We are fast approaching the end of the calendar year. The Jewish Federation’s Campaign for Community Needs has far surpassed the $2 million mark with a goal of getting to $3 million by December 31 with your support! Now is the time to make your pledge (payable by December 2019) or pay your pledge for a charitable tax deduction by clicking here .
Our Jewish community is pretty special. And what helps make it so special are the incredible people who live here. I want to highlight a few of those folks.
Earlier this week, o ur community lost a giant – Alter Wiener, a Polish survivor of the Holocaust, who died tragically after being hit by a car in Hillsboro. After moving to Oregon in 2000, Mr. Wiener began to speak about his wartime experiences, reaching thousands of students and adults in schools, libraries, prisons and churches.
Diminutive in size only, his powerful lectures described the brutal murders of his father, brother, stepbrother, stepmother and most of his extended family, his years of incarceration in five forced labor camps, and the hopelessness and despair that inevitably comes with such trauma. But Mr. Wiener also brought with him a potent message of peace and tolerance: be better, not bitter , he would say while talking about the need for empathy and understanding when thinking about the plight of others. He believed fervently in the power of education and that teaching about the Holocaust would help students be more just and loving.
This past September, Mr. Wiener saw the culmination of his efforts begin to take root: he testified at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem for mandatory statewide curriculum standards that would require teachers to educate students about the Holocaust and genocide. This is an issue that the Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education are working towards.
When Oregon becomes the 9th state in the United States to mandate Holocaust and genocide education, we will be able to honor the legacy and memory of this brave, strong and inspiring survivor, with the comfort that his final work has been accomplished. (Thank you to Judy Margles at OJMCHE for her contribution to this tribute.)
You can learn more about Mr. Wiener in his book, From A Name to A Number: A Holocaust Survivor's Autobiography .
The death of Alter Wiener is not just a tragic loss of an individual, but the loss of a witness, and a member of the survivor generation.
A memorial service will take place today at 11:30 a.m. at Congregation Neveh Shalom.
May the Wiener family be comforted along with all other mourners in Zion, and may the name of Alter Wiener (z"l) be for a blessing.
This past week was the kickoff to our Pathways program, a social networking program for young adults in our community. It is a special group of young people who we know will make a difference in our community for years to come.
One of the participants I just met has a fascinating story. She is in her mid-20s and only five months ago learned she had Jewish lineage. She grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family, but in May took a DNA test which came back saying she was 25% Jewish. It turns out her grandfather from Poland was Jewish. He never talked about it nor practiced Judaism following World War II.
This young lady today is “all in” on learning about Jewish life and involving herself in the Jewish community. We embrace her and we are delighted she is involved in multiple Jewishyoung adult programs (Pathways, Moishe House, Jews Next Dor, etc.) and is taking classes through the Oregon Board of Rabbis Introduction to Judaism program.
And here is a story from Rabbi Dov Bialo from Chabad at Reed College, which we help fund through our Annual Campaign.
Chanukah at Reed College was really beautiful this year. Amongst the 140 plus students who participated in our grand Chanukah party and daily Menorah lightings was a Jewish freshman by the name of Miriam.
Miriam’s story began on Sukkot in the Sukkah we built in front of the cafeteria at Reed College for our annual “Sushi in the Sukkah” event. Sushi in the Sukkah gives us the opportunity to share the spirit and joy of the holiday with the students and meet new Jewish students.
This year among those who joined the event was Miriam. Miriam told us that she did not have a Bat Mitzvah, because her father’s parents, who are not Jewish, said that they would not pay for her college education if she got a Bat Mitzvah.
Well, Miriam rolled some sushi, shook the lulav and etrog and has since joined us for multiple Shabbat dinners (sponsored in large part by the Jewish Federation) and is very much enjoying her (secret) freedom to explore her Judaism in college.
There are dozens of students like Miriam on our college campuses and we are proud to support Hillel and Chabad to work with these students in strengthening their Jewish identities.
Finally, I wanted to share that two weeks ago, members of the Jewish Community Relations Council met over dinner with representatives of the NAACP and the African-American community at-large. The purpose of the meeting was for the JCRC to reconnect with local African-American leaders in an effort to renew a valuable partnership working on issues affecting both communities. Among the topics discussed were combating bigotry, anti-Semitism and hate, striving for equal opportunity for minorities in education, and empowering our youth to make a difference in the world. Plans for a second gathering are in the works.
Shabbat shalom and please make your Campaign 2019 commitment .