The holiday of Tu b’Shevat (the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat) begins after sundown this Sunday night. Tu B’Shevat is the “birthday of the trees” and is an opportunity to strengthen our connection to the environment. In Israel the holiday of Tu b'shevat arrives along with the first signs of spring.
It is customary to hold a seder during the holiday. Just as at a Passover seder, symbolic foods are eaten in a special order in celebration of the important role trees play in our life. It is traditional to eat Israeli fruits, such as figs, dates, and carobs. It is also customary to eat fruits you have not tasted before this season, and to say the Shehecheyanu (a blessing of gratitude when experiencing something new).
I hope you and your family enjoy the holiday.
Jewish Federation Chair of the Board Lauren Goldstein and I traveled recently to New York City for the annual Jewish Federations of North America conference of Jewish federation chairs and CEOs. It was an opportunity to learn skills in how to create a “high functioning, shared leadership” model of governance.
The conference was excellent as a wonderful consultant walked the group of 40 people through a variety of exercises to learn to work more effectively. We talked about the following important issues:
One of the most interesting sessions we had discussed issues that are impacting world Jewry. It was fascinating listening to people brainstorm and share ideas challenging the Jewish world. Here is an abbreviated list of topics that were discussed:
Security … Anti-Semitism … Apathy … Next Gen (young adult) engagement … American-Israel relationship … Jewish literacy at all ages … Political division … Use of technology to “speak to Jews” … Civil discourse … Cost of being Jewish … Welfare of aging Jews around the world, including Holocaust survivors … Israeli civil society issues … Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement on campus … Israel-Diaspora relations … Community relations with all groups and demographics … Aging and shrinking Jewish communities … Articulating “Why be Jewish?” … The idea of membership is fading … Maintenance cost of Jewish buildings, cemeteries, and other properties … Rise of the “nones” … Reliance on large and aging major donor community … Competing philanthropic needs and interests … Assimilation … Developing leadership (pro and lay) for next generation … and so much more. (What would you add?)
Our community is certainly not immune to any of these.
I know that the synagogue movements and other national umbrella Jewish organizations also offer such training for their constituents. Tony Urdes, president of Congregation Beth Israel, told me he is joining more than 45 presidents and presidents-elect from Reform congregations throughout North America for the Union for Reform Judaism’s 22nd Annual Scheidt Seminar this weekend. The seminar will discuss solutions to everyday congregational problems, explore Torah-based governance, improve leadership skills, network, and share successful program ideas.
We should never stop learning and enhancing our skills and talents.
February is Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance & Inclusion Month (JDAIM) — the Jewish community’s unified national initiative to raise disability awareness and support efforts to foster inclusion in Jewish communities worldwide. Throughout the year on The New Normal: Blogging Disability, they proudly focus on the voices of people with disabilities as well as their family members, educators, advocates and community members speaking about disability and Jewish life. JDAIM shines an extra light on the importance of disability inclusion throughout the month and I encourage you to read these 10 short essays from New Normal contributors.
Some may be topics that you are very familiar with. Others may raise concerns that you have not yet thought about. To create a Jewish community that welcomes, supports and advocates for all people, we all need to grow in our knowledge and awareness. I hope that you will read, comment on, and share these articles.
Mark your calendar for Super Sunday (annual fundraising telethon) on Sunday, February 23rd from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Rose Schnitzer Manor – 6140 SW Boundary Street. Come and help us reach our community! Sign up here.
An important reminder that nominations for the 2020 Laurie Rogoway Outstanding Jewish Professional Award are due in 10 days. The award was established six years ago to honor our esteemed colleague and friend Laurie Rogoway, a pillar of Jewish professional leadership for over 30 years in Portland. Please click here to learn more about the award and the nomination process.
We have all been following the news about the Coronavirus. We do not know of any cases in our Jewish community or city, but here are some excellent resources for you to have.
On a sad note, I want to share the recent passing of Rabbi Hanan Clyde Sills (z”l). Rabbi Sills was the founding rabbi of Oregon Hillel. He, along with an amazing group of dedicated and passionate community members, came together in the late 1980s to create the foundation of Oregon Hillel, initially only serving the University of Oregon (which has now extended north to Oregon State University). There is no doubt that it is because of Rabbi Sills’ vision, passion, and commitment to Jewish community and peoplehood that thousands of Jewish students have been inspired. May Rabbi Sills’ memory be for blessing. Baruch Dayan Emet.