Passing of Arlene Schnitzer and Passover Wishes, April 6, 2020

Shabbat afternoon, our community lost a tremendous philanthropist and role model. Arlene Schnitzer (z”l) passed away at the age of 91. Arlene, along with her husband, Harold (z”l), and son Jordan have been stalwarts of thousands of non-profit organizations in Portland and beyond, reportedly donating over $150 million to charitable projects.
Arlene, among other things, was well-known for her incredible art gallery and support of artists from the Pacific Northwest. She said, “I devoted myself and committed myself to the artist who was living here in the Northwest. I wanted to keep them here. A city without its art community has no soul.”
On the occasions when I did see Arlene, she always greeted me with an enormous smile. She would listen with great interest. She cared. And every time a request was made, she was there to support the effort. I understand she would write thousands of checks each year to non-profit organizations. I fondly remember her telling me, “I like to support causes. Although the amount may not always be large, the important thing is that I am there to help. Every contribution makes a difference to them and is meaningful to me.”
Former Chief Curator at the Portland Art Museum, Bruce Guenther, was quoted in the Oregonian saying, “She loved art that engaged her visually and emotionally, so her collection ranges from the devastatingly powerful to the innocuously beautiful. She responded to the work immediately.”
I feel that her philanthropy operated in the same way. She saw need. She wanted to help people. She made powerful (and motivating to others) lead charitable gifts, while at the same time offering generous support anonymously. Just as she responded to art that spoke to her, she was there to help our community at all times and without hesitation.
Arlene, the thousands and thousands of people whose lives you have enriched will always be grateful for your leadership and commitment to this great city, the arts community, and Jewish life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jordan, and her four grandchildren, Arielle, Audria, Samuel, and Simon during this very difficult time.
Baruch Dayan haEmet. May Arlene’s memory be for a blessing. 
Passover begins on Wednesday night. Passover is among the most celebrated of Jewish festivities (only 23% of American Jews regularly attend a synagogue, but 70% go to a seder), a time when families typically gather together from wherever they may be dispersed to engage in the ritual retelling of the exodus from Egypt.
But this year, circumstances do not allow for gatherings. This year, many will have a Zeder – a Zoom sederTo paraphrase the Talmud -- Better we should have one less-than-ideal Passover, so that we can celebrate many Passovers in the future. (Yoma 85b) – Amen!
Over the last 2,000 years, Jews have managed to celebrate Passover in the face of far worse challenges than Covid-19. In 70 CE, the ancient historian Josephus reported the Roman general Titus besieged Jerusalem three days before Passover, at a time when the city’s population was swelled by the vast numbers of pilgrims who came to offer a Passover sacrifice in the Temple. The result was pestilence — or as we would now say, an epidemic — and famine, which according to Josephus’s estimate killed 1.1 million people. Yet the holiday went on — as it did even in Auschwitz during World War II, where some survivors recalled clandestine seders conducted without a Haggadah.
The surge of the coronavirus — not mentioned in the list of ten plagues — has forced the entire world to shelter and separate. For most of us, this social separation is unprecedented. We may reach out to our broader circle of family and friends to virtually join them in celebrating Passover and its tale of freedom in community. Here is a complete list of virtual seders and community resources to make your seder special.
Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson recently wrote, “This year, as we recline in our chairs, sheltered and separated, we will remember that better tomorrows are coming, that this virus will not keep us isolated forever. Just as Elijah reminds us we have a role to play in the advance of redemption, we affirm that we all have a role to play in containing this pandemic, in rolling it back and in caring for one another along the way.
This year, in addition to opening our doors to the prophet Elijah, let’s open our hearts as well — to the health care workers tending the sick and suffering; to the volunteers and aides tending our loved ones who are old, have special needs or who require additional attention. And let us not forget those at our grocery stores stocking shelves and making sure we have food to eat. We must open our hearts to one another as we struggle against separation and loneliness, as we fight off disappointment and despair.”
One promise of the Passover holiday is to allow all who are hungry to eat. Thank you to a small group of volunteers who yesterday packed and delivered Passover food boxes to 150 client families of Jewish Family and Child Service. Funding for this was provided by our community crisis campaign.
These are unprecedented and uncertain times. I hope that as your family gathers around the seder table you find comfort and joy in being together – whether in person or virtually.
Chag kasher v'sameach -- wishing you a happy and kosher for Passover holiday. Stay healthy, be well, and together, we will get through this.
PS – There will be no Marc’s Remarks on Friday as we will be closed for the Passover holiday.


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