Whew! I must admit I am happy the summer is finally here (although when I moved here I was told it officially starts on July 4thwhen the rain ceases until the end of October).
As Federation concludes its fiscal year, I must be open and honest – this has been a challenging year. The economic uncertainty remains…several communal leaders passed away…the closing of the Jewish Review…some “change ideas” are taking longer to move forward or implement…unrest in the Middle East continues…just to name a few.
At the same time, we have had many incredible successes: Our Community Impact Grant programs took place (a full report will be shared later this summer)…we held community-wide programs with world renowned speakers like Rabbi Daniel Gordis, Dr. Brian Druker, and Natan Sharansky…led an inspirational mission to Israel…and completed a survey of the eastside Jewish community.
As I look back at this past year, I am proud of the thoughtful and energetic approach of our volunteer leaders, led by Michael Weiner, Federation’s Chairman of the Board, and my professional colleagues in making this year such a positive. In the end, donors to Federation’s Annual Campaign, Chaired by Kim Rosenberg, pledged in excess of $3.2 million (with a few more days and open pledges remaining). Unfortunately, this is a 3% drop from the previous year (almost exclusively due to the deaths of several donors). I am pleased, however, to report that once again we increased the number of donors to the Federation campaign. This is a positive sign as we strive to grow our donor base for the long-term.
As I wrote about previously, despite a lower campaign total, Federation was able to provide its partner agencies with the same amount of dollars for allocations in total as last year. To do this, Federation reduced its own overhead costs by 10% (much of the savings came from no longer publishing the Jewish Review) and by focusing on a “fewer is more” mindset in regard to programs and events for the next fiscal year.
What you may not know is that in addition to the allocations to our partner agencies locally and overseas, Federation provides funding for several (some new) community-wide initiatives that get far less attention, yet perhaps no less important.
For many years, Federation has provided funding (over $275,000 in the past nine years) to the Oregon Board of Rabbis to provide scholarship assistance to high school students who participate on a four-week (or longer) program in Israel. The Teen Israel Experience Fund is available to those who continue their Jewish education post-bar/bat mitzvah and fulfill several other requirements. We are proud to partner with the Oregon Board of Rabbis to enable so many young people to experience Israel.
The Jewish Ritualarium of Portland, a community mikveh (ritual bath) in town, is an important part of our Jewish community. Our tradition teaches that the first three things you need in a Jewish community are a cemetery, a mikveh, and a school. The mikveh is used for Jewish women to achieve ritual purity after menstruation or childbirth, for Jewish men to achieve ritual purity, as part of a traditional procedure for conversion to Judaism, and in some cases for utensils used for food. The mikveh is located in the Goose Hollow neighborhood and its operations are primarily supported by Federation funding ($10,000).
Federation has created a new $5,000 Young Adult Programming Fund to provide resources to the various Jewish young adult programs in our community. Our goal is to enhance the work of the various groups as they strive to connect a younger generation to our Jewish community.
In addition, later this year, Federation will be (re)launching a Young Leadership Development program to attract, engage and train a new generation of communal leaders. This, unfortunately, has not been done in several years. Funding for the program is generously provided by the A. Victor and Betty Rosenfeld Leadership Development Endowment.
I am pleased to inform you that Natalie Nahome will be our new shlichah (emissary) to serve the Portland Jewish community. She will be following in the footsteps of Amos Meron who has done a remarkable job since arriving last August. Natalie was born in London but moved to Israel at the age of 7. Natalie is completing her degree in governance and diplomacy from the Herziliyah Interdisciplinary Center. We are excited for Natalie to arrive in late August and to work with our community in creating stronger relationships with Israel.
Mark your calendar for April 18-21, 2013 for the first ever Food for Thought Festival. This four-day festival, winner of last year’s Next Great Jewish Idea Contest, is being Co-Chaired by Cheryl Tonkin and Ed Tonkin. Programming will include major speakers, authors, learning events, Israeli dancing, walking tours, etc. We have already developed program partnerships with Powell’s, OHSU, NW Film Center, the Portland Art Museum, and multiple Jewish organizations. I assure you there will be programs and activities of interest to everyone!
This year has been filled with many ups and downs. The summer is a perfect time for Federation to plan ahead and focus on the incredible opportunities ahead. I truly believe Federation is putting into place ideas and strategies that will bode well for our ever-changing Jewish community and am confident Jewish Portland will be the envy of all other Jewish communities.
Shabbat shalom, make the most of the sunshine, and enjoy the July 4th holiday next week.
PS – I am delighted by the response to date, but in case you have not volunteered – local documentary filmmaker, Ken Klein, is creating a film about Jewish identity in Portland. I know several people who have been filmed and it is a worthwhile project. If you are interested in participating, please email Ken at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PPS – There will be no Marc’s Remarks next week.