Once a month, the professional team at the Jewish Federation has a brown bag lunch together. Beyond the team building, it is also a way for us to talk together on a variety of topics of interest to our group. Sadly, the focus yesterday was terrorism around the world.
I must admit, it sickens me that in recent weeks I seemingly open my weekly remarks with a comment about a sad incident somewhere in the world. We woke up this morning to the hostage situation in Mali. Yesterday, an 18-year-old American from Sharon, Massachusetts, Ezra Schwartz, along with two others, was killed by Palestinian terrorists in a shooting incident (several others were injured). Ezra was there on a GAP year program prior to starting college next fall. In addition, we learned of two people being murdered in Tel Aviv, intensifying a two-month wave of violence.
And, after my remarks last Friday morning, the terrible situation in France unfolded. I could not take my eyes off the news reports of what happened in Paris, including the moment by moment updates of what tragically transpired in the theater.
My colleagues at the Jewish Federation in Chicago shared the following, "We stand with the people of Paris and with all people of conscience who wish to defend the principles of pluralism, freedom, and democracy.
We mourn for those who were savagely murdered at the hands of Islamist terrorists, and pray for the speedy recovery of the injured. The jihadist attacks in Paris, like those that preceded them, are part of a global onslaught waged by extremists and fanatics, who aim to sow chaos, death and the destruction of social and political order.
We call on elected officials, civil society institutions, and security forces of all nations to fight the scourge of extremism and terrorism at home and abroad. Here, we call on the communal representatives of every religion, race, and ethnicity, to work together to defend the fundamental values that form the bedrock of our open, pluralistic American society.
Only through unity will we foil the terrorists’ evil designs."
The horrendous attacks on innocent civilians, whether in Paris, Israel or anywhere around the world underscore once again the growing danger of terrorism in all of its forms. Our sympathies go out to the victims and their families and to the rest of the free world, whose hearts are heavy because of these horrific acts.
On a very positive and upbeat note, last Saturday night, the Jewish Federation held its annual Gala event – A Benefit for the Future -- featuring William Shatner. William Shatner was, how should I say it, William Shatner. He was exactly like you would expect him to be. First, he was a total mensch. He is just a great guy. Second, he certainly has his views on a wide range of social and political issues (I, as well as Senator Ron Wyden, who joined us at the Gala, had the opportunity to dialogue with Mr. Shatner in the green room). Most importantly, he is a caring and committed Jew who is deeply passionate about philanthropy. Mr. Shatner opened his remarks sharing his childhood struggles with anti-Semitism and closed with the importance of being generous and giving.
The Gala is our largest fundraising event of the year. With the support of an anonymous donor, we had a special opportunity at the event -- every new gift, increase of 10% or more, and anyone who made an additional gift above their current annual campaign pledge had their commitment tripled! What a blessing – and the inspired crowd responded enthusiastically. In fact, Gala attendees have now committed over $1 million to the Federation campaign. Unbelievable! Congratulations to Kathy Davis-Weiner and Michael Weiner, Gala Co-Chairs, along with their planning committee for making the night such a success.
It was a great evening for the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and our community. A sold out event with 550 people from across the community! Over 100 young adults and first-time event attendees! And a major fundraising success! As President and CEO, I could not be more proud!
I am excited to share that 59 days into our 100 Days of Impact, our campaign stands at $2.3 million. This is slightly ahead of our pace from last year, and there is more work to be done. We hope to raise over $3.2 million by the end of the calendar year. Kudos to our Campaign Chair, Lauren Goldstein, who continues to propel our efforts forward.
If you have yet to do so, please make your pledge today. By making your gift now it will reduce our fundraising costs and allow our community to plan earlier for important allocations decisions. Please give generously and know that all new gifts will be matched dollar for dollar, as will all increases of 10% or more.
Next up for Federation – get ready for Giving Tuesday, on December 1! More information to come. You can also help spread the word by letting others know about the vibrant Jewish community you help build. Use this sign to share your story via email or social media about why you support our Jewish community – join the #unselfie campaign on #GivingTuesday!
Shabbat shalom. And best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family (there will be no Marc’s Remarks next Friday).