Heroic and Iconic

I hope everyone remained safe while enjoying our first wintry day of the season.
As we get closer to the end of the calendar year, the Jewish Federation is concluding its initial phase of our community’s campaign which we call our 100 Days of Impact. Thank you to everyone who has already made their commitment to the 2017 campaign, which now stands at $2.6 million. Much of our campaign growth this past week was due to the success of Super Sunday with over 100 community volunteers and 300 donors making their 2017 pledges. Thank you to everyone who participated!

It is our goal to raise an additional $500,000 in the next three weeks – and you can help. Please make your pledgeto the 2017 Annual Campaign (not payable until December 2017) now. The earlier you do the sooner we can begin planning our allocations.

In addition, to pay your pledge and receive year-end tax savings, please click here.

Congratulations to Oregon Hillel for being one of ten campuses across America selected to be in Hillel International’s new Accelerator program. The program is focused on strengthening governance, financial resource development, and student engagement/tracking at Hillel. The Jewish Federation is proud to provide funding so Oregon Hillel can participate. We look forward to seeing both Oregon Hillel and PDX Hillel (via sharing what is learned) benefit from this opportunity.

In addition, earlier this week we welcomed leaders from Vancouver, BC and San Diego, along with national representatives from funding partners Presentense and the Covenant Foundation, for an intensive training in preparation for the young adult Hackathon later this winter and spring. This is an exciting opportunity for each of the participating communities and I look forward to seeing what our young adult community develops.

This week I had the pleasure of moderating two films at the Sephardic Winter Film Series at Congregation Ahavath Achim. Both films, Arab and Jew: Return to the Promised Land and 1913: Seeds of Conflict were previous PBS broadcasts. Following the two movies we had a group discussion with reactions based on the films. I encourage you to see future movies in the series.

In our lives we all have people we admire. Many are those we idolize (family members, sports figures, artists, world leaders, etc.) while others may be unknown to us yet their inventions or creations play a significant role in how we live. In the past week, we lost three such people.

Yesterday, our nation lost a true American hero. John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962 and was the last surviving member of the original seven Mercury astronauts (written about in Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff, the basis for the movie). Seeing that movie – the incredible brains and fitness of those astronauts and the intense competition to be the first in space – gave me life lessons on what it takes to succeed at the highest levels.
Following his historical orbital space flight, our nation was invigorated and inspired. Glenn addressed a joint session of Congress and rode in a Manhattan ticker-tape parade with 4 million people cheering him.

Thirty-six years later, at age 77 while still serving as a US Senator, Glenn became the oldest man in space as a crew member on the space shuttle Discovery.
A story I had never heard is that he wanted to return to space as quickly as possible after his first mission. But, he learned years after leaving the space program that President John F. Kennedy, fearing the worst, secretly barred him from other flights to spare the country the potential loss of a national hero.

I met John Glenn on two occasions. I grew up in Orlando, Florida, only an hour from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. Once we were on an elementary school field trip to Kennedy Space Center, and another time he spoke at my high school. He was a remarkable man who inspired so many, including me. Think about it, he is one of the lucky few to have had the opportunity to go into space!

The next two people, who both passed away this week, may not be ones you admire, but they each made a mark in our lives and across the globe (and this was a slow week).

First, Michael “Jim” Delligatti, inventor of the McDonald’s Big Mac, passed away at the age of 98. Yes, I know the Big Mac is not kosher, but as a child I ate my fair share. (I am proud to say I have not had one since I was in high school.) It is amazing that a man living in a steel town outside of Pittsburgh could create something so iconic across the globe that an estimated 550 million Big Macs are sold each year (equal to 297 trillion calories) – one every 17 seconds. And let’s be honest, we all know what is on the Big Mac from that catchy commercial – (sing it with me) two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame-seed bun.
And, also passing away at the age of 98, Peng Chang-kuei, the Taiwanese chef who invented the iconic General Tso’s chicken. Now, I will admit I am a total creature of habit and I believe this may be the only dish I have eaten at Chinese restaurants since I was 10 years old. 

Mr. Peng, an official chef for the Nationalist government, said he created the dish during a four-day visit by Adm. Arthur W. Radford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during the Taiwan Strait crisis of 1955. On the spur of the moment, he assigned it the name of a Hunanese general, Zuo Zongtang, who had helped put down a series of rebellions in the 19th century.

If you want to watch a fun documentary about how General Tso’s Chicken came to America and became so popular, I highly recommend The Search for General Tso, directed by Ian Cheney.


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