Fifty Years of Stronger Relations

We are currently 30 days into our 100 Days of Impact for our community’s campaign. To date, we have raised in excess of $1.5 million, an incredible start to the year. For our community to be successful, we need everyone’s support by making your generous donation.

Remember, we have an anonymous donor who will match dollar for dollar every increase of 10% over last year’s pledge AND any new gift to our campaign. Join in this communal effort as we strive to strengthen Jewish Portland for generations to come.

The Federation Gala, featuring William Shatner, scheduled for Saturday, November 14 at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center is SOLD OUT. We are excited to have over 500 community members join us for what will be an entertaining and fun evening, all to benefit our Jewish community.

October 28, 1965 transformed Catholic-Jewish relations. Fifty years ago a landmark document inaugurated historic changes in the Catholic Church’s relations with other faiths. That document, officially titled the Declaration on the Relations of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, better known as Nostra Aetate (“In Our Time”) opened the door for Catholics to that which is “true and holy” in other religions, extending a hand to Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam — as well as to Judaism.

To mark the 50th anniversary of that document that redefined the Church’s relations with non-Christians, in particular with the Jewish community, our Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), with additional partners, has planned a commemoration, celebration and reflection program this Sunday, October 25 from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. at Congregation Beth Israel (free and open to the entire community). Congregation Beth Israel Rabbi Emeritus Emanuel Rose, Chancellor of the Portland Archdiocese Mary Jo Tully, and University of Portland Professor Michael Cameron will share their insights and reflections about Nostra Aetate and Jewish-Catholic relations moving forward. Susan Abravanel, former JCRC Chair and President of the AJC Portland Chapter, will moderate the discussion. It will be a very informative and special event.

The declaration’s 600-word section on Judaism — approximately one-third of the document — rejects the charge, long-leveled against the collective Jewish people, that Jews are guilty of killing Jesus. It also prohibits condemns “all hatreds, persecutions, and displays of anti-Semitism” directed against the Jews at any time or from any source. The document also stresses the religious bond and spiritual legacy shared by Jews and Christians and intentionally repudiates any desire for Jews to become Christians. The document directly contradicts the prior practice of discouraging Catholics from conversing with Jews on religious matters, which has contributed to numerous interfaith dialogues and the promotion of Christian-Jewish studies.

Thus, Nostra Aetate reversed nearly two millennia of Christian enmity toward Jews and Judaism that had led to violence and death. The issues that separated the Jewish and Catholic communities were deep-seated and profound. So what changed after so many centuries? How did Nostra Aetate happen? The program this Sunday will provide interesting insights into these and other important questions.

Rabbi Noam E. Marans, the American Jewish Committee’s Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, wrote, Nostra Aetate has been liberating for both Christians and Jews. It has enabled Christianity to advance beyond its burdensome past regarding Jews and Judaism. And it represents for Jews the possibility that Christianity would no longer threaten their security and well-being. For creative Jewish religious thinkers, it facilitated consideration of a positive role for Christianity in the divine plan.

Given the remarkable normalization of interaction over the past half-century, it is understandable that many take such gains for granted. But in this Nostra Aetate jubilee year, we should recognize and acknowledge the courage of Catholics and Jews: Catholics who faced and addressed Christianity’s tragic anti-Jewish past, and Jews who were receptive to Christian change.”

Join us and learn more on Sunday for this landmark event.

On another important note, this week’s Oregonian included an article about the growth of the Orthodox Jewish population in Portland. The upbeat article highlighted many wonderful happenings here in Portland.

Upon reading the article, a quote from a Jewish Federation representative was taken out of context. We are grateful to the reporter for clarifying this on the Oregonian blog, “I want to be really clear about what was being said. The representative wasn’t being critical or pessimistic at all – she was speaking realistically about how Portland’s Orthodox community isn’t large enough and structured enough to support families that want fully immersive Orthodox experiences. She was speaking from the hypothetical perspective of someone with that desire.”

Rabbi Ken Brodkin of Kesser Israel shared with me, “I am so happy to see our community’s growth featured in the Oregonian.  I think the meaning of the comment was obvious: our community is not large enough to attract families purely based on the resources of the Orthodox community.  We are growing and attracting new families each year.  As indicated, there are “qualifiers” as to who may choose to relocate to Portland.  We have attracted a number of people who are interested in Portland’s tight-knit community, love Portland’s overall vibe or have job opportunities or family connections here in PDX.”

I am proud of the Jewish Federation’s continued desire and commitment to strengthening our entire Jewish community, including our support for Orthodox families. We recognize that there is so much more we can do to develop a greater infrastructure for traditional Jewish life in our community. For now, we are proud to highlight our growing funding for two Orthodox Jewish day schools, pre-school incentive grants at Orthodox Jewish pre-schools, overnight Jewish camp incentives that include Orthodox camp options, support of teen group NCSY (sponsored by the Kollel), Israel scholarships, and even the construction of a new community mikvah.

Ultimately, we will make Jewish Portland a destination and home for every Jewish experience.

Shabbat shalom.



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