Forward Thinking

Forward Thinking 

Every non-profit executive wants to work with an incredible Board of Directors that is mission-focused and truly cares. You want a group that is forward thinking and who only have the best interests of our community at the forefront of their hearts and minds.

Yesterday, the 16-member Jewish Federation Board, led by Ed Tonkin, held a day-long retreat to discuss important issues facing the Jewish Federation and our Jewish community. We discussed what role the Jewish Federation should play and ways to maximize its impact on our community. 

We also discussed what our allocation priorities should be. Currently we allocate funds to six different areas:

•Advocacy and Social Justice
•Building Jewish Identity
•Israel and Global Jewish Needs
•Jewish Culture and Engagement
•Jewish Identity
•Social Services

We did not come to a conclusion, yet it is wonderful to hear people’s perspectives on why one area may be of higher priority than another. Our Board will continue our deliberations and set priorities for this year and beyond. I invite you to share your priorities with me.

As part of our retreat, we reviewed Dr. Steve Windmueller’s latest article, The New American Jew, which provides incredible insight into trends in Jewish life happening today. I encourage you to read it and would be delighted to hear your perspective.

Our Women’s Philanthropy group is very busy. This past Sunday, 14 women came together to participate in the Soul Box Project, a national community art project raising awareness about the gunfire epidemic. The Project collects hand-folded paper boxes – a Soul Box – for every person killed or injured by gunfire in the United States since 2014, which will be displayed as art installations. The first large-scale installation of 36,000 Soul Boxes – representing the average number of people shot every year in the U.S. – will be displayed at the Oregon State Capitol on February 15, 2019. Leslie Lee, local visual artist and Soul Box founder, has a vision for 200,000 boxes to be on the National Mall by 2020. 

Our team made 113 boxes and is committed to connect the Soul Box Project with their places of work and community. The Jewish Federation was the first local Jewish organization to partner with the Soul Box Project, yet we know other Jewish communal agencies will be participating (Cedar Sinai Park has an upcoming program on August 29). 

How would you like to have emails like these come across your screen:

  • Thank you Jewish Federation of Greater Portland for enabling me to have the best summer of my life! The scholarship for my Israel trip allowed me to learn more about my Judaism. Not only did I learn more about Judaism but I also met other Jewish teenagers from around the US. I highly recommend that all Jewish teens participate.

  • This summer was truly the best summer ever and it was all because of my Israel experience! I was able to make friends all over the US who share the same love for Judaism that I do. I also learned about Jewish history in the land in a fun way. This summer was about community building and learning through adventure. Anyone from my trip or other trips would agree that this was an unforgettable experience that everyone should have. Thank you Jewish Federation.
  • I can’t even begin to thank you for the Portland Jewish Federation’s immense generosity in gifting me with this past summer. Because of you I was able to visit Israel. 

I live in America surrounded by non-Jews at a public school. I often feel isolated in my Judaism among both non-Jews and Jews who don’t understand the importance of their Judaism. When it comes to Israel the amount of people I see daily who share my passion is even smaller...I often feel defenseless when people attack Israel and I know that what they are saying is wrong and I know why in my head but am unable to articulate a response out loud and don’t have a secure thought to express. Especially when outnumbered by peers or talking to someone like a teacher who has authority.

 My Israel program was not only just a fun trip with fellow Jewish peers and learned staff. It was also a five week long training course on Israel. The land, the history, the politics, the spirituality, the conflict, the importance, and everything else. I gained a more rounded and complete understanding of every aspect of Israel. It also left me with a full tool belt of responses to give to anyone wanting to ask about or challenge Israel. A way more thorough understanding of the current and past issues, and an even stronger drive as to why they are important to know in the first place. Next time someone says something ignorant in school I can confidently and factually articulate a response. 

These emails are from three teens in our community who participated in an Israel experience this summer. What a difference a program in Israel can make! The Jewish Federation, through its Chai Israel program, automatically provides up to 18% (up to $1,800) for any teen wishing to visit Israel on any approved program. We hope your teen will go next year!

A few quick tidbits:

  • Good luck to the Jewish Federation sponsored Hood to Coast team this weekend.
  • With the High Holidays quickly approaching, here is a calendar of servicesthroughout our community. I hope that you and your family will find a meaningful place.
  • Don’t miss Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at the Jewish Federation’s Gala on Sunday, October 14. Tickets are now available. This event will sell out.
  • Registration for the Centennial Trip to Israel in March 2020 continues to grow. Don’t miss out on this historic event. Bring your whole family and all your friends. Early-bird pricing ends on November 15. Sign up today!
Shabbat shalom and may all the children have a wonderful and safe school year.


PS – No Marc’s Remarks next week. Enjoy the Labor Day holiday weekend.


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