Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Three local Israeli-themed restaurants vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti. A Clackamas County Commissioner posting xenophobic comments about Islam and Muslim people on social media. Impeachment of the president for a second time. A new administration taking office next week. Threats of potentially violent protests around the country. And all of this in just a short two-week period.
Too much hate! A country deeply divided! Tremendous anger! The question is, where do we go from here?
I want to acknowledge the work of our Director of Community Security, Gene Moss, who remains on top of these concerns for our Jewish community. He is an excellent resource for our Jewish organizations, as well as our lead connector to local law enforcement. Unfortunately, I cannot share all the work that is done “behind the scenes,” but rest assured we take every threat and situation seriously. As Gene always says, “See something…say something. And if possible, DO something.”
On Monday we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His example is a towering one, of leadership and conviction and an unyielding commitment to the promise of progress. In 1967, he wrote, “And we must know on some positions, cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?” But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there are times when you must take a stand that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but you must do it because it is right."
Let us follow Dr. King’s example, even when, as it did in his era, the dream of a nation where we are all truly united and equal seems so distant.
In honor of Dr. King, an incredible writer and orator, perhaps we can use our words to heal? A community educator wrote me last week and shared an exercise she is doing with her workshop participants. She asked people to share their one word for 2021. Hers was “hopeful.” Mine is “audacious.”
What is yours? Help us create a giant word cloud that includes your one word for 2021. Reply to this email and share your one word for this new year.
Here are a few upcoming opportunities and updates:
- All women in our community are invited to participate in the International Lion of Judah Conference on January 24 and 25. Together, women from around the world will hear from leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs. Be inspired. Empower one another to do more - even from afar. Registration and program details may be found here. All women should take advantage of this incredible virtual and free opportunity.
- Here is a wonderful opportunity to be among the first in the nation to virtually meet with members of the new administration and bi-partisan Congressional leaders. Join the Jewish Federations of North America February 1 and February 2 for its first ever national Jewish Virtual Mission to Washington, DC. Meet with the leadership (both parties) of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Appropriations Committee, and those involved with funding for nonprofit security. It is also an opportunity to advocate for priorities of the Jewish community -- fighting anti-Semitism, ensuring a strong U.S. - Israel relationship, making the case for government resources to keep communal institutions flourishing, and providing for the vulnerable, such as Holocaust survivors. Look for more details at this website and register here for free.
- Mazel tov to Josh Kashinsky, Congregation Beth Israel’s Executive Director, for being selected to participate in the UpStart Change Accelerator program. Over the next six months, Josh and his cohort will focus on redefining the purpose of Jewish institutions in a post-COVID world and weaving innovations into the framework of institutional operations.
Let me close with this story (many of you may have read on social media):
Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, has been in the news a great deal. He has a fascinating and inspiring personal story.
Sixty thousand Jews lived in the vibrant Jewish community of Thessaloniki, Greece on the eve of the outbreak of World War II. To show how Jewish the city was, most of the workers in the port there were Jews, and thus the port was closed on Shabbat. Hitler took Greece by storm to secure his southern wing before launching Operation Barbarossa and the Nazi offensive against Russia. Out of 60,000 Thessaloniki Jews, approximately 50,000 were exterminated in Birkenau.
Among the survivors was the Bourla family.
After the war in 1961, a son was born to the Bourla family, Israel Abraham (Albert). Albert grew up and studied veterinary medicine at the Aristotle University of Salonika Veterinary School. At the age of 34 he moved to the United States and married a Jewish woman named Miriam and had two children.
In the United States, Dr. Bourla worked in the medical industry and joined the Pfizer company where he became 'Head of Global Vaccines.' From there, he became the CEO of Pfizer in 2019.
Throughout the past year, Dr. Bourla has led the company's efforts to find a vaccine for the coronavirus. The vaccine that will save the lives of billions of people around the world was created under the leadership of the son of Holocaust survivors from Thessaloniki.
His company’s vaccine will also reach Germany, where thousands have died from Covid-19, and the vaccine will also save lives there. And this is why Israel became amongst the first countries to receive the vaccine. In memory of Albert’s grandparents.
To conclude this incredible story, Pfizer executives, including its CEO Albert Bourla, will not “cut in line” in front of others to get the vaccine. Dr. Bourla told CNBC on Monday, “I am 59 years old and in good health. I am not working on the frontline, so I do not need to get the vaccine now." He is waiting his turn...in order to save as many other people whose lives are in greater jeopardy.
Shabbat shalom and please share your one word for 2021 by replying to this email.