Efforts in Turkey, Syria, and DC - February 10, 2023

We are devastated watching the news from the tragic earthquake in Turkey and Syria. The death toll is now above 22,000 and rising, especially as the days pass with the snow and freezing temperatures. Antakya was the epicenter of the earthquake and the town’s synagogue was partially destroyed. Here is footage of the synagogue’s Torah scrolls being removed to safety.


This tragedy is a reminder of the importance of our global humanitarian network, which is supported through your generosity to the Jewish Federation’s Annual Campaign. Our core partners, the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) have had professionals on the ground in Turkey for decades before this earthquake. They support the Jewish community every day -- and because they are there (with your support), they immediately provided broad assistance. 


The Jewish Federation has opened a mailbox so you can provide emergency financial support for this humanitarian effort. 100% of all dollars raised go directly to help those in need.


Here is a summary of the efforts underway:


  • JDC is helping some of the estimated one million people left without homes cope with living outdoors in difficult freezing conditions. JDC is supplying thousands of tents, heaters, thermal clothing, ready to eat meals, and first aid kits.


  • The IDF sent a delegation of search and rescue experts to establish field hospitals and to assist with rescue activities.


  • To date, 18 victims of the quake have been saved by Israeli teams, including a girl buried in the remains of her home where her mother and two siblings were killed. Her father, devastated by the death of his wife and two daughters, is being treated by a psycho-trauma team.


  • Two boys were saved because their sounds of life were detected by a specialized Israeli drone.


  • You can see moving footage of rescues here and video of IDF Search and Rescue Team Commander, Maj (res.) Matan Schneider, describing the operation here


  • Something that has not been mentioned enough in the American press is Israel sending aid to Syria, including tents, medication, and blankets. The Syrian government has denied requesting aid from Israel. Israel and Syria do not have diplomatic ties. In the past, during Syria’s ongoing civil war, Israel carried out significant humanitarian operations to treat wounded Syrian civilians.


  • Volunteers from United Hatzalah and IsraAID have brought doctors, paramedics, trauma experts, water purification systems, tents and tent heaters, blankets and thermal clothing, coats and boots, and ten tons of equipment and humanitarian aid.


The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland continues to work closely with our partners to monitor the situation. We hope you will give generously to this ongoing effort.



This past week, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) held its Board of Directors meeting. Among the business items was the approval of the Jewish Federations’ 2023 national public policy priorities (I previously shared our local priorities). These priorities advance the ability of Jewish Federations and other Jewish communal organizations to support healthy, safe, and caring communities.


Public Policy Priorities areas for 2023 include:


Health and Human Services


  • Health Care, Services for Vulnerable or Disadvantaged Populations, Including Older Adults and People with Disabilities: Safeguarding long-term care and safety net support programs, including but not limited to protecting Medicaid and Medicare; advancing programs and services to enable people with disabilities to achieve maximum independence, community, and inclusion; strengthening access to mental health and health care, including by supporting innovations that increase accessibility and fiscal responsibility; supporting reproductive health and the ability to follow personal religious beliefs; and supporting programs for older adults.


  • Holocaust Survivors: Ensuring that Holocaust survivors receive support to live with dignity and an enhanced quality of life by promoting person-centered, trauma-informed care.


  • Economic Vulnerability: Supporting programs that alleviate poverty and promote economic mobility for low-income Jews and other communities, such as expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit; and addressing food insecurity, including through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program.


Jewish Communal Security and Support for Israel


  • Safety and Security: Protecting and expanding the Nonprofit Security Grant Program; promoting and accessing other security enhancements that safeguard high-risk nonprofits and communities; and advancing community safety.


  • Combatting Antisemitism: Combatting antisemitism through coordinated governmental approaches; expanding Holocaust and genocide education.


  • Support for Israel: In partnership with JFNA’s Israel Office, supporting Israel’s security and addressing delegitimization of Israel, including by combatting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement; advancing policies that help normalize relations between Israel and other countries; and supporting a two-state solution where Israel lives in peace with a demilitarized Palestinian state.


Communal Infrastructure


  • Charitable Protections: Encourage the efficient and responsible administration of national tax policy to support and encourage philanthropic activity.


  • Stability of Communal Institutions: Maintaining or expanding nonprofit infrastructure and relief funding; responding to natural disasters; and ensuring access to resources for Jewish institutions including community centers, childcare providers, and schools to serve the community while supporting public education.


Human and Civil Rights:


  • Combatting all forms of hate, extremism, antisemitism, racism, and discrimination, including those harming LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities, including support for legislation and developing resources to address hate crimes and combat abuse and harassment.


  • Refugees and Immigration: Supporting Jews and other marginalized populations fleeing persecution.


  • Supporting civic engagement to foster a stable democratic environment in which our communities can flourish.


I share all of this because of the outsized role the national Jewish Federation system plays in Washington, DC on behalf of the Jewish people. Our efforts bring billions of dollars to Jewish communities across our country for needed social services, security, and the stability of Jewish communal institutions. We should all take great pride in this work.


Please note that Jewish Family and Child Service is sponsoring a lecture on Sunday, February 19 at 2:00 p.m. at Congregation Beth Israel. Professor Natan Meir of Portland State University will speak on, “The Neglected Survivors: Soviet Jews Under Nazi Rule. His talk will explore:


  • The Soviet Jewish experience of the Holocaust
  • The suppression of Soviet Jews’ ability to memorialize their dead and process wartime tragedies
  • Postwar Soviet repression and antisemitism


David Sarasohn, former columnist of The Oregonian, will emcee a Q&A following the talk. The lecture is free and open to the public. It will also be livestreamed with closed-captioning.


Shabbat shalom and let us all say special blessings for those lost in the earthquake, their loved ones, and those helping with the rescue efforts.


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