Last night, over 300 people came together as a Jewish community in support of the people of Israel. Unfortunately, we continue to watch the difficult situation in Israel, including the current ground operation in Gaza. Dr. Andy David, Israel Consul General to the Pacific Northwest, came to Portland to share the background and his perspective on the current conflict. It was an illuminating talk about the “behind the scenes” world of international negotiations and their challenges.
The one comment I must share is when Dr. David unequivocally stated, “Israel does not have a quarrel with the Palestinian people. In fact, we want peace with them. Our quarrel is with Hamas – they are at war with us.”
Beyond what is transpiring in Israel, over the past few days all around the world we have seen more than 50 anti-Israel rallies (France, Belgium, Turkey, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, etc.) and even more anti-Semitic incidents. The tenor at some of the anti-Israel rallies has been extreme with protestors chanting “Death to Israel” and other hateful messages and slogans.
Unfortunately, we in Oregon are not immune. On Monday, swastikas were painted on the mailbox opposite the AEPi fraternity (a national Jewish fraternity) near the University of Oregon campus. This is the first hate crime of this nature to take place on campus in two years. Oregon Hillel is advocating on behalf of the students and working closely with the university. In fact, tonight, Jewish students will participate in Kabbalat Shabbat at the AEPi house and then walk together to the Hillel building for Shabbat dinner in solidarity.
The constant barrage of Hamas rockets into Israel incessantly traumatizes the people of Israel, especially in the south where no one is to be more than 15 seconds from a bomb shelter. More trauma counselors are needed. More respite opportunities for children and their families to get away from the areas most impacted are needed. And things not typically on the top of the mind are needed, including children’s activities/games/toys, handicap accessible toilets, and fans for bomb shelters across the country. And the Jewish community of Portland can do its part by helping get these items to the people of Israel. Please make your contribution to our community’s Israel Emergency Fund. It will make an enormous difference in the lives of so many.
I know last week I promised more positive news. I must admit it is sobering with all that is taking place in Israel.
But, our work at the Jewish Federation continues. We are always striving to enrich our community. Here are a few updates I want to share with you:
- The Jewish Federation’s Campaign 2014 raised $3,538,793! Another increased campaign year. Thank you to the thousands of donors from across our community who support our efforts.
- On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to visit B’nai B’rith Camp and see hundreds of happy campers (who just arrived the day before). What a special place and terrific Jewish overnight camp.
I am proud that in the Jewish Federation’s first year participating in the One Happy Camper program, we supported 75 children attending Jewish overnight camp for the first time. Campers, based on the length of their summer experience, receive either $1000 or $700 as an incentive grant. This included 13 Jewish day school students (not eligible for One Happy Camper) for whom Federation set aside funding for their participation. Interestingly, campers went to 12 different camps across North America.
- As you may know, our Melton School (internationally renowned adult Jewish education program) was founded in Portland by the non-profit Morasha in 1999. For 15 years, Morasha offered Classic, Scholars, and Spotlight classes to adults seeking to increase their Jewish knowledge and understanding. Despite our community’s dedication to Morasha’s educational mission and goals, the cost of running the school exceeded what this independent non-profit was able to do.
I am pleased to announce that Melton is becoming a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. The Federation is committed to adult Jewish education and the impact it continues to have on our Jewish community.
We are grateful to Morasha’s volunteer and professional leadership for stewarding this program for so many years. Rachel Rothstein, Federation’s Director of Educational Initiatives, will manage the program and can be reached at email@example.com.
- In addition, one of our community’s “hidden jewels,” Hesed Shel Emet, will also come under the auspices of the Jewish Federation. Hesed Shel Emet is a “free burial society” for indigent Jews (averages 6-8 people/year). Since its inception in March 2010, Hesed Shel Emet has served 32 individuals and provided them with a Jewish burial upon their death. The program had been generously coordinated by Cedar Sinai Park.
- Last month, I announced that we would be scheduling two “town hall forums” to further discuss Jewish Portland Tomorrow. We are currently in the process of selecting a facilitator(s) for those forums. Therefore, the previously scheduled forums on July 29 and August 6 will be rescheduled. We apologize for the delay.
For many of us, our thoughts are focused on the State of Israel. Let’s hope a cease-fire takes effect so innocent civilians on all sides can find calm and comfort. But even when the rockets end, the lingering trauma and fears will continue. So, please, help our mishpocha (family) in Israel by making your gift to our Israel Emergency Fund – supporting trauma care, needed supplies, respite – these funds make an enormous difference!