A Legal And Communal Loss - May 19, 2023

When someone my grandmother really liked passed away, she would say, “We lost a good one.” Our community did on Wednesday.


Judge Rick Haselton (z”l), who served on the Oregon Court of Appeals for close to 22 years, including almost four as its Chief Judge, passed away earlier this week. Rick was a giant in the legal community, passionate and involved in the Jewish community, and a kind-hearted, menschlekeit gentleman (that is an understatement) who loved to engage in conversation and discourse. I was privileged to work with Rick while he served on the Jewish Federation Board. He was always insightful and willing to share his convictions and thinking. Whether following a Board meeting or after reading this weekly email, Rick would often write me very supportive and encouraging notes to “use our best judgment to keep doing what is right.”


Parashat Shoftim includes the famous line, "Justice...Justice...You Shall Pursue..." It opens with the summons to “appoint judges and officials for your tribes...and they shall govern the people with due justice. You shall not judge unfairly.” (Deuteronomy 16:18). With those words, and in countless other places, Moses insists that justice is an eternal religious obligation, at the very core of what it means to be a Jew. Rick embodied that spirit in his legal profession and in what he personally did for our Jewish community.


Here is an interesting article from Oregon Jewish Life magazine from almost 11 years ago about Rick and how Judaism guided his legal work.


Our heartfelt condolences go to his wife, Sura, and daughter, Molly. May they be comforted by the mourners of Zion and may his memory be for a blessing. Baruch Dayan haEmet.



Today is Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), which commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem under Jewish sovereignty in 1967. It is celebrated on the 28th day of Iyar (six weeks after the Passover seder, one week before the eve of Shavuot).


King David conquered Jerusalem in approximately 1000 BCE and made it his capital. Twice the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed (586 BCE and 70 CE) and the city was conquered. Jews were exiled. For 2000 years, Jerusalem remained our spiritual capital, including our daily prayers referring to Jerusalem and the direction we face when we pray.


Prior to Israel’s founding 75 years ago, the United Nations “Partition Plan” maintained Jerusalem would be an “international city.” However, following the Israeli War of Independence in 1948, the city of Jerusalem was divided, with the ancient eastern side falling under Jordanian control, and the more recently-developed western side falling under Israeli control. On the third day of the Six-Day War in June 1967, the Israeli army captured the eastern part of the city. The 1967 victory marked the first time in 2000 years that all of Jerusalem came under Jewish control. It also provided Jews access to the holiest parts of the city, especially the Western Wall (a remnant of the ancient Temple), which they could not do for all those years. At the same time, they maintained the openness for all people to experience their holy sites in the city.


Today, many Jews went to Jerusalem, proud of their eternal capital. At the same time, the international community still has never approved of the city's “reunification” under Israeli sovereignty, and many countries have not recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. Interestingly, it was not until July 30, 1980 that the Knesset passed the Jerusalem Law as part of the country’s Basic Law, which declared Jerusalem the unified capital of Israel. And the United States officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital on December 6, 2017. 


I am sharing with you Haviv Rettig Gur’s article about Jerusalem Day. It is an important read.


In the article he writes:


The paratroopers who captured the Old City’s winding alleyways, operating without tank or artillery cover out of fear of damaging the city’s holy places, had to wend their way through a demolished Jewish Quarter destroyed by the Jordanians during their 19-year occupation of the city. They walked through those ruins right up to the Wailing Wall, bringing the Jews home at last.


As the poet Haim Hefer would put it:


This Wall has heard many prayers,

This Wall has seen many fortifications crumble,

This Wall has felt the hands of grieving women

And the notes pushed between its stones,

This Wall saw Rabbi Judah Halevi collapse before it,

This Wall has seen emperors arise and be forgotten,

But this Wall has not yet seen paratroopers weeping.


The Biblical prophets are unanimous in their belief in an ultimate redemption that comes only after great suffering and tribulation. It is hard to imagine a more perfect rendering of that duality than the mere 22 years that separated Auschwitz from the paratroopers at the Wall, the return to the heavy stones of mother Jerusalem, to the beating heart of Jewish history and geography.


I encourage you to also read this thoughtful article by Peta Jones Pellach using Psalm 122 as her guidepost. While Jerusalem is indeed united according to Israeli law, the reality on the ground tells another story.



We have some amazing young people coming through our Hillel programs. Last week I shared about two students involved at Greater Portland Hillel. This week I want to highlight Luda Isakharov, a student leader at Oregon Hillel and the Chabad at the University of Oregon, including being the organizer of the campus’ Israel at 75 celebrations. Moreover, she just finished her term as the President of the ASUO (student government) and is the third person from the University of Oregon to be selected as a Truman ScholarThe Harry S. Truman Foundation selects students who have demonstrated leadership in public service and provides them with up to $30,000 for graduate study in pursuit of a career serving the public. Only 62 individuals from across the country were selected for this prestigious honor. Mazel tov to Luda.


Reminder – please join us in-person for the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland’s 103rd Annual Meeting on Tuesday, June 6 at 7:00 p.m. at the Mittleman Jewish Community CenterRegister here.


Shabbat shalom. 



Add Comment