A Week of Inspiration - November 17, 2023

 Hold the Date:

Community Gathering for the Hostages

Tuesday, November 28 at 7:00 p.m.

Congregation Neveh Shalom


Join our community gathering to offer hope and solidarity for the

240 hostages being held by Hamas and other terrorist organizations.


More information to come.


What an inspiring week!


For many years, I have been invited by our local Chabad rabbis to attend the Chabad International Conference of Shluchim (emissaries) in New York. This year I made the trip. 

To be in a room with 4,000 rabbis literally from around the world and 2,000 participating via simulcast in Israel (they were unable to travel due to the war) was quite amazing. We sang…we danced…we mourned those killed on October 7…prayed for the release of the hostages…and heard stories about the impact of Chabad around the world, especially in Israel today. Most of all, the philosophy of Rabbi Menacham Schneerson, the Rebbe, was felt around the room -- joy is our greatest weapon as we move from darkness to light.


Currently, there are 5,815 shluchim families around the world, with 2,508 of them in the United States (including here in Oregon). At the event they do a “roll call” of every country where shluchim are and when Chabad first started there. The list is amazing!

One of the most meaningful experiences at the dinner was a moving video of a 9-year-old boy who lives in Sderot (a small town right next to Gaza) with him sharing his experiences of growing up in the community. He then appeared on stage wearing the child-sized bulletproof vest and helmet that he, sadly, sometimes has to wear in his hometown. He shared his experiences of running for shelter in Sderot — located so close to the Gaza border that residents have just 12 seconds to protect themselves from incoming rocket and mortar fire — and sometimes not making it in time. He asked the audience to close their eyes and a clock ticked off 12 seconds. The boy then asked everyone to think how much a person can accomplish in such a short period of time. “In 12 seconds, you can simply embrace a Jew, to bring them joy, you can support them, you can make them believe, you can give them life.” It was quite moving.


When I made my plans to attend the Shluchim Conference, no one would have imagined the war in Israel. With the March for Israel taking place this past Tuesday, I was able to stay on the east coast and attend.


I am delighted that 34 Oregonians attended the rally (kudos to Meira Spivak with NCSY and Gitit Dekel Stein with IAC Eitanim Portland for recruiting 24 people) and hundreds of Oregonians here livestreamed the event. Here is a recording of the program.

As you have probably heard, this was the largest Jewish gathering in U.S. history with more than 290,000 people in Washington, D.C. and an estimated 250,000 watching the event via livestream. Sponsored by Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the event was a moving display of unity and solidarity with the people of Israel, calling for the return of the missing hostages captured by Hamas terrorists on October 7, and denouncing the rise of antisemitism since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war.

Speakers included family members of the hostages; Israeli President Isaac Herzog; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.); House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-L.A.); Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. Special Envoy to Combat Antisemitism; and Christian and Muslim leaders. 


Although they did not speak, I stood in the area near dozens of members of Congress from both parties who attended the rally to show their support for Israel.


The State Department’s antisemitism envoy, Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, told the crowd that the Biden administration “stands shoulder to shoulder against Jew-hatred,” saying that “today in America we give antisemitism no sanction, no foothold, no tolerance, not on campus, not in our schools, not in our neighborhoods, not in our streets or the streets of our cities. Not in our government. Nowhere. Not now, not ever.”


Both Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog and Israeli President Isaac Herzog — the latter of whom spoke via livestream from the Western Wall in Jerusalem — addressed the crowd. In his speech, President Herzog praised “The moral clarity and bold actions of our American allies demonstrate the depths of the U.S.-Israel alliance, which is stronger than ever before.”


Rachel Goldberg, whose son, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, was kidnapped, condemned the silence over the hostage crisis. “Why is the world accepting that 240 human beings from almost 30 countries have been stolen and buried alive?” she asked.


Three things stood out:


  • This was an American rally in support of Israel. There were both American and Israeli flags everywhere. That is not something you see at rallies against Israel.


  • It gave me such pride and hope for our Jewish future to see thousands of Jewish youth in attendance from Jewish communities, day schools, youth groups, summer camps, and Hillels. 


  • I will never forget the experience of singing HaTikvah, Israel's national anthem, with 290,000 people. It gave me chills.


When I flew home late Tuesday night following the rally, I could not stop thinking how proud I was to be there with people from across this country standing in solidarity with Israel. 


Last night, the Jewish Federation's Women's Philanthropy held its IMPACT event with over 250 women. Despite world events, you could see the joy on everyone's faces being together in community. Juju Chang, an ABC Newscaster, was our featured speaker. Among many things, she shared her personal journey to Judaism, the fight against antisemitism and anti-Asian hate, and the line we must draw between "free speech" and "hate speech."


Juju ended her remarks with a beautiful comment. As a reporter, she covered the mass shooting at a country music concert in Las Vegas from several years ago. She talked about how a young woman was shot and injured and during the chaos multiple people helped her. Juju said, "It takes only one bad person to help create 100 heroes."


Finally, do not miss Fran Drescher, star of The Nanny and President of SAG/AFTRA, at our Spotlight Event on Saturday, December 2 at The Patricia Reser Center for the Arts. Pick your seats here.


Shabbat shalom.


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