50 (bad) Reasons

I am excited to announce that the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland has secured another incredible matching challenge grant for this year’s Annual Campaign. The anonymous donor from last year (who provided $100,000) has stepped up once again due to the success of last year. For this year’s Annual Campaign, the donor is matching up to $110,000 for increased gifts of 10% or more AND all new gifts. We are truly grateful to the generosity of this anonymous family. Help us maximize this opportunity and enable our community’s campaign to continue to grow!

You can make your Annual Campaign commitment by joining your community at the Federation’s Campaign Kick-Off Event on Thursday October 3 with Dan Pallotta. Join us for what will be a remarkably inspiring evening. If you are unable to attend, feel free to go online and make your increased pledge.


Fall is officially here. Just as the seasons change, so does our world. I know I write a lot about the need for change – maybe too much. I do it because I recognize the strengths and accomplishments of the past, while watching the evolution of our Jewish community. Can we break from the past without disavowing it? How do we use what we already know in order to go beyond what we already think? The more things change, the more objections to change I often hear.

A colleague of mine recently shared an important list titled “50 Reasons Why We Cannot Change.” This list, written by E.F. Borisch, a product manager at Milwaukee Gear Company, offers a clever and entertaining collection of objections to and worries about the hard work of making real progress. The interesting thing – this list was published in 1959 in a journal called Product Engineering. What is amazing (and disheartening) is that many people involved in organizations face precisely the same set of worries and pushbacks today.

Some of my favorites (and I encourage you to read the full list):

  • We’ve never done it before.

  • We tried it before.

  • It won’t work in our organization.

  • We don’t have the money or personnel.

  • It is too radical a change.

  • It needs more thought.

  • We’re doing all right as it is.

  • It needs more committee study.

  • It’s impossible.

It is common for organizations to have a “tunnel vision,” which makes it hard to envision a different future. That is why, according to Bill Taylor, founder of Fast Company magazine, “The first principle of change is originality – the ability for leaders to see their organization and its problems as if they’ve never seen them before, and with new eyes, they need to develop a distinctive point of view on how to solve them.” Too often, so-called “expertise” gets in the way of innovation. It is one thing to learn from peer organizations, yet how much more successful are they? (I often look to other Federations for guidance, yet their struggles are commonly our struggles.) Instead, why not learn from innovators outside one’s field as a way to shake things up and create a new future?

There are always lots of ideas for what needs to be changed. The real challenge is to create a sense of urgency inside and outside our organizations, and turn that urgency into action. As a former professor of mine used to say, “Progress is made when the cost of the status quo is greater than the risk of change.” When will we learn that business as usual is the ultimate risk and the status quo cannot maintain our community?

Once again this is a shortened week as we begin the celebration of Shemini Atzeret (we pray for rain in Israel) and Simchat Torah. Simchat Torah is the celebration of the conclusion of one and the beginning of another annual cycle of readings from the Torah. The final portion of the Book of Deuteronomy is read followed by the beginning of the Book of Genesis. In this manner, the annual cycle of Torah readings continues unbroken.

Simchat Torah conveys a clear message about the centrality of Torah in Jewish life. For many, it is both a source of Jewish identity and a precious gift from God. It also helps our people learn about the past and navigate our present.

As an example, someone once asked me about the Mayflower ship and its voyage across the ocean to America. Could I name the captain of the Mayflower? How long were they at sea? And what did they eat while on their voyage? I did not know the answers to any of these questions.

Although I (we) may know little about the Mayflower which happened less than 400 years ago, we seemingly all know that Moses lead the people out of Egypt…they spent 40 years in the desert…and they ate manna from heaven.

The Jewish community has a wonderful history in Portland. At the same time, just as Moses experienced wandering through the desert with a people fearful/skeptical of the future and objecting to change, we cannot be deterred as we write our own memorable chapter today about Portland’s Jewish future. No more excuses.

Moadim l'simcha.



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