I know it is not Friday and Christmas is not a Jewish holiday (it is, however, one of the original four federal holidays along with New Year’s Day, Independence Day and Thanksgiving created by Congress on June 28, 1870), but I am sharing my weekly Marc’s Remarks today since I will be out of the office the rest of this week.
At my first major Federation event upon my arrival in 2010, my wife, Sarah, and I had the pleasure of sitting next to Helen and Jerry Stern. Jerry was a kind, friendly older gentleman who enjoyed talking to Sarah. Following dinner, Sarah said to me, “What a nice warm welcome to Portland. And Jerry was just so cute.” Sadly, Jerry passed away on Sunday. And yesterday was a beautiful memorial service with his children speaking so eloquently about their father.
To me, Jerry Stern (z”l) was so genuine and kind. And always with a smile. He was generous to me in so many ways, and someone who loved to reminisce. In fact, I have yet to meet anyone in Portland who loved the “old neighborhood” (South Portland) as much as Jerry. He relished in telling me stories about his childhood days, his friends, and just how life was like back then.
Jerry loved our Jewish community and the Jewish people. He would proudly tell me he belonged to eight local synagogues. He was a tremendous philanthropist to so many of our Jewish, as well as secular organizations. And he truly led our community’s effort to free Jews from the Former Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In fact, Jerry and Helen proudly sponsored an entire planeload of Soviet Jews to Israel during Operation Exodus, as well as helped resettle 30 family members from Saratov on the Volga River here in Portland.
I can summarize my thoughts (and this was reinforced at the service) about Jerry in just one simple word – family. Family is what mattered to him most! He loved everyone, and most especially his beautiful wife and partner of over 67 years, Helen. I always enjoyed being in their company and watching them interact. Plus, every year it was easy for me to remember their wedding anniversary as it is the same day as my birthday. Beyond a loving husband to Helen, Jerry was the ever proud father, grandfather, great-grandfather, cousin, uncle, and friend.
Our communal thoughts go out to the entire Stern family. We are grateful for the incredible things Jerry did to strengthen Jewish life for generations to come.
May Jerry’s memory be for a blessing and his family comforted among the mourners of Zion.
To be frank, our focus at the Jewish Federation right now is the Annual Campaign. We will soon conclude our 100 Days of Impact where we hope to raise as much for the campaign as possible. By quickening the pace of the annual campaign we reduce our fundraising costs through the remainder of the year.
As of today, we are close to raising $2.9 million (last year just our annual campaign raised $3.4 million by June 30) towards the 2016 Campaign. This is the fastest pace in our history, yet we recognize our work is not over. In fact, we still have eight days remaining until the end of the calendar year. So, please make your pledge today and your year-end tax deductible contribution.
Together, with your support, we are creating more options for Jewish individuals and families to participate in Jewish life, whether through existing frameworks and institutions or new approaches. Our Jewish community continues to evolve and we recognize we must be responsive to these changes.Our focus is on enhancing the Jewish experience for people wherever they are and however they wish to engage Jewishly.
Interestingly, this was the vision of Tim Berners-Lee – the inventor of the World Wide Web. His idea was that any person could share information from wherever they are and people could engage however they wish. You see, this past Sunday celebrated the 25th anniversary of the very first website called Tim Berners-Lee World Wide Web -- the site went online at CERN on December 20, 1990. This was not the date the website went public (that happened several months later on August 6, 1991), but the moment still marked an important milestone in information network history.
As for information networks – anything greater than Jewish geography? Or, how about this... Jerry Stern repeatedly told me when sharing about his early years, “No one (as children/teenagers) would dare get in trouble and do something wrong in the old South Portland neighborhood… somehow your mother would know about it before you even got home.” And we think today’s texting and social media is so immediate – try the “Jewish community network.”
Have a wonderful rest of the week and an early Shabbat shalom.