Shocked and Saddened

I am still shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Charlie Schiffman (z”l) an incredible Jewish communal leader. For 35+ years Charlie gave of his professional life to serve the Jewish people – most prominently in Columbus, Ohio, Israel, and, of course, Portland. Charlie was originally from Memphis, where his mother, Ethel, (92 years of age and now living in Israel) was the “forever” JCC Membership Director. 

I spoke to the family again late Wednesday evening (it was difficult to connect due to the 10 hour time difference) and they shared that Charlie had a heart attack on Tuesday afternoon while taking his wife, Marsha, to a medical appointment of her own. He was buried on Wednesday at Har HaMenuchot in Jerusalem. Marsha, daughter, Nili, mother, Ethel, and sister, Celia, all spoke movingly. In addition, several Portland rabbis who are currently in Israel, along with many of Charlie's former professional colleagues were in attendance at the funeral.

Once the announcement was made (locally and nationally) about Charlie’s passing, I was inundated with emails and phone calls from people around the world. Charlie was so beloved and respected! People here who worked closely with Charlie during his 23 years were sharing beautiful memories of his incredible role and the partnership they felt with him. In addition, the field of Jewish communal service is small and former colleagues across the world sent in lovely sentiments.

Charlie was a mensch! An exemplary professional who mentored volunteer and professional leaders alike. A wonderful family man. He had his own moral compass and lived by it. People could disagree with Charlie’s views, but one always knew where Charlie stood.

The family is graciously accepting contributions in Charlie’s memory to the Jewish Federation's longstanding Schiffman Israel Travel Fund – a fund set-up many years ago to provide financial assistance to young people to travel to Israel. Or, contributions can be made to the Charles Schiffman Scholarship Fund at Maimonides Jewish Day School.

In addition, in lieu of a local memorial service, the family has asked the Jewish Federation to create a“memorial page” where you can share your own personal sentiments and memories about Charlie. This will be easily accessed by the family and is greatly appreciated.

Some in our community were on Charlie’s email list for his regular “Report from Israel.” It was Charlie’s way of sharing his personal experiences. They typically had three segments: 1) An update on his mother and how they loved to eat at the Waffle Bar restaurant in Ramat Eshkol. 2) His own journey through Israel’s bureaucracy as a new immigrant (post office, banking, permits, etc.). 3) And, his personal views on the political situation in Israel. As many of you know, he was quite passionate about Israel. Sadly, the last correspondence was received the day before he passed away.

In addition, Charlie was “the teacher” on a radio program with Pastor Dave McGarrah called The Preacher and the Teacher (KPDX FM 93.9 – a tribute to Charlie will air this Sunday). Charlie would do the show from Israel while Pastor McGarrah was here in the Pacific Northwest.

In addition, here is an interview from May 2013 inOregon Jewish Life magazine right before Charlie and Marsha made aliyah to Israel.

Charlie, as one person so eloquently shared with me, had a towering intellect, great wisdom, and a deep knowledge of Judaism. He was truly a teacher who impacted many. Moreover, he loved the Jewish people and the State of Israel. When I asked Marsha what more we could do for the family, her response was quite simple – visit Israel and eat at the Waffle Bar – that is what would make Charlie most happy.

May his memory be for a blessing and our entire community’s thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the entire Schiffman family.

Wednesday was a very busy day as I had the pleasure of visiting Camp Solomon Schechter outside of Olympia, Washington. A magnificent campsite with hundreds of very happy campers from the Pacific Northwest. I was there along with Julie Diamond, Executive Director of the Oregon Jewish Community Foundation, and the CEOs of the Seattle and Vancouver, BC Jewish Federations. We were invited to learn more about the camp and to discuss ways our communities were currently involved in Jewish camping. One potential idea is to coordinate a camp meeting, in conjunction with the Foundation for Jewish Camp, with the leaders of the six Jewish overnight camps in the Pacific Northwest (B’nai B’rith Camp, Camp Solomon Schechter, Camp Kalsman, Sephardic Adventure Camp, Camp Miriam, and Camp Hatikvah) to discuss ways to increase camp enrollment and raise additional scholarship funding. 

I then raced back from camp to attend the groundbreaking for the new Harold Schnitzer Health and Rehabilitation Care Center on the Cedar Sinai Park (CSP) Campus. What an exciting moment built on the longstanding efforts of CSP leadership, Jim Winkler, Capital Campaign Chair, and the generosity of many donors, including a lead gift from Arlene Schnitzer and Jordan Schnitzer. They are 94% towards their fundraising goal for the new Green House Model of long-term care households and a rehabilitation facility with private rooms and bathrooms. Our community will be blessed when this new center opens.

Speaking of Cedar Sinai Park, mazel tov to the Robison Jewish Health Center for receiving a Top 10 Rating from U.S. News & World Report! The Robison Jewish Health Center received the highest possible overall rating of five stars in U.S. News & World Report’s fifth annual Best Nursing Homes (ratings highlight the top nursing homes in each city and state, out of nearly 16,000 facilities nationwide), available exclusively at

Finally, in major news with global impact, President Obama announced the completion of the accord between the P5 + 1 countries and Iran. We can each read the news and draw our own conclusions about the agreement.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (national coordinating and advisory body for the 16 national and 125 local agencies comprising the field of Jewish community relations) released the following statement. To follow this issue, the Jewish Federations of North America has developed an information site.

During this period of debate, I urge the Greater Portland Jewish community to remain involved in this Congressional review period by expressing your opinions to our elected representatives. 

Shabbat shalom.



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