Eight Gifts of Hanukkah

The Jewish Federation is concluding its 100 Days of Impact, the initial phase of our community’s annual campaign. We are on pace to raise in excess of $3 million by the end of this month (an incredible achievement!). Thank you to everyone who has already made their commitment to the 2017 campaign. If you have yet to do so, please make your pledge today (not payable until December 2017).

In addition, you can pay your pledge and receive year-end tax savings here.

We continue to see horrors in our world, from Aleppo to the attack in Berlin. Now entering its sixth year, the conflict in Syria continues to take a drastic toll on the lives of the Syrian people. With more than 11 million innocent civilians forced to flee, the humanitarian crisis has reached grave proportions. The situation in the besieged city of Aleppo is particularly dire, as reports of crimes against humanity have taken the suffering to a new level. 

In addition, on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he has ordered his government to “find ways” to bring injured civilians from Aleppo to Israeli hospitals. This could clear the way for hundreds of Syrians, a country still technically at war with Israel, to cross into the country at the express invitation of a prime minister. Read more here and here.  

Our people have a long history of humanitarian activity aiding both Jews and non-Jews during times of crisis, and we know many of you are looking for a way to help. The Jewish Federation is proud to partner with JDC and the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief (JCDR), which has been delivering humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees and displaced people since 2013. As people in Aleppo are being evacuated, the JCDR is working to ensure that essential items like food, medicine and clean water are delivered in as quick and efficient a manner as possible. You can help support their efforts by donating here.  

As follow-up, here is an update on the Portland City Council and its consideration of adding Caterpillar to the “Do Not Buy List.” Unfortunately, the issue is not yet finished.

Late last week, I received an email from Adam Milstein, an Israeli-American philanthropist, about Hanukkah. I was quite moved by what he wrote and thought I would share an abridged version with you. 

In recounting the heroic story of the Maccabees, the Jewish rebel group that lived in the Land of Israel in the second century BCE, we are reminded that our freedom isn’t guaranteed. During that time, the Land of Israel was dominated by Greek armies. Many Jews sought to assimilate into the Greek culture as a road to political and economic power. 

The Maccabees – a small group of Jews determined to protect their Jewish identity and homeland – used their wits, courage, and determination to defeat the Greeks. 

Today, in the face of challenges, how can we find inspiration in the Maccabees’ example? How do we redouble our commitment to strengthen and secure the future of the Jewish People and the State of Israel? During this season of giving, here is a list of eight gifts – one for each night of Hanukkah – we can give in every Jewish family so that our people will continue to thrive.  

Gift one: Pride
There is nothing more powerful than understanding who you are and taking pride in where you come from. If we can’t instill Jewish pride in our next generation, there will no one left to carry on our tradition and face our future challenges. 

Gift two: Courage
The Jewish People, the Jewish faith, and the State of Israel have only survived because Jews were willing to stand up and fight for what they believed in when our people, our traditions, and our values were threatened. 

Gift three: Persistence
Alongside courage, the Jewish People also need to be consistent and persistent. It’s not enough to stand up once; we need to cultivate a next generation that has the strength and will to stand up, again and again. 

Gift four: Knowledge
Jews have prioritized education above all else. Today we must continue this investment, imparting the knowledge that not only gives our children the ability to thrive in 21st-century careers, but also grounds them in Jewish wisdom, provides a moral center, and makes them committed to family and community. 

Gift five: Innovation
The Jewish propensity to innovate has allowed our people to adapt and succeed in a wide range of cultures, countries and eras. Empowering our children to think “outside the box” will be critical for their success in our modern information era. 

Gift six: Belief in the Impossible
Although we are less than 0.2 percent of the world population, the Jewish People have been able to accomplish extraordinary things. We must empower our children to live their dream, contribute solutions to the challenges facing our world, and believe in the impossible. 

Gift seven: Peoplehood
In the Talmud it says that each member of the Jewish People is responsible one for the other. Instilling this sense of peoplehood in our children gives them confidence that their extended “mishpocha” (family) is behind them and compels them to action when other Jews need their help. 

Gift eight: Passion 
Discovering and channeling your passion in life to make a difference in the world is the key to personal fulfillment. If you don’t make each day matter and don’t have passion for how you spend your time and resources, you don’t have much at all.  

This Hanukkah, let us give and inspire all eight of these gifts – and many more – to enrich the lives of our younger generations, strengthen our families and secure our common future. By uncovering and unleashing the light in all of us, we can continue the miracle of Hanukkah, year after year, writing a new chapter in the story of the Jewish people. 

During these tense times in our country, we have the opportunity to be a “light unto the nations” and to be proud of our heritage. There is a national call for Jews to place their menorahs in their windows for others to see. Take a photo or selfie, and post it on social media with #menorahinthewindow. Share your city and proudly share why you are doing it. 

Let me close with a highlight of my week. On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to witness the first grade class at Maimonides Jewish Day School receive their first Chumash (a Torah in printed form). It was a true celebration! May they, and all the children in our community, continue to learn from our history, teachings and values. 

Shabbat shalom and Happy Hanukkah to you and your family. And since there will be no Marc’s Remarks next Friday, best wishes for a wonderful secular new year.



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