10 Years!!! - August 28, 2020

10 Years !!!
Hard for me to believe that next Tuesday, September 1, will be my 10th anniversary (!) as President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. To say that I am honored to serve in this role would be an understatement. I am proud of our volunteer leadership, our professional team, and what we have accomplished over the past decade.
When I interviewed for this position, I told the search committee that Portland could be the “test market for Jewish America.” This community was neither too large (New York, Los Angeles) nor too small (Santa Fe, Birmingham) to try new things. And we have done just that! Like every organization, we have had hits and a few misses, but I do believe we have helped provide more Jewish experiences to more community members -- for the better. Here are some examples of what we have done these past 10 years:
  • Raised in excess of $40 million (not including capital projects) from generous donors like you
  • Community Impact Grant funding of $300,000 for new and innovative projects
  • Added 35 new funding partners and programs
  • Grew the PJ Library program (following the initial efforts of the OJCF), which has now provided over 150,000 Jewish children’s books to children in our community
  • Partnered with the Oregon Board of Rabbis to build and operate our community mikvah, Rachel’s Well
  • Provided incentive grant programs for Jewish overnight camping (One Happy Camper) and for Jewish pre-schools (Jewish Right Start)
  • The incredible “Next Great Jewish Idea” -- Food for Thought Festival -- that brought out over 4,000 people for over 40 Jewish events in one weekend
  • Created funding for all Jewish youth groups to provide financial assistance for teens to attend conventions and Shabbatonim
  • Expanded the Teen Israel program to provide up to $1,800 to ANY teenager wishing to go to Israel for the summer or on a Gap Year program
  • Our Jewish Community Relations Council strengthened its role in government relations, inter-group outreach activities, and is at the forefront of fighting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the State of Israel
  • Started a Jewish Free Loan program (no interest loans) that has made 52 loans totaling over $150,000 in just 4 years
  • Enhanced young leadership development with our Pathways program
  • Funded positions for a community chaplain and community director of security
  • Wexner Heritage Leadership Program returns after a generation
  • Centennial Mission to Israel recruited 400 participants (we will go when Israel welcomes back visitors)
  • And, most recently, helped to lead our community’s response to COVID-19
There is so much more we have achieved, but space does not allow for it.
Some disappointments:
  • Loss of the Jewish Review for eight years. On a positive note, the Jewish Review is currently one of the most financially stable Jewish newspapers in the country;
  • Closing of the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning;
  • Grapevine, an online Jewish connector, never panned out. Maybe it was a concept ahead of its time;
  • And perhaps the same holds true for the Jewish Portland Tomorrow concept.
I want to make it very clear – this is not about me. This is about these four constants that enable the Jewish Federation to thrive for over 100 years:
  • Incredible and passionate volunteer leadership;
  • The work of all the (current and past) professionals at the Jewish Federation. Each is so talented and their sole mission is to see Jewish life thrive. I must pay special homage to Charlie Schiffman (z”l), my predecessor, who served in this role for 23 years and was a tremendous inspiration and resource to me and so many of you;
  • An incredible array of Jewish agencies and synagogues (and their leaders) who provide rich and rewarding opportunities for Jewish life;
  • And, of course, generous donors throughout the generations. In fact, the Jewish Federation, over its 100 year history (going back to 1920), has raised in excess of $150 million (not including capital projects). The Campaign for Community Needs is the lifeblood of our Jewish community making needed and important programs and services available.
I am grateful to the incredible Chairs of the Board I have worked with – Gersham Goldstein (z”l), Michael Weiner, David Forman, Ed Tonkin, and currently Lauren Goldstein -- as well as the helpful wisdom and support of past chairs, rabbis, colleagues, community members, and, of course, my family.
In this job, you quickly realize you are not perfect. And, our work at the Jewish Federation may not meet the needs or interests of everyone in our Jewish community. Trust me, people let me know. I can only emphatically state that we are making the best decisions we can and putting 110% of our effort into building a Jewish community that will inspire our children and grandchildren.
Beyond the pride I have in these past ten years, this is also my 500th Marc’s Remarks. It is truly a labor of love for me to write late Thursday night and share my thoughts with you each Friday morning at 9:00 a.m.. I am grateful for the (positive/critical) comments and feedback I receive each week. Thank you for reading.
Let me close with this. Emory University, my alma mater, recently installed a new president. In his email to parents and alumni he wrote:
“President Jimmy Carter (who is actively engaged with Emory), in his inaugural address in January 1977 said, ‘We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles.’ There is no more succinct and relevant call to action for the challenges we face today than those 12 words. The line itself comes from President Carter’s high school teacher, Julia Coleman. In quoting her, President Carter recognized the limitless opportunities we have in the opening moments of the biggest speech of his life.”
For 100 years, the Jewish Federation and our community have adapted to the changing Jewish demographics and dynamics while still holding on to our core Jewish beliefs, love of Israel, and the imperative that all Jews are responsible one for another. THANK YOU for welcoming me, granting me the opportunity to serve in this role, making this Jewish community what it is today, and I look forward to partnering with you in the years ahead.
Shabbat shalom.
Marc N. Blattner
President and CEO


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