A New Year

I am proud to report that the Jewish Federation’s total resource development effort has now raised over $3.2 million – that is 88% of our total from last year – all in just 108 days. Fantastic! What an incredible pace! 

We are grateful to those who made their commitment during this time, but there is still more to be done. Our goal is to conclude our campaign by the end of March (understanding our campaign year officially ends on June 30) to better assist the allocations process. Every year, a diverse and committed group of volunteers spend multiple months making difficult decisions on how the campaign will be allocated. To know as early as possible the funds available makes their work that much more strategic and positive. Therefore, if you have yet to make your commitment to campaign 2015, please do so now.

Once again, mazel tov to Laurie Rogoway on her retirement following 31 years at the Jewish Federation. In recognition of Laurie, the Jewish Federation has created the Laurie Rogoway Jewish Communal Professional of the Year Award. This annual award will recognize an outstanding Jewish communal professional from any of our Jewish organizations with the recipient receiving up to $1,000 for a professional development opportunity of their choice. We believe this is a fitting way to honor Laurie.

Over the past few weeks I have taken the opportunity for both personal and professional reflection. It’s the new year. I have been thinking about what I can do better in 2015 – as a husband, father, individual, Jewish professional, etc. I am always interested in growing and learning more.

Last year at this time, I shared with our community the Jewish Portland Tomorrow committee’s concept of a transformative model for our Jewish community. It was met with both “cheers and jeers.” You may recall we brought in an outside consultant to gather more input and to share his insights on the feasibility of the ideas. His findings were quite clear – the concept was poorly communicated, yet change is necessary, and many resist it.

We learn. I know I learned. Most understand the changing dynamics of Jewish life. More people wanted to be consulted and/or to be a part of the process. At the same time, some wondered why change was needed at all. Change is one thing – but this was about a true transformation.

Despite the “push back” on Jewish Portland Tomorrow, there has been movement within our Jewish community. In the past 7 months, Jewish organizations/programs have merged/integrated (i.e. Oregon Jewish Museum and the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center) with other possibilities in the future. Greater Portland Hillel and the MJCC created a shared staffing position. New programs and services to address Jewish identity have been created. In part, I believe, the premise behind the Jewish Portland Tomorrow moved many of these opportunities forward.

Last week, there was an article written by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner (now Scholar-in-Residence at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco and noted author) and his daughter, Rabbi Noa Kushner (founding rabbi of The Kitchen in San Francisco). The article was originally published in the CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly in Fall 2013 and a follow up to Rabbi Lawrence Kushner’s original article from 1984 titled, “The Tent Peg Business” about making places for serious religious life. The new article is an updated version with several new thoughts that respond to what they perceive to be the current Jewish reality. Of the 37 “pegs” in the article, several stood out to me.

  1. A goal of all institutions is stability and longevity. But, our question is: At what points do stability and longevity compromise the business of nourishing and enlivening Jews and Jewish experiences?

  1. At the same time, to be sure, an innovative idea is not inherently successful by virtue of its novelty alone. There is only one test: Does the idea build Jews?

  1. Just because it works for one generation does not mean it will work for the next. In fact, we might even say that if it worked for one generation, that is a good indication that it will not work for the next.

Our community is blessed with many successful programs, services, and organizations that are “building Jews” (self-defined) and creating meaningful Jewish experiences. But, we also must acknowledge the gaps in Jewish life or initiatives/ideas we are not currently supporting or creating. 

Hal Lewis, President of Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago, recently wrote, “For many of us in the Jewish community, it is not easy to walk away from established programs, especially if they happen to be beloved by board members or funders. Plus, organizational culture is often the antithesis of change. Past practice becomes an excuse for failing to try new things. Too frequently, big dreams come to die, not incubate, in the culture of community organizations.”

To paraphrase Albert Einstein, we can all learn from yesterday, live for today, but most of all, dream for tomorrow. In 2015, let’s continue to dream together!

Speaking of dreamers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”

From Ferguson to Paris, the past months and weeks have been challenging for us all. As we head into the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, we have an opportunity to drive out darkness with light, to join together over Shabbat with the people who matter most to us, and together bring light into our lives and the world.

Shabbat shalom.


PS - Thank you to the many of you who wrote letters in support to the leaders of the French Jewish community. The outpouring of support from Portland is greatly appreciated. I also want to share with you a moving letter Congregation Shir Tikvah received from Rabbi Tom Cohen in Paris. 


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