Summer is officially here! When I moved to Portland almost seven years ago, I was told Oregon summers run from July 4 to the last week of October. I am certainly looking forward to another beautiful summer, but I am also hoping we get just enough rain to fill the new community mikvah.
Last Monday, our Jewish Community Relations Council and members of the Jewish Federation Governing Board had the opportunity to meet with Senator Jeff Merkley. We discussed three important issues to the Jewish community with him:
• The current health care legislation proposed by the United States Senate, which would slash Medicaid by $772 billion over the next 9 years. Senator Merkley has been a staunch opponent of the bill and understands the importance of securing Medicaid for our seniors and others.
• In May, President Trump signed an executive order to “defend the freedom of speech and religion” for the purpose of easing the Johnson Amendment. Since 1954, this amendment (proposed by then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson) in the U.S. tax code, prohibits all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. This includes Jewish Federations, charitable foundations, universities and churches/synagogues.
Many have sought to repeal the provision, arguing it restricts the free speech rights of churches and other religious groups. These efforts have been criticized because churches/synagogues have fewer reporting requirements than other non-profit organizations, and because it would effectively make political contributions tax-deductible.
Senator Merkley was in full support of maintaining the Johnson Amendment.
• We discussed Senate Bill 170 – known as “Combating BDS Act of 2017.” This bi-partisan legislation (Senator Wyden has already signed on to the bill) would permit state and local governments to restrict business with entities that promote boycotts, divestment, or sanctions (BDS) targeting Israel.
Senator Merkley reiterated his opposition to the BDS movement, yet had some reservations about some of the language in the bill itself. He assured our group that he would consider the bill as it moves forward.
We were most grateful for Senator Merkley’s time and his ongoing willingness to hear the concerns and interests of the Jewish community.
Now, back to it being summertime. This means two important things from the perspective of the Jewish Federation:
First, we have just concluded a highly successful 2017 Campaign. We raised in total resources $4.4 million, an increase of almost $400,000 over last year. What an incredible success! Congratulations to Mindy and Mark Zeitzer, our Campaign Co-Chairs, and the many volunteers who worked so diligently on the campaign. Most of all, thank YOU for making this possible.
Secondly, summer feels like a time when people get to slow down and enjoy themselves even more -- a “make up” for the long rainy winters. In addition, it is a time when our area gets its largest influx of newcomers. Estimates are that 80 people per daymove to Portland! How many of these folks are Jewish and looking for ways to connect?
For six years the Jewish Federation has had a Director of Community Engagement, Caron Blau Rothstein, here to assist people in connecting and learning about our local resources as they establish roots in their new adopted hometown. Caron has met with hundreds of individuals and is always ready to assist – whether a newcomer or longtime resident wanting to learn more about the local Jewish community.
Summertime is also an opportunity for our volunteer leaders and professional team to “regroup” and prepare for next year. But it does not mean we stop our efforts.
Last week, the Jewish Federation and Mittleman Jewish Community Center (MJCC) partnered together on a very successful (first ever) Jewish Heritage Night at the Portland Thorns. We had nearly 100 community members attend and watch the Thorns in their victory over FC Kansas City.
On August 8, we will hold our 2nd annual Jewish Community Night at the Hillsboro Hops. Tickets are available now through July 25 here.
We are also continuing our walking tours of Jewish Portland in partnership with the MJCC and led by docents from the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education (OJMCHE). This year we have two options for different demographics:
1. Younger adults 20s-40s -- July 19
2. 50s+ -- August 16
Both tours begin at 5:30 p.m. for happy hour at the Lair Hill Bistro followed by the walking tour. It is a great opportunity to learn more about our local history and to meet others. The cost is $5 per person and includes one beverage and appetizers. RSVP to
Finally, a “thank you” and a welcome.
Thank you to Rabbi Ariel Stone, Congregation Shir Tikvah, for her leadership these past two years as President of the Oregon Board of Rabbis (OBR). Rabbis and Jewish Federation leaders may not always see “eye to eye” on every community issue, yet together we do advance many initiatives. I want to thank Rabbi Stone for her vision, incredible energy and collaboration in strengthening our Jewish community.
We welcome Rabbi Rachel Joseph, Associate Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel, who just started her two-year term as OBR President. We look forward to partnering with her in the years ahead.
Now, go out and enjoy the sunshine and have a Shabbat shalom.