We are in the final weeks of what continues to be a beautiful summer (my children dislike it when I remind them school starts in less than a month). This is when people enjoy their family vacations and the sunshine, and it seems far less busy. Plus, we welcome many newcomers who move to our area. But I do want to update you on some “cool” summer happenings.
Before the update, I would be remiss if I did not mention the current situation in Israel. The conflict between Hamas and Israel had been quiet since Tuesday. The cease-fire was broken by Hamas with over 40 rockets shot at Israel by mid-day. Unfortunately, for tens of thousands of Israelis, traumatic conditions continue. Our Israel Emergency Fund is being put to important use every day – thank you to everyone who contributed to the fund that to date has raised over $62,000 (and more is still needed).
Last night, I had the opportunity to hear my former college professor, Ken Stein, speak at Congregation Kol Ami in Vancouver, WA. Dr. Stein is the William E. Schatten Professor of Contemporary Middle Eastern History, Political Science and Israeli Studies at my alma mater Emory University. He shared his perspective on the current conflict and challenges Israel (and Jewish students) face on college campuses across the country.
One comment he shared, and others have written about, is that prior to the start of the current conflict, Hamas was losing its control in Gaza. Thus, as a way to gain "credibility" Hamas began to launch rocket attacks in Israel. Therefore, by asserting itself in this conflict, Hamas basically guaranteed itself a seat at the table for any end negotiations and continued role in Gaza. A difficult situation for Israel since Hamas' stated goal is to eliminate the State of Israel.
In addition, Dr. Stein spoke to the challenges on college campuses for Jewish students to respond to accusations about Israel. All students, in his eyes, come with very little historical context to the news of today. They access their information solely through Facebook and Twitter -- not history books that may shed light on "how we got here." The language on campus is polarizing (extremes on both ends with little gray area) and people are not willing to hear "another side." And, just because someone/some group says you are wrong does not make it so. We have an important task to better educate our youth about Israel so they have the ability to appropriately respond.
A few updates:
I want to share my colleague Bob Horenstein’s (Federation’s Director of Community Relations and Allocations) thoughtful Op-Ed about the recent conflict in Wednesday’s edition of The Oregonian.
The Jewish Federation hosted a meeting for communal organizations with representatives from Portland Police and the FBI earlier this week. We talked about the anti-Semitic/anti-Zionist sentiments around the globe and the potential for security issues in our Jewish community. In fact, some Jewish organizations have received negative phone calls, emails and Facebook postings. The police and FBI were very receptive to our concerns and assured us that they consider our safety a high priority. We ask that everyone be vigilant, especially as the High Holidays approach.
Congregation Kol Ami in Vancouver, WA is presenting BAGEL ON, a fair in celebration of Jewish culture, showcasing food, entertainment, and fun. This first ever fair in SW Washington will be on Sunday, August 17 from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at Kol Ami’s new building (7800 NE 119th Street in Vancouver). (Lots happening in SW Washington’s Jewish community).
The Jewish Federation and GrapeVine will be in Vancouver and also participate in other upcoming community events, including:
- Sunday Parkways SE on August 24
- The Standard’s Volunteer Expo in Pioneer Square on September 4
- Gay Fair on the Square on September 14
- Sunday Parkways SW on September 28
Come and say hello at the Jewish Federation’s booth – we want to “meet our community where they are.”
I want to also welcome two new rabbis to town. Rabbi Eve Posen, new Youth Director and Rabbinic Educator at Congregation Neveh Shalom and Rabbi Joshua Rose as Rabbi at Congregation Shaarie Torah. B’ruchim Ha’Baim! We look forward to all you have to offer our wonderful Jewish community.
Last week I wrote about the new Rosenfeld Leadership Development Program. We invite all young adults ages 25-40 to apply for this special program. If anyone has any questions, please call the Jewish Federation at 503-245-6219.
One group of active young adults is Moishe House – a place where young adults (post-college/pre-family) can find their Jewish identity in a way that is meaningful to them. Moishe House just moved to a new house on Portland’s eastside. It is a hub for community involvement where young adults can be as “Jewish or Jew-ish” as they want while connecting with young professional Jewish adults in the Greater Portland community. To learn more, contact the house residents at Moishehousepdx@gmail.com.
I would be remiss if I did not give a “shout out” to a very special donor to our community. Harold Grinspoon of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation in Western Massachusetts just celebrated his 85th birthday. Harold and his foundation have been major supporters of activities in Greater Portland’s Jewish community for many years including PJ Library, the Create a Jewish Legacy program, PJ Goes to Camp, and other initiatives. His foundation has invested over $500,000 in our community alone.
Finally, Campaign 2015 will begin in six short weeks. Our goal is to enhance Jewish experiences by raising more money, raising it from more community members, and raise it faster than ever. We can do this! And, I am excited to share that an anonymous donor will once again match all 10% or more increases and all new gifts to the campaign – this year up to $120,000! More to come.