Giving is Tree-Mendous

50 days into our 100 Days of Impact and I am excited to share that our community’s campaign now stands at $2,121,000! This is incredible as we are over $500,000 ahead in pace from where we were last year on this date. In addition, nearly half of last year’s donors have already made a pledge for this year’s campaign. THANK YOU for your generous support.

To be even more successful, we need everyone’s participation. If our community is to meet its social service needs, support Jewish education, increase Jewish enrichment and engagement activities, and provide invaluable resources to Jews around the world – we need YOU! Please make your pledge today (you have until December 31, 2015 to make your payment). And, remember, every increase of 10% over last year’s donation AND every new gift will be matched dollar for dollar.

Let’s keep up the great effort!

We all have our childhood memories, whether it’s a favorite movie, book, or TV show. Oftentimes, when we experience them at a much older age they just don’t quite hold up to our memories or resonate in the same way.

Earlier this week, I read an article in The New Yorker by Ruth Margalit titled, The Giving Tree at Fifty: Sadder Than I Remembered. This year happens to be the 50th anniversary of one of my childhood favorites where the story means something very different to me today.

As Margalit writes, “The beginning of the story is innocuous enough: a boy climbs a tree, swings from her branches, and devours her apples (I’d never noticed that the tree was a “she”). “And the tree was happy,” goes the refrain. But then time passes, and the boy forgets about her. One day, the boy, now a young man, returns, asking for money. Not having any to offer him, the tree is “happy” to give him her apples to sell. She is likewise “happy” to give him her branches, and later her trunk, until there is nothing left of her but an old stump, which the old man, or boy, proceeds to sit on.”

When I read the book as a child, the tree seemed to be the nicest thing in the world. It just gave and gave until it had nothing left. How sweet is that? But when I would read the book to my children, I often thought to myself how selfish the boy/man was in always asking for more and more…never giving anything in return.

Interestingly, Shel Silverstein, the author, always stated the book had no special message or meaning -- “It’s just a relationship between two people; one gives and the other takes,” he would often repeat. But I believe there is something more.

I am in the philanthropy business. It is all about relationships. In its most simplistic way, fundraising is just one person asking a second person to help a third person. People are asked to give of themselves and their financial resources – like we do with volunteer activities and our community’s Annual Campaign – to enhance many aspects of our Jewish community. In the end, our goal is to match people’s passions with opportunities so they have the personal satisfaction of knowing they made a difference. I actually believe that was the tree’s true motivation. 

This is something I sense time and time again with generous donors, and that I have experienced personally, as well. The old adage – “you often get more in return than what you put into it” rings true in this case. People do experience true joy when they hear stories from those who have benefitted from their giving or have seen the impact of their generosity. Check out the sidebar story about Neve Michael Children's Village. In reality, giving can be “tree-mendous.”

A few quick updates:

  • Please welcome Steve Albert, new Executive Director and CEO of the Mittleman Jewish Community Center and Portland Jewish Academy. Steve has an incredible background and his family will be a wonderful asset to our Jewish community.
  • I am pleased to inform you that the ownership of the Jewish Ritualarium of Portland (community mikveh – ritual bath – located in Goose Hollow) has been transferred to the Jewish Federation (we had paid all mikveh expenses for many years). Federation has approved funds to build a new mikveh (site to be determined) with proceeds from the sale of the current mikveh covering those costs, and we expect to create a maintenance endowment for the future. We are grateful to the Oregon Board of Rabbis for their partnership and to Jonathan Barg and Ken Davis who generously donated their time and legal expertise in making this happen.

    Just last night we had our first small-group discussion about the look/feel of the mikveh and how we can enhance the mikveh experience. We look forward to providing this important resource and maintain its openness to the entire Jewish community.
  • ORA (means “light in Hebrew”), a wonderful group of Portland area artists who have come together to support, share, inspire and showcase their craft, is now working closely with the Jewish Federation. We are excited by this new partnership and look forward to expanding their efforts in the years ahead.

    Mark your calendar for ORA’s 8th annual art show and sale on November 22 and 23 at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center. To learn more, visit
  • I am delighted that on Sunday, November 16, the Jewish Federation, in partnership with Portland Area Jewish Educators (PAJE), is sponsoring a workshop with Dr. Ron Wolfson for all area Jewish educators. Dr. Wolfson is the author of Relational Judaism, a thoughtful look at how we engage and inspire future generations for Jewish involvement and engagement. 

    We are fortunate that Dr. Wolfson is coming to Portland to serve as a scholar-in-residence at Congregation Neveh Shalom, November 14-15 -- click here for details. 

Next week I will be attending the General Assembly, a gathering for lay and professional leaders in the Jewish Federation world and Jewish organizations of all kinds. I look forward to sharing what I learn next week as we focus on best practices and new initiatives to enhance Jewish life for years to come.

Shabbat shalom.



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