Portlanders forge ties in Israel

PHOTO: "Abraham" welcomed Portlanders into his tent for dinner as part of a desert extravaganza. To see more photos and read reflections from about a dozen participants visit  online.anyflip.com/fgcex/tpwy. To get a Taste of Israel in Portland, see three events listed at the bottom of this story.

Exploring the land, people, history and food of Israel with 200 participants on Portland’s 2023 community trip to Israel was a powerful experience – one that created understanding of and connections with Israel and Jewish Portland.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland’s Israel at 75 Community Trip to Israel began with a welcome dinner in Tel Aviv March 20 as participants ranging in age from 5 to 85 arrived in the Jewish homeland. For the next eight days, five buses carried us on an exploration of Tel Aviv, along the coast, the Galilee and Golan, Jerusalem, Masada and the Dead Sea.
“Trips to Israel are such positive community-building opportunities,” says JFGP President and CEO Marc Blattner. “Our goal for the initial Centennial Trip in 2020 and now with Israel at 75 was to connect people to the State of Israel and our local Jewish community. We believe we exceeded our goals and expectations. For many, it was their first trip to Israel. They now better understand our history, culture and our Jewish homeland, and we look forward to everyone being more involved in Jewish activities of interest to them going forward.”
Through it all, Israeli guides shared background, insights and perspectives on places we visited and a variety of topics such as land for peace and the history of the conflict. They spoke about the protests against judicial reform legislation and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s unprecedented firing of the country’s defense minister over that issue.
On two days, participants could choose from a variety of tracks to explore a particular area of interest. Israeli youth counselors led special programs for families and children including a visit to the Biblical Zoo, an archaeological dig and chocolate-making.
“A mission has many components,” says Wendy Kahn, JFGP Chief Development Officer. “It starts with a vision Marc had of bringing 400 community members to Israel … then recruiting the right chairs and selecting Caron (Blau Rothstein) to manage the project. Part of the vision was creating a bucket list opportunity for the 65% who were first-timers.”
Howie Bierbaum, the executive director of the Eastside Jewish Commons, was one of those first-timers. “The rich complexity of the history, social, artistic and cultural sides of Israel was overwhelming,” he says. “I can’t explain it, but it was really profound.”
First-timers John Schwimmer and his wife, Rosemary, decided to join the trip because, “I thought it would be a good way to meet this community (Portland and Israel),” says John.
John hadn’t participated in organized Jewish life since his bar mitzvah, which he did because it was important to his Orthodox grandfather. He disliked Hebrew school but admits it did give him familiarity for elements of this trip. “This Israel visit, lectures and talks on the bus gives me a lot more context,” he says, adding he now understands “how it all fits together.”

Taste of Israel

4/19: Israel at 75: Identity Crisis
Yossi Klein Halevi will discuss the new Israeli government and the implications for Israel’s future and its democracy at 7-8:30 pm, April 19, at Congregation Neveh Shalom.
Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Halevi’s latest book, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, is a New York Times bestseller.
The free event is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, Israel360 at Neveh Shalom, Congregation Beth Israel and StandWithUs.
Register: jewishportland.org/yossi-klein-halevi-april-19-2023.

4/26: Yom Haatzmaut: Israel at 75
Celebrate the State of Israel at 75 from 4:30-9 pm, April 26, at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center. There will be Israeli dancing, trivia, an Israeli music sing-along and a DJ to close out the night. Kids programming in the gym. Teen programming, as well. A collaboration of MJCC, Keruv Levavot, IAC, Israel 360 and Neveh Shalom. Sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. oregonjcc.org/yomhaatzmaut

4/30: Israeli Superstar Noa in Concert
Tickets are still available for the April 30 concert featuring Israeli superstar Noa, who will perform here as part of our community’s Israel at 75 Celebration.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and Congregation Beth Israel present “Celebrating Israel at 75” at 7 pm, April 30, at the new Patricia Reser Center for the Arts in Beaverton. The concert features Noa performing with Grammy-Award winning pianist Rustan Sirota.
Tickets: $18-$36 plus a $4 service fee, at thereser.org/event/celebrating-israel-at-75-with-israeli-superstar-noa/.



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