The debate about the Iran deal continues to evoke passions and energies on all sides of the issue. Earlier this week, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) coordinated a webcast with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. You can view the 25 minute webcast by clicking here. To provide more information, JFNA has scheduled a webcast with Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz on Thursday, August 13 at 11:00 a.m. Please click here to register for the webcast.

As we continue to enjoy this beautiful summer in Portland, I do want to share with you several exciting initiatives for the Jewish Federation and our Jewish community. Before I do that, I must share the following story.

It was during one of the 95+ degree days in Portland and the person at the grocery store cash register was complaining about how hot it was outside. I shared with her that I grew up in Florida where 95+ degree days were common, plus the added enjoyment of 100% humidity. I commented that I did not mind the heat and was just enjoying the beautiful sunshine. She turns to me and says, “Do you know the difference between 90+ degree days and 12 inches of snow? Nothing. In both cases I do not want to leave the house.”

Here some quick highlights:

  • I am excited to report that our PJ Library efforts continue to make a difference. Earlier this summer, the Jewish Federation was awarded a $15,000 grant from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF) for community engagement efforts to participating PJ Library families, including neighborhood story hours starting next month. I am also pleased to report that we received funding from the HGF to expand our PJ Library offerings to 9-11 year olds with PJ Our Way. In April we were awarded an Alliance Subscription Grant to increase our PJ Library eligibility to children age 8 (previously it was age 6). So, in just a short period of time, we have increased PJ Library offerings from 6 months to 6 years -- all the way now to age 11, which will increase opportunities greatly. For those of you with children in this age group, look for additional information coming soon.
  • The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland has been accepted into the inaugural cohort for the national Amplifier Jewish Giving Circle Incubator. This program is being coordinated through the Natan Fund of New York. Thirty Jewish communities were selected for this pilot project to create new “giving circles.” A “giving circle” is simply a group of people all contributing to a single fund and then democratically deciding as a group where those funds will go. The Oregon Jewish Community Foundation will also be participating in the program.
  • Another initiative we have been working on is the expansion of “inclusion” in our Jewish community. I am pleased to share that the Jewish Federation will be bringing in Batya Jacob from Yachad/The National Jewish Council for Disabilities for trainings with both local Jewish educators and students. A workshop is scheduled for February 2016 for the educators, followed by “sensitivity” workshops at our various Jewish day schools. In addition, we are working to coordinate a breakfast for educators and clergy to discuss disabilities and inclusion in the synagogues.
  • Mark your calendar for a spectacular and fun Jewish Federation Gala on Saturday, November 14 with our guest speaker William Shatner. The event will include: great entertainment, delicious food, and an after-party. More details coming in the upcoming weeks.

I am often asked, “Why Federation?” I think one could even ask, “Why ____?”(Fill in the blank with any organization.) I have many answers about the vital role we play in our Jewish community. But I found a recent comment by the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (DC) quite illuminating.

Steve Rakitt wrote, “Jewish Federations are legacy institutions that have become counter-cultural. In an age of rampant individualism, we proudly promote collectivism. In an age of, “What’s in it for me?” we ask, “What’s in it for the community?” And at a time when philanthropy is increasingly targeted, we say that no one gift touches more lives. And that is what’s most important.

We touch, change and save thousands of lives every day. We convene important communal discussions and take decisive action. We partner with, and support, a vast network of social, educational and Jewish identity-building services and programs which are making a profound difference in Jewish lives and in our communities. We help shape the Jewish future. That is the “beautiful” side of Federations."

Although I have devoted my career to Jewish professional leadership, I, too, am a part of our Jewish community. I want to enrich my family's Jewish experiences, Jewish identities, and connections. Thus, I devote my time and my philanthropic dollars to our Jewish Federation because I wake up every morning and know that our contribution to the Annual Campaign, combined with thousands of people, makes a difference in the lives of others, Jewish and not, every day.

Soon we will begin Campaign 2016. We hope to raise as much of our campaign as possible in the first 100 days – or, as we call it, 100 Days of Impact. Please, when called upon, enable Jewish families like yours and mine to continue the joyous opportunities we should never take for granted.

Together, let’s maintain the counter-cultural nature of our city and the Jewish Federation.

Shabbat shalom.



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