Historic Achievement and Follow-Up - June 7, 2024

Last night, the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland held its 104th Annual Meeting. It really was a special evening with excellent speakers and exciting information. It was also wonderful to see so many people celebrate the achievements of what has been a most challenging year. A recording of the meeting can be found here.


The meeting included a review of this past year, recommendations in seven priority areas from the community study (more on that in an upcoming Marc’s Remarks), and an announcement about our remarkable, record-breaking fundraising year for the Jewish Federation.


During this fiscal year, the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland raised:


Annual Campaign for Community Needs



Israel Emergency Fund



Catalyst Fund (Community Study Priorities)



Jewish Community Security Fund



Marvin Harris Estate



Our community investment totals $11,665,000!


We should be so proud! This is an incredible achievement that could only happen because of YOU! Thank you to everyone who made this possible!


I want to follow-up on several issues I have recently shared:


Oregon Food Bank


You will recall, the Jewish Federation spoke out against the recent statement made by the Oregon Food Bank (OFB) “calling for a ceasefire of Israel’s violence against Palestinians.” We viewed this statement as a one-sided attack on Israel and it was the first time the OFB had ever made a statement on any international issue. (I am curious if the OFB will put out a statement on Sudan based on this article in The New York Times yesterday?)


As a follow-up, this statementsigned by multiple synagogues and Jewish organizations, was sent to the Oregon Food Bank. It concluded, “We ask the Oregon Food Bank to retract its statement and issue one indicating that it will maintain its focus on hunger and its root causes here in Oregon. Until such time we will support other local organizations who are upholding this important mission.” I understand some people may disagree with our position.


It got a lot of press attention. Here is just one articleUnfortunately, some of the news groups made an error in their reporting. They said the Jewish Federation was stopping its funding to the Oregon Food Bank.


I received several phone calls and emails from community members sharing their concerns. I want to be very clear. The Jewish Federation did not pull financial support from the Oregon Food Bank. The OFB is not a funding recipient of our annual campaign.


Moreover, none of the organizations who signed on to the statement are ending their food drives or desire to volunteer to bring food to those in need. Each will be working with other local food organizations in the metro area to distribute food.

During my conversation with one person who called expressing their anger, I asked, “Are you a contributor to the Jewish Federation?” They replied, “No, I do not like your support for Israel so I give to other Jewish causes.” I then responded, “So why is our choice to look at other food organizations any different?” They just hung up.


Portland Association of Teachers


Last Friday, I shared information about the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) and their intent to teach a “Palestine curriculum” in Portland Public Schools. Since then, the news stations have been all over this issue.


Here is an initial story followed by this article, which shares that the PAT took down its pro-Palestinian curriculum after Jewish leaders and parents found the materials offensive. Sadly, many of those materials are back on the website. And then The Oregonian reported (article may be for subscribers only right now) the PAT had links on their website "urging students to pray to Allah and to write President Biden to stop funding Israel" -- plus so much more.


What is so upsetting is that our JCRC leaders met with the president of the PAT in December. We shared our concerns about what was happening with the PAT and their blatant pro-Palestinian stance and asked that they stay out of a complex international issue. And then for the president of the PAT to say she did not review the materials, know what was on the PAT website, or know about materials being passed out at their meeting last week seems unlikely.


As one community member wrote to me:


What’s worse? 


1.   What the union is sharing and posting under the president’s watch?

2.   Not knowing what was proposed and posted under her watch?

3.   Admitting that she did not even know what was proposed?


Thank you to everyone who voiced their concerns with the PAT -- you can send your thoughts here. It is making a difference. The JCRC is continuing its work on this issue.


Potential Ceasefire


Finally, for months I would see/hear protesters in our streets and on our campuses demanding a ceasefire now. They wanted to just end this war no matter what. The Jewish Federation’s stance has always been to have the hostages released and Hamas no longer in power for what we believe would be a lasting ceasefire.


Last week, President Biden offered a three-part plan for an immediate ceasefire. U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday that Israel had accepted the ceasefire proposal (despite public objections by some in the Israeli government), and that “the ball is in Hamas’ court.”


He acknowledged that Hamas might choose to continue the conflict instead. “That wouldn’t be terribly out of character for a vicious and brutal terror group, but what we hope they do in the end is see that the best pathway to an end to this war, the return of all the hostages, a surge of humanitarian assistance, is to accept this proposal,” he added.


World leaders have issued a joint statement calling on Hamas to agree to the hostage-ceasefire proposal. U.S. State Department Spokesperson, Matthew Miller added, “The world should know, the Palestinian people should know, that the only thing standing in the way of an immediate ceasefire today is Hamas.


I say once again, remember not too long ago the protests, blocking of bridges and roads, and even the encampments at local colleges demanding a ceasefire? Where are those same people now demanding Hamas accept this deal?


Shabbat shalom and enjoy the Shavuot holiday starting Tuesday night.


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