A Lifesaving Mitzvah - April 14, 2023

Tuesday night, I had the privilege of driving to B’nai B’rith Camp near Lincoln City for their annual seder for Jewish residents on the coast. The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland has been a proud co-sponsor of the program with B’nai B’rith Camp for several years and this was my first time being able to attend.


It was lovely! Sixty people from 14 towns on the coast (many I have never heard of) joined in a beautiful seder and meal. The camp team did an outstanding job from the seder itself (with a beautifully created Haggadah and camp’s Moses [Felberg] leading) to the delicious food (and perhaps the hottest horseradish I have ever tasted).


There were also multiple community seders during Passover, including one for young adults, as well as this beautiful news story about the Levit Family (who, with your support, we helped resettle from Ukraine in Portland) and their first seder here. Plus, we are grateful to everyone who enabled the Passover 4All program to provide food and support to over 140 families.


These are small examples of “pride points” of our wonderful Jewish community.



You may have seen the news in Israel of the tragic killing of Lucy Dee and her two daughters, Maia and Rina. Last Friday, the three were shot and killed in an ambush by Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank. The family, with the husband traveling in a separate car just ahead with their other children, were on their way to a family vacation in Tiberias. The family, originally from England, moved to Israel eight years ago.


I am unsure how to say this, but can there ever be a silver lining to such a tragedy?


The organs of Lucy Dee were transplanted Tuesday hours before her funeral, saving the lives of five people -- Dee’s heart went to a 51-year-old woman, her liver to a 25-year-old man, and her kidneys to two men — one in his late 30s and one in his late 50s. Her lungs were transplanted into a 58-year-old woman. Her corneas were also harvested and will go to recipients at a later date.


The observant family met with their rabbi to understand the halachot [Jewish laws] and were told it was acceptable — actually a mitzvah. Only the bones and tendons should not be donated, and everything else that is lifesaving could be given.


I share all of this because April is National Donate Life Monthwhich helps raise awareness about being a registered organ, eye, and tissue donor and to honor those that have saved lives through the gift of donation.


To learn more about what Jewish tradition says about organ donation, check these links:


Jewish views on organ donation

Ultra-Orthodoxy and organ donation

Questions and answers about Judaism and Organ donations

Organ donation in Judaism


We are now entering the period often called The Three YomsYom in Hebrew means day -- just a regular, random day. But when you add a powerful word after it, it can change from just a day to something more meaningful: Yom HaShoahYom HaZikaron, Yom HaAtzmaut. These are special days, each one more powerful than the other. I am proud that our community will be highlighting each of these in the days ahead.


Yom HaShoah (Day of [Remembrance for] the Catastrophe (the Holocaust) and the Heroism is marked each year on the 27th of the Hebrew month of Nissan which corresponds to the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising (this year marks the 80th anniversary), a date selected by the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) in 1951.


Our community’s Yom HaShoah candle lighting ceremony will take place on April 17 at 7:00 pm at Congregation Neveh Shalom. The program is presented in partnership with Congregation Neveh Shalom, Oregon Board of Rabbis, and Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education. 


Yom HaShoah is the day set aside in the Jewish calendar to remember those six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and to honor the lives of survivors in our community. Portland's Jewish community will come together with our community's survivors and their descendants, reflect on the meaning of remembrance for the next generation, and commemorate the six million with music (Portland Chamber Music will be performing) and prayer.


Yom HaZikaron is Israel’s Memorial Day. Enshrined into law in 1963 as a day of memory for soldiers who lost their lives in battle on behalf of a Jewish homeland. Happening the day before Israeli Independence Day, the juxtaposition serves as a tribute and reminder that freedom and relative safety enjoyed daily in Israel is only possible because of the individual heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for our people and our shared dream of peace. With the passage of time and the collective trauma due to ongoing conflict and terrorism, the day now honors not just fallen soldiers, but also those who lost their lives in terrorist attacks.


Join us on April 24 at 7:00 p.m. at Congregation Neveh Shalom for Yom HaZikaron. The evening is being organized by Congregation Neveh Shalom, Greater Portland Hillel, and Keruv Levavot.


Yom HaAtzmaut -- Moments after the sun sets on Yom HaZikaron, the flag at Har Herzl (Israel's National military cemetery) is raised from half-staff to full height and an emotional transition from tears to joy happens. This is the onset of Yom HaAtzmaut -- marking the anniversary of Israel declaring its independence on the 5th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar in 1948.


Join in the fun and celebrate Israel’s 75th Independence Day with the Portland Jewish community on April 26 from 4:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center. This celebration is a collaboration of the Mittleman Jewish Community Center, Keruv Levavot, Israeli American Council, Greater Portland Hillel, Israel 360 and Congregation Neveh Shalom with a sponsorship grant from the Jewish Federation.


There will be Israeli food available for purchase, Israeli dancing, trivia, Israeli music sing-along, a photo contest, youth and teen programming, and a DJ to close out the night. It is free and open to all.


I hope you will participate in these meaningful moments.


Shabbat shalom.



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