where George Washington wrote his famous letter promising religious freedom for all. Washington’s letter on August 21, 1790 assured the congregation that “everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.” This was a very poetic was of saying they would be safe in their homes and houses of worship. He also said that this would be a country which “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”
Between 1789-90, Washington wrote letters to various religious groups in the new country, including the Baptists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Roman Catholics, and eventually the Jewish community. The tone of his letter to the congregation in Newport was different from the other letters – it was declarative and assertive -- not his ordinary style. Washington promised in his letter not just tolerance, but full liberty of conscience no matter what one’s religious beliefs happen to be. He was paving the way for the First Amendment, which would be added to the Constitution on December 15, 1791.
When the United States was founded, the leaders recognized that diversity was one of our country’s greatest assets. That is why we have the motto E Pluribus Unum – Out of Many, One …. With freedom of religion enshrined in the First Amendment, the United States has served as a beacon of hope to oppressed peoples everywhere.
In these difficult times, and with anti-Semitism on the rise, I am proud that the Portland Area Jewish Educators (PAJE) and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), both sponsored by the Jewish Federation, are holding a workshop on “Confronting Anti-Semitism and Intolerance” on Sunday, September 22 from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center. This workshop is open to students in grades 6-12, their parents and Jewish educators. The workshop will be an interactive discussion led by representatives from the Anti-Defamation League to provide practical tools for young people on responding to anti-Semitism and hate in our society. To learn more click here.
Shabbat shalom (especially to my daughter who is celebrating her first Shabbat on campus).