Catching Up On Things - November 18, 2022

The Jewish Federation’s 2023 Campaign for Community Needs continues to push forward. We have now raised $2.4 million following a hugely successful Super Sunday and the work of our campaign volunteers. Thank you to everyone who has already made their commitment to the campaign.


As I have shared before, we wish everyone in our community would consider making a gift to the annual campaign. These dollars go to support some 50 Jewish organizations and make a tremendous impact in the lives of so many. Moreover, it is one way you can help safeguard and enrich our Jewish community for years to come. Please give generously.



This past week, I had the opportunity to spend time with the new Consul-General for Israel for the Pacific Northwest (includes Northern California, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington). Ambassador Marco Sermoneta is a veteran Israeli diplomat who speaks five languages with a resume of impressive former postings. He was Israel’s ambassador to Colombia and several Caribbean nations, held high positions at embassies in Canada, Japan and Ireland, and also served as a counselor with the Israeli missions to the United Nations and NATO.


Ambassador Sermoneta was born in Rome to a family whose Italian roots date back centuries. His family made aliyah to Israel when he was five years old, arriving in Israel the day before the outbreak of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.


The focus for his visit was three-fold:


  • Have initial meetings with Jewish and non-Jewish community leaders (including volunteer and professional leaders at various Jewish organizations, rabbis, editors of The Oregonian and Willamette Week, president at Portland State University, etc.) to develop relationships going forward.


  • Discuss enhanced connections with our elected officials. There is a strong desire for a “trade mission” to Israel focused on technologies that can be shared between Oregon and Israel and major companies here investing in Israel.


  • Better understand ways the Consulate can be supportive of the fight against antisemitism and the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.


Ambassador Sermoneta is a true delight and we look forward to working with him in the years ahead. The next issue of the Jewish Review will have a more complete story about his visit.


The Jewish Community Study continues to press forward. We are now over 65% towards our target number of survey respondents. If you receive an email, text, or phone call, we do hope you will participate. Your input and data matters! The survey field work will end by January.


One question that I hear repeatedly is “How do you find those people not connected anywhere?” Brandeis University utilizes multiple tools and to date some 47 survey respondents were not on any organizational list (this may not sound like a lot, but the organizational lists combined for 46,000 names – not all Jewish). Brandeis University noted how they have completed numerous other community studies where they do not have that many by the close of data collection.


For those who received the survey (via email, text, or phone), if you have not already, fill it out. Your voice is important. Plus, the faster we get to our survey goal, the more time that can be devoted to the “hard-to-get and less-engaged folks” who are the key to ensuring that we have the most accurate estimates possible.


The results will be shared in May 2023.


It has been a while since I shared about the situation in Ukraine and refugees coming to Portland.


As temperatures fall and Russian attacks on Ukraine ramp up, Jewish groups are directing their efforts to making sure people remain warm and safe in the coming months. Currently, due to Russian airstrikes, some 10 million people are without power with the cold winter and snow upon them. Jewish Federations of North America just allocated another $7 million for the Ukraine effort, adding to the $78 million Jewish Federations have donated already. The new funding will pay for supplies (blankets, portable heaters and stoves, shelf-stable foods, and other emergency items) to help people manage the dangerous winter.


Here in Portland, we are still waiting for refugee families to arrive (we had every expectation they would arrive sooner, but the "matching process" has been slow). We have two synagogues who created “Welcome Circles” to assist families upon their arrival. Each has been matched with refugees and we look forward to welcoming them to Portland. With your generosity the Jewish Federation has the needed funds to financially support these individuals as they settle into their new homes (housing, utilities, food, transportation, etc.). We also know of several individual Jewish families who are welcoming refugees and the Jewish Federation has offered financial support.


We will keep you posted as these families arrive.


Next Tuesday evening we mark the holiday of Sigd, a Jewish holiday that has been preserved by Ethiopian Jews for centuries. The holiday falls 50 days after Yom Kippur, on the 29th of Cheshvan on the Hebrew calendar. This is thought to be the date when God first revealed himself to Moses.


In Ethiopia, on the day of the holiday, the community fasts before ascending a high mountain. At the top, the Qesoch (Jewish leaders/rabbis) do a public reading from their scriptures, which are called the Octateuch, the five books of Moses plus Joshua, Judges, and Ruth), recite psalms, and pray for the rebuilding of the Temple. At the end of the ceremony, they blow trumpets and declare their desire to celebrate next year in Jerusalem. Following this, the community descends to the village for singing and dancing.


In 2008, Sigd was established as an official national holiday in Israel. 


Today, celebrating Sigd is as relevant as ever as it is an opportunity to integrate the unique traditions of the holiday preserved by Ethiopian Jews and create a multicultural and diverse Israeli society that reflects and is accepting of all its people. The root of the Sigd holiday is about longing for Jerusalem. And that’s why Jews continue to celebrate Sigd -- even in Jerusalem, because there are still other Jews who long to be in Jerusalem who have not yet fulfilled the dream and, sadly, too many who died on the way.


Finally, as we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday next week, here are 11 Jewish-inspired recipes you may wish to add to your menu.

Shabbat shalom.


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