50 Years Ago Today - October 6, 2023

I hope everyone has enjoyed the Sukkot holiday. Unfortunately, I missed out on sleeping in my sukkah as the installation of a new roof on my home took priority. The roofers did not want anything falling on to my sukkah.


I want to share a nice experience I had this week with other Jewish professionals. We shared lunch together in the sukkah at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center for a JPRO (community-wide Jewish professionals’ group) program. During our time together, we introduced ourselves to one another (name, which organizations we work for) and Rabbi Motti Wilhelm asked everyone to share “what is working for us” (professionally or personally). It was such a poignant question – and the range of responses were even better. My favorite answer was a brief tutorial on how to easily mass edit all the videos on an organization's YouTube page. It was fun to be together and a mitzvah to shake the lulav and etrog. Most of all, it is heartwarming to hear that while it is easy to get “bogged down” in our day-to-day minutiae, we are making a difference in the work we do.


Tonight begins Shemini Atzeret (when we begin saying an additional prayer, until Passover, for rain in Israel) and tomorrow night is the start of Simchat Torah (when we celebrate the completion of reading the entire Torah. We will read the final passages of the book of Deuteronomy and immediately begin again by reading the first passage of Genesis.) Enjoy the holidays!



Fifty years ago today, at precisely 2:00 p.m. Israel time (4:00 a.m. Portland time), the armies of Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack – on Yom Kippur -- that broke through Israeli defenses in the Sinai Peninsula and atop the Golan Heights. Both areas had been conquered by Israel in 1967 during the Six-Day War. It was a stark reminder of Israel’s persistent threats. Former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban once said, “Israel was the only state that experienced the joy of birth and the fear of death at the same time.” 


Prime Minister Golda Meir was told by her military leaders that the Arabs were bluffing. The U.S. warned Israel not to launch a preemptive strike. Thus, Israel waited until the last minute before mobilizing its troops. It was too late. Prime Minister Meir publicly declared, “We have never faced such a deadly danger.” In three weeks, 2,656 Israeli soldiers -- almost 1 in 1,000 Israelis -- were killed.


The war ended on October 25 with the Israel Defense Forces within striking distance of Damascus and surrounding the Egyptian army. Despite the conflict ending, the country felt enormous trauma. Every family was impacted by knowing someone who died and the pictures of Israeli prisoners of war were forever ingrained in people’s minds. The movie, Golda, which I wrote about several weeks ago, clearly demonstrates this.


Ambassador Oren writes, “The Yom Kippur War shattered Israeli identity. Once confident in their leaders, Israelis suddenly distrusted them. Veterans of the war founded Peace Now to pressure the government to make territorial concessions to the Palestinians. Fearful that it would, religious Zionists established the Bloc of the Faithful to irreversibly settle Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). The left-leaning Labor Party that had led Israel since its independence lost to the right-wing Likud, destined to dominate Israeli politics for 40 of the next 50 years.”


We must also acknowledge that following the 1973 war the U.S.-Israel alliance truly developed and strengthened, ultimately leading to peace agreements with Egypt, Jordan, the Abraham Accords, and potentially normalization with Saudi Arabia.


Taking all of this into account, many in Israel consider what is happening now with the mass protests as the worst crisis since the Yom Kippur War. Commentators say that in contrast to the war, the present threat is internal, and therefore even more dangerous.


Our Sages teach us that the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE on account of sinat chinam (often translated as “baseless hatred”). Jews quarreled fiercely and allowed those quarrels to escalate to mistreatment of one another. We are seeing that play out in Israel.


Several writers have shared the words of Yonatan Netanyahu, the late brother of the current prime minister who died in the raid on Entebbe, which he wrote to his parents following the Yom Kippur War in November 1973, “The wars of the Jews are always the ugliest. The Arabs won’t need to fight. The Jews, as usual, will destroy themselves.”


The Yom Kippur War stands as a turning point in Israel’s history, and as we remember, honor, and reflect, may we also look to the future with hope. Even in the darkest times, the light of determination and resilience shines through, defining a nation not solely by its challenges but by its unwavering spirit.




Here is a wonderful opportunity! Greater Portland Hillel is hosting the second annual Shabbat Across Portland on Friday, November 3Hillel is seeking local families to host Portland-area college students for a home-cooked meal and a night of authentic conversation. What a lovely way to celebrate Shabbat. If interested, register here. (If November 3 does not work for you, you can also select another date to host students on the form).


I encourage women in our community to hear Juju ChangEmmy Award-winning co-anchor of “ABC News Nightline,” at this year’s Women’s Philanthropy IMPACT Event on Thursday, November 16“50% Korean. 100% Jewish.” -- that’s how Jew by Choice Chang describes her three sons with her husband, Neal Shapiro. Juju will share her inspiring journey to Judaism and Jewish identity in this highly personal talk. She will also discuss the historical parallels between Asian hate and antisemitism. Register now.


Do not miss our community’s intergenerational Family Mission to Israel scheduled for August 6-16, 2024. Only 180 spots available (for ages 5-120)! I hope you will consider bringing your family with us. Add your name to the interested list. Information meetings will be scheduled soon and we promise a great experience for all!


Shabbat shalom and chag sameach.


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