Finding Gems in Our Community

Let me start with something super cool!
Jewish Oregon TV (JOTV) is a new video venture that showcases all the incredible things that Jewish Oregonians do -- for work, for play, for others -- in an entertaining, informative, newsmagazine format. Click here for JOTV's 10-minute pilot episode created by Ken Klein, Jemi Kostiner Mansfield and Jenn Director Knudsen. It is so fun to watch. The next episode, "The Art of Giving Back," goes live on December 18. 
After watching JOTV’s initial episode and subsequently meeting with the three creative forces behind the venture, it just reminded me about the inspiring and eclectic people that make up our Jewish community. Whether a 4 th generation Oregonian or someone who just moved here 10 days ago, we have a special community. I always share with Cindy Saltzman, publisher o f Oregon Jewish Life magazine, about how much I enjoy the cover stories of unique Oregonians who I have never heard of.
The people are here! While some choose not to formally affiliate, I do believe that most Jews want to connect Jewishly, express their Jewish identity, and find their paths in Jewish life. Our job is to connect with these people and help them navigate our Jewish community in ways that are meaningful to them.
Our Jewish community is growing – primarily in two age cohorts – young adults and empty nesters. Young people move here because of the “hip and cool” nature of Portland. Boomers move here to be closer to family or to move to a more weather-friendly city. Most of all, people come here for Portland’s beauty, activities, and of course, incredible quality of life.
For those who are moving here, we have a challenge. A generation ago, when Jewish people moved to a new city, they would oftentimes first call the Jewish Federation, a synagogue or the Jewish Community Center and ask for ways to meet other Jews and get involved. Today they come more anonymously, and we often do not know they are here – unless they proactively reach out to the community.
This is a major struggle in Jewish communities across the country. Three ways we can do more to connect newcomers:
1)  Communities (including ours) should share when someone moves out of their community to a new one so they can connect more quickly. We all want our family/children to connect to the Jewish community in their new town. I know I just did that with someone who moved to the Midwest.
One local group that can be very helpful are realtors who let us know about new Jewish families in town (when they ask to be connected).
2)  In the past, when new Jewish employees would join a professional services firm or company, Jewish senior leaders in those firms/companies would help to mentor and shepherd those new employees to Jewish communal programs and events. They encouraged them to get involved on committees and young leadership programs. Plus, the names of these young people would be shared with Jewish communal institutions. I am not sure this is done as much these days. We need your assistance in welcoming new professionals and involving them in our Jewish community.
3)  For the “empty nesters” (and younger people for that matter), they are often less interested in formal affiliation with Jewish institutions, and far more interested in Jewish social connections. How can we provide more outlets across the Greater Portland area (either done by individuals or Jewish institutions) where the focus is on creating Jewish social networks?
Everyone can help! If you meet someone Jewish who is new to town, please contact the Jewish Federation or any other Jewish organization. There are “gems” moving to town.
I am pleased to share that the Jewish Federation has a wonderful young leadership and mentoring program called PDX Pathways. We are on our 4th cohort and this is a very special group of young people who will work with a talented array of mentors. Most participants are not from Portland and several moved here quite recently. Check out their incredibly interesting bios.  
I am so intrigued by the participants in this cohort, as well as those who participated in the past (we are proud of the alumni sitting on Jewish organization boards and committees). I often wonder how we “find” them. In reality, most find us. Fortunately, they are seeking engagement in the Jewish community.
This is a great example of when people self-identify or are identified and information about the Jewish community is shared. This is one way we find “gems” in our community.
On a different note, this past week, local, national, and international non-profit organizations celebrated “Giving Tuesday.” Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 by the 92 nd Street Y, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, to inspire hundreds of millions of people to celebrate generosity. This year, a record almost $2 billion was donated.
The Jewish Federation celebrates “Doing Tuesday.” We had volunteers at the Portland and Beaverton locations of the Oregon Food Bank who bagged onions, turnips and oats – over 11,000 pounds worth . What a wonderful way to commemorate the day and “thank you” to everyone who participated.
Finally, two great upcoming events to be aware of:
On Wednesday, December 11 at 7:00 p.m. at the MJCC, join the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Climate Action Committee for a panel discussion on Climate Change: Is it a Jewish Issue? Please RSVP here to attend   
Rachel’s Well Community Mikvah and the MJCC are partnering to bring an exciting workshop to tween/teen girls on December 15 and 17. Funded in part by a grant from the Federation’s Women’s Giving Circle, Bodies of Water is a unique workshop providing resources to reinforce a positive body image through a Jewish lens. This experiential program includes an introduction to our community mikvah, Jewish yoga, and an experience of mindful eating. Details & registration are here.
Shabbat shalom and may we all continue to find “gems” in our community.


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