Final Thoughts On 2023 - December 29, 2023

Hard to believe calendar year 2023 is coming to a close. We experienced a volatile economy, a mental health crisis, a war, a steep rise in antisemitic speech and acts, and so much more. Together, our community faced these challenges with great strength and it has been quite the year from the perspective of the Jewish Federation.


  • Several additional families fleeing Ukraine arrived in Portland and we continued to support them as they settled in their new community.


  • We watched as protests erupted across Israel to fight against potential judicial reforms.


  • 200 people celebrated with the Jewish Federation on its Israel at 75 Trip to Israel. It was an incredible experience for families and individuals, especially for the large number of people visiting for the first-time.


  • The results of the Greater Portland Jewish Community Study were released, including the fact our community has grown to over 56,000 Jews. We are currently working to develop recommendations to address the findings.


  • Our community responded by raising more money than any other Jewish community in North America to provide relief support for those impacted by the horrific fires on Maui.


  • We will never forget the massacre that took place on October 7. The Israel-Hamas war continues. In response, our community raised over $2.1 million for trauma support and emergency financial assistance.


  • Five weeks after the start of the war, on November 14, close to 300,000 Jews and others marched in Washington, DC to show their support for the State of Israel.


  • Sadly, during all of this we have seen an enormous rise in antisemitism and anti-Zionism across the globe. We continue to monitor incidents in our community and reach out to offer assistance and education. (I encourage you to read this editorial by Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post, where she interviews Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt about antisemitism today.)


  • Something I have not shared previously is the dramatic increase in requests from our interest-free Jewish Free Loan program. These are people who are looking for a “hand up and not a handout.” Just this month alone, we have received over 20 requests for loans. Loan applications, which are available for the “oys and joys” in life, include requests for: college tuition/loan assistance, dental implants, rental assistance (multiple ones), summer camp tuition, car repairs, debt consolidation, and more.


And with all of this, we continue to do the work we have been doing for over 103 years.


Together, we support Jews everywhere.

Together, we care.

Together, we rebuild.

Together, we mobilize for our Israeli family.

Together, we fight hate.


By supporting our work every day, you show we are undaunted by the challenges we face. As we move into 2024, our Jewish Federation puts your values into action – made possible by you. Please support our Campaign for Community Needs so we can continue helping Jews in Portland, Israel, and around the world. Make your pledge/payment now before the end of the calendar year. 



I know I have written a great deal about the Israel-Hamas war and want to add two more things. On Tuesday, I shared two very different quotes about the idea of a ceasefire. I received this comment and thought it was an interesting take:


“Ascribing good intentions to both, the difference I see is purely timing.

Those advocating for a ceasefire wish to save lives now. Those advocating for the elimination of Hamas wish to save lives (presumably many more) in the future.”


I also encourage you to listen to this edition of the podcast, For Heaven’s Sake (Israel at War – Ceasefire?), with Rabbi Donniel Hartman and Yossi Klein Halevi. They discuss Israel’s domestic support for the war, which remains strong despite growing global calls for a ceasefire. With mounting international pressure to end defensive action, they explore why this conflicts with what many Israelis feel is the moral, political, and military reality given the threat from Hamas.   


As we approach the secular new year, many of us will make new year’s resolutions. Roger Rosenblatt wrote recently in The New York Times, “The assumption behind resolutions is that something must be corrected and improved. One vows to be better than one was the year before.” That is our promise to you. As Rosenblatt concludes, “All it takes is the proper sequence of correct discrete decisions. Decisions are resolutions with teeth.”


My colleague, Doron Krakow, CEO of the Jewish Community Centers Association (JCCA), recently wrote:


“However desirable quick fixes and immediate answers to major challenges can be, they are, more often than not, illusions. The emerging challenges to Jewish life and Jewish community do not lend themselves to easy solutions. Rather, they compel us to wrestle with them and with one another as we struggle to determine the right course.


But more than immediate action is required. We need a vision for the future, and the evolution of that vision will require a great deal of deliberation, dialogue, and debate. It will require us to come together again and again and to wrestle with ideas, with new and changing concepts, with attitudes, all in the midst of still-shifting circumstances.”


2024 provides the Jewish Federation and our Jewish community the opportunity to be even more forward-thinking and to dream new possibilities.


As I reflect back, this past year has been a year of learning. A year of helping from near and afar. A year where words truly matter. A year of knowing who our friends are. And a year of listening more and convincing less. May we all only grow from here.


Shabbat shalom and warmest wishes to you and your family for a healthy and happy new year. May we only see better days ahead in 2024.



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