By Spirit Alone

The holiday of Chanukah begins this Sunday night. The Chanukah story took place some 2,200 years ago when Antiochus IV decided to forbid Jews to practice their religion and set a statue of Zeus inside the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Maccabees could not accept what was happening and fought for our people’s religious freedom, winning a stunning victory against the most powerful army of the time. After three hard fought years they reconquered Jerusalem, rededicated the Temple, and relit the menorah with the infamous jar of undefiled oil they found.

This was one of the most stunning military achievements of the ancient world. The Maccabees did not have the numbers nor the weapons to defeat such an army. Their victory is summed up in a wonderful line from the prophet Zachariah (and a camp song favorite): not by might and not by power, but by spirit alone. The Maccabees were filled with undeniable spirit to fight for our freedom. This just shows how a handful of dedicated people truly can change Register Today! Sunday, December 2nd Find out how your spare change can make a difference the world. The Maccabees did then. We can do it today.

Now, we know the miracles of Chanukah -- the military victory of the Maccabees, and the miracle of the oil that should have lasted one day but stayed burning for eight. But there was a third miracle that Rabbi Jonathan Sacks describes, which took place several centuries later.

After the destruction of the second Temple, many rabbis were convinced that Chanukah should be abolished (in the Talmud we learn that the city of Lod actually ended the holiday). After all, it celebrated the rededication of the Temple. Yet the Temple was no more having been destroyed. Without a Temple, what was there left to celebrate?

Rabbi Sacks responded, “Though the Temple was destroyed, Jewish hope was not destroyed. We may have lost the building but we still had the story, and the memory, and the light. And what had happened once in the days of the Maccabees could happen again. And it was those words, od lo avdah tikvatenu, “our hope is not destroyed,” became part of the song, Hatikvah, that inspired Jews to return to Israel and rebuild their ancient state. So as you light the Chanukah candles remember this -- the Jewish people kept hope alive, and hope kept the Jewish people alive. We are the voice of hope in the conversation of humankind.

Speaking of Chanukah, please click here to learn more about all the wonderful Chanukah festivities around town.

Several weeks ago I shared about the Oregon Chanukah Essay contest 3rd-6th graders. I am pleased to share that dozens of children -- from the three Jewish day schools in Portland, all the way to Yujin Gakuen School in Eugene - - wrote on “What Freedom Means to Me.” The students’ responses were very impressive and wide-ranging. Their reflections included the story of Chanukah itself, slavery versus freedom, free thinking versus chained wrists, love of family, great food, and, of course, exciting presents.

Mazel tov to this year’s winners -- Reuben Lev, a 3rd grader at Portland Jewish Academy, and Yehudis Rivkin, a 5th grader at Maimonides Jewish Day School. Click here to read the winning essays.

Yesterday you should have received an email about a special “change” opportunity for our community. We have partnered with RoundUp, a secure and simple app that will “round up” your credit/debit card charges to the nearest dollar with the “extra change” coming to the Jewish Federation. This is highly secure and safe to do – and takes 60 seconds to enroll. If everyone in Jewish Greater Portland participated and had $1 per week of “extra change,” our community could raise in excess of $1.8 million in a year. Think of the change your change can make!

You know by now how excited I am about our Centennial Trip to Israel in March 2020. Over 400 people registered during our early-bird special. We are the talk of the Jewish Federation and Jewish travel world with our initial success. Originally we had a dream goal of 500 people. Well, why not raise that to 600+ people?

We are currently running a Chanukah Would you like up to $2000 towards your child's Jewish preschool tuition? $1,000 Incentive for first-time Overnight Campers! sale through December 15 where you can save $250 per person off the registration cost (now $2,750 for adults, $2,250 for teens and $2,050 for children ages 5-13). This is still a savings of over $1,400 per person from the actual cost. Sign up now because the price will never be this low again.

Earlier this week, the Jewish Federation sponsored its annual Doing Tuesday. Over 100 community members had a great time volunteering at the Oregon Food Bank. Federation received an award in recognition of its 1,023 cumulative hours volunteered there.

For all the young adults in our community, we invite you to attend the 3rd Annual Portland Latke Ball this Saturday night at The Eleanor (1605 NW Everett Street). Join other young adults to celebrate Chanukah with food, friends, games, drinks, and dancing! Cost is $15/advance, $18/door which includes entry, hors d’oeuvres, one drink ticket, cash bar, live DJ, and more! Must be 21 or older and a valid ID is required at the venue. Get your ticket here.

The Latke Ball is a collaborative event brought to you by the MJCC, BB Camp, Jews Next Dor, Moishe House PDX, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland.

Finally, we welcome all of you to join us for Super Sunday in two days. Come and make calls to support our Campaign for Community Needs. Walkins are welcomed and encouraged. And if you cannot be there in person, we ask that you “answer the call” and give generously to the campaign.

Shabbat shalom and may everyone have a Happy Chanukah!

- Marc


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