Cornerstone returns to rousing success

PHOTO: Campaign Co-Chairs Leslie Beard, left, and Jack Birnbach introduce Julie Platt, the keynote speaker at the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland's Cornerstone event Tuesday, Aug. 29. Platt is Board Chair of the Jewish Federations of North America. (Rockne Roll/The Jewish Review)


The Jewish Review
“Growing up in Wichita, Kansas, as the only Jewish kid in my high school graduating class of 671 students, I couldn’t have imagined how large, varied, and vital the Jewish community on this continent is,” Jewish Federation of North America Board Chair Julie Platt told a crowd gathered at a private home home in Lake Oswego Tuesday, Aug. 29.
It’s hard to imagine a more powerful expression of that vitality than Tuesday’s gathering, the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland’s Cornerstone event.  It was the first in-person version of the traditional curtain-raiser for the Federation’s annual Campaign for Community Needs since 2020 and came with an exciting twist.
Federation Campaign Co-Chair Leslie Beard announced a dollar-for-dollar match by Scott and Elena Shleifer on contributions increased over last year by 10 percent or more, with a double match for pledge increases over 20 percent. 
“We are here tonight to celebrate the work of the Jewish Federation,” Beard said, “and to support our great Jewish community with the help of your gift to the 2024 Campaign for Community Needs.”
The assembled community responded, pledging more than $225,000 to the 2024 campaign.
Campaign Co-Chair Jack Birnbach opened the evening’s remarks with a recounting of his Jewish upbringing in Portland and the ways in which the opportunities he had to build community and significance in his Jewish experience are made possible for the community today through the work of the Federation.
“I was able to have all these wonderful experiences because of you, your parents, and your grandparent’s donations and investments in the Jewish community,” he said.
Platt touched on situations abroad, including the current political crisis in Israel and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, particularly mentioning the Portland Federation’s work to assist Jews endangered by the ongoing conflict in Eastern Europe.
“For the first time in the history of the Jewish people,” she said, “when a war broke out in Europe, every single Jew who needed rescue was saved, and every Jew who wanted to go to Israel was brought to Israel.”
Platt also drew attention to the rise of antisemitism in North America and the efforts by Jewish Federations to address it, from the work of community security directors to safeguard Jewish people and institutions to the work of Jewish Community Relations Councils to combat antisemitism both on the ideological fringes and in the cultural mainstream – work that is far from finished. 
“In the Torah, Noah is told to build the ark before it rains,” she said. “Right now, we’re planning for what could, in the worst-case scenario, be a flood of additional antisemitic violence.”
From these initiatives to work supporting teen mental health and developing the next generation of leadership for Jewish institutions, Beard pointed out that none of it would be possible without the support of the community and work of the Jewish Federation. 
“Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of blessed memory once pointed out that the first word of the Book of Psalms is ashrei, which is the closest Hebrew word to happiness. And the Ashrei prayer is part of almost every Jewish service,” Platt said. “But, he says, we say another word almost ten times as often, which is simchah, joy. We are enjoined to serve G-d not with a feeling of being burdened, but with a sense of joy. The same goes for our relationships with other people; we are to find joy in helping others and building community.”



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