Annual Report and Family History - August 18, 2023

The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland’s 2022-2023 Annual Report is now available. Our community should be very proud of its accomplishments over the past 12 months (our fiscal year runs July 2022 – June 2023). It is always our goal to be as transparent as possible. I hope you will read the report and feel free to email me with any comments or questions.


A special thank you to our professional team for putting the report together within six weeks of closing our fiscal year.


At the end of the report is the announcement for our Family Mission to Israel, scheduled for August 6-16, 2024Based on the success of our trip last March, we are providing an opportunity for multiple generations of families to experience Israel together. Once again, the Jewish Federation is subsidizing the cost. We hope you will consider joining us (bring your children, grandchildren, parents, cousins, etc.), whether it’s your first trip to Israel or you are a return visitor. We have only 180 spaces available, so get your name on the interested list as soon as possible.


Yesterday, Mindy Zeitzer, Chair of the Board, and I were interviewed by KGW anchor Laural Porter for the TV program, Straight Talk (airing on Channel 8 multiple times -- tonight at 7:00 p.m., on Saturday at

5:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., and 6:30 p.m., and on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.). We discussed the recent Jewish community study. This is the first time the Jewish community has been highlighted on the program and we are excited to share the findings with the general community. Laural was outstanding in her preparations (and prepping us), and we are grateful for the opportunity.


I cannot express enough how fortunate we are to have such a caring community. Hundreds of community members -- and people from as far away as Florida, New York, Missouri, and California – have supported our Hawaii Relief FundWe were the first Jewish community in North America to open a “mailbox” to help.


The videos and pictures of the damage are devastating. And you were there to help. Over $25,000 in donations have already been forwarded to multiple groups in Maui, including the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund, Jewish Community Services of Hawaii, Jewish Congregation of Maui, and Chabad of Maui. Each plays their own role in helping people in distress and providing needed food, shelter, clothing, and loving care. The work continues and we encourage you to donate to the fund to help the people who have lost everything.


We need one volunteer for our Hood to Coast Team for August 25 at the starting line from 4:45 - 8:30 a.m. Please click here if available. 



Allow me to share a personal story with you.


On my sabbatical, my family visited Amsterdam. I had never been there before and was focused on seeing the bicycles, canals, and making a visit to the Anne Frank House. But our time there turned into so much more.


My maternal grandfather’s family was from Holland, although my grandfather was the first generation born in America. They were Sephardic Jews who we have records of being in Holland since the early 1700s and were probably originally from Spain. They lived in Gelderland (the family name was van Gelder), which is in the center-east of The Netherlands and the largest province by land area.


Before leaving on our trip, I asked my sister if she had a copy of the van Gelder family tree so I could learn more. And did I ever.


I do not recall ever being told that I had family members who perished in the Holocaust. My father’s family was all in America by the early 1900s. My maternal grandmother’s family came to America in the 1830s. And my maternal great-grandfather, Moses van Gelder (from Holland), was here before 1900. What I did not know is he had brothers and sisters who perished in the Holocaust at Auschwitz, Sobibor, and Mauthausen.


While in Amsterdam, we took a tour of the Jewish sites, including their meaningful and impressive outdoor Dutch Holocaust Memorial of NamesThere are 102,000 bricks, each inscribed with a name of someone from Holland who died in the Holocaust, as well as leaving 1,000 blank bricks that memorialize the unknown victims of the Holocaust. 

I was able to find multiple members of my family, including Moses’s brother, Abraham van Gelder (he is the middle one born in 1880 on the photo). I must say I was moved by all of this.

Following the Holocaust Memorial we had a scheduled tour of the Anne Frank House.

Hopefully, you have read the Diary of Anne Frank. The secret annex is just as described in the book and there for you to see. You wonder in amazement how eight people lived there for 761 days until being discovered on August 4, 1944.


At the very end of the tour in the house, there was a sheet of paper on the wall. I am unsure why it caught my attention, but it did. It was the train transport list to Auschwitz that included the Frank family -- Anne is number 309. As I looked more closely and scrolled down the list, I got to number 332 – Abraham van Gelder. Could my relative have been on the same train as Anne Frank?

Due to the record keeping of both the Nazis and the Dutch government, we know this is a different Abraham van Gelder (he is the top name in the photo above from the Memorial). Sadly, however, both were murdered at Auschwitz.


I share this for a few reasons. First, this trip was a moving "family learning” experience. I never knew about my family and the Holocaust. Second, I realize even more the importance of educating ourselves and future generations on where our families came from. History and stories are too easily forgotten as the generations pass.


Shabbat shalom.


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