The Year Ahead
Happy and healthy new year! I hope that 2019 is a wonderful year for you and your family.
A quick follow-up from last week’s email -- Israeli politics can change at any time. Since last Friday, there are two new political parties and three different splits between leaders of other parties. And the election is still four months away.
As we begin 2019, I want to share some thoughts about the year ahead. Jewish life continues to evolve. People are asking: What does our Jewish community look like today and in the future? What is happening to our Jewish institutions? We know that some are thriving while others are challenged. What do we do about divisions within the Jewish community? What can we do to make certain that our children and grandchildren remain connected to Judaism?
I believe our greatest success will occur when we move from siloed organizations to collaborative engagement. This requires organizational cultures to change and tensions reduced between organizations. A thriving, vibrant community should be our collective goal over individual organizational success.
Taking a communal approach, here are several key service areas I hope our community can appropriately address:
Transportation: Too often, seniors in particular, are “trapped” in their homes, unable to easily go shopping, to medical appointments, and to various activities. Communal transportation is something every Jewish community is struggling with. Owning a fleet of buses is not the answer. In Phoenix, for example, there is a new program that provides a higher level Uber/Lyft type service where drivers are trained in CPR and first aid, understand the frailties of the elderly, and walk with the individual from their door or into their appointment. Or, can we recruit large numbers of volunteers to serve as drivers?
Support Services for Children and Teens: For the past several years, the Jewish Federation provided funding for a support services coordinator shared by our three Jewish day schools. It was very well received. Now we recognize the need to expand and provide similar support services to children in our congregational schools, pre-schools, youth groups, and camps.
Elder Day Care: Where can our elderly go for social and physical activities and programs on a regular basis, while at the same time provide respite for their caregivers? We have a small program at Cedar Sinai Park, but that is not enough. We need to create more spaces for activities and socialization for our seniors.
Community Hebrew High School: We are fortunate that six of our congregations have formal “Hebrew High School” (post-b’nai mitzvah education programs for grades 8-12) with approximately 225 students (10% of all teens in that age cohort). But many of our congregations do not. Although my rabbinic and educator colleagues may disagree, anecdotal conversations with parents and students support a community-wide program that may have greater impact on more of our youth. This is an opportunity for teens across Greater Portland (not just from their respective congregations) to be together on a regular basis, while also meeting the needs of participating congregations and the students. This has been done in the past here, as well as currently in many communities across the country.
Interfaith Leadership Trip to Israel: With many non-Jewish clergy having never visited Israel and challenges from the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement, there is an opportunity to take leaders of all faiths on a trip to Israel. The trip can focus on challenging issues facing Israel, including religious pluralism and freedom and Arab-Jewish coexistence, all while experiencing daily life in Israel firsthand.
Boomer Engagement: With so many Boomers in our midst, how do we utilize their skills, talents, interests, and resources to maximize Jewish life? Much has been done in other communities and we need to meet the desires of these individuals. Eventually, we will also face the “silver tsunami” challenge as today’s healthy and vibrant boomers become tomorrow’s vulnerable elderly.
Eastside/26/99 Jewish Programming: You will hear a great deal about Jewish needs on the eastside, and rightly so. There is an exceptional working group to create an Eastside Jewish Commons. But beyond the eastside, how do we provide programs and services to Jews on the 26 corridor out to Hillsboro and down 99 from Tigard to Newberg? Interestingly, the most far west Jewish institutions between Portland and Chabad in Hillsboro are Congregation Neveh Shalom/MJCC/Kesser Israel (a 13 mile gap), and nothing on 99. How do we move outside our institutional walls and bring Jewish opportunities everywhere in our metro area.
Security: We are in the process of hiring a new director of community security. Sadly, this is the new normal for Jewish communities. We will do all we can to make Greater Jewish Portland as safe as possible.
Community Leadership Development: Later this year we will ask for nominations for younger leaders to participate in the Wexner Heritage Leadership program, the foremost program of its kind in the world. Twenty young leaders will be selected from Greater Portland. Just as the program did in 1996, it will develop the next generation of Jewish communal leaders.
To do all of these things requires new thinking and additional financial resources. That is why your support of the Jewish Federation’s Campaign for Community Needs is so important.
Do you have additional ideas for service areas in our community?Please email and share your thoughts!
Finally, a few weeks ago I sent out a “grandparents’ survey.” I know some of you were quite upset that the creators of the study placed an age limit of 55 - 80. David Raphael, the founder of the Grandparents Network, will be visiting Portland and holding a special focus group open to any grandparent age 55+ (no top limit) on Monday, January 21 from 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. at the Jewish Federation office (6680 SW Capitol Hwy). Space is limited so please email your RSVP here.
Shabbat shalom and may 2019 be a year of good health and happiness.