I Am Open If You Are - February 23, 2024

Writing to over 9,000 people weekly (sometimes twice a week) is cathartic and challenging. No matter what I write about, I hope I am authentic and real.


We are in a difficult moment in time. October 7 changed everything for the people of Israel, and in many ways, Jews around the world. We have seen dramatic increases in antisemitism and anti-Israel protests and sentiments.


A local community leader and I have met and corresponded multiple times about the war. For me personally, it continues to be a rewarding listening and learning experience. Discussions have included the horrors of October 7, Hamas’s role, Israel’s role within the Palestinian territories, the current government of the State of Israel, the number of civilians killed in Gaza, the hostages, the possibility of a two-state solution, and much more. We may not see “eye to eye” on everything, but the dialogue continues.


One major issue is the push for a ceasefire. As I have shared previously, the Jewish Federation and its Jewish Community Relations Council have been monitoring, and in some cases, speaking out, against various one-sided resolutions being crafted in city/county councils across the state.


This community leader wrote, “The basic thrust of the (Jewish Federation) messaging that I sense is that calls for ceasefire are somehow anti-Israel or against Israeli interests. In general, (calls to) ‘Stand with Israel’ feel synonymous with support of the war effort. If you think it is more nuanced than that, I encourage you to elaborate on that more in your messaging.”


I appreciated the comment. It made me pause. In fact, I believe this person is raising two separate issues.


First, when I write about those pushing one-sided ceasefire resolutions, they are most often spearheaded by organizations, groups, and individuals that are in fact openly anti-Israel. You can read it on their websites, hear it in their words, and in the resolutions they put forward. They blame Israel for this war, with no acknowledgement that it was Hamas terrorists who broke the ceasefire, killed, raped, and kidnapped many people.


It is also important to acknowledge that not everyone who supports these resolutions is anti-Israel. There are those who have a true love for Israel and Israelis and feel a ceasefire is the best course of action now for humanitarian and other reasons. That is valid.


Second, I do believe we have been clear on what a ceasefire resolution must include for our support. There must be recognition of the horrific attacks on October 7 and the ensuing trauma felt by Israelis. There must be a demand that all the hostages be released. And Hamas can no longer be in power. This is what we mean by “Stand with Israel.”


It is impossible for any single organization to speak for the entire Jewish community. I do not believe the Jewish Federation speaks for everyone, but our position on this issue is consistent with almost every major American Jewish organization, religious movement, and the majority of American Jews.


I appreciate and hear the multiple viewpoints within our community on this issue. Heck, you should join my family for a dinner conversation (let us just say we never seem to enjoy dessert together). I found this article in The Forward last week to be quite helpful.


As I shared with this leader, just because we do not support a one-sided ceasefire resolution does not mean we do not want this war to end. However, those in the Jewish community who support these current resolutions feel minimized and marginalized when the Jewish Federation speaks out.


I hear you!


However, this works both ways. I know people in Israel and Israelis in Portland who feel abandoned by those in the Jewish community supporting these one-sided ceasefire resolutions. Their loved ones are being directly impacted and the ongoing threat of Hamas is very real to them.


This is not easy!


We view this war in diverse ways. We tend to talk to people with whom we agree. We forget it is okay to disagree. We avoid difficult conversations. People’s feelings may get hurt. Yet no one’s feelings on this difficult situation is wrong. In the end, we must ask each other good questions -- and listen to each other’s answers.


I am open if you are to a frank dialogue at any time. I have always and will continue to invite anyone who wishes to write, call, or even meet to please contact me – just reply to this email 



We had an excellent conversation with Gil Hoffman, Executive Director of HonestReporting.com during our Weekly Wednesday Webinar Series with voices from Israel. You can watch a recording hereTwo important points he made:


  • There are a growing number of Palestinians who “want to go home.” Their message is not directed at Israel – it is directed at Hamas. The Palestinians understand that for them to return to their homes in Gaza, Hamas must release the hostages first. The calls for the removal of Hamas are growing.


  • The news we receive from Gaza comes from two main sources -- Hamas and Al-Jazeera (Qatar owns this media company and financially supports Hamas). We do not trust Russian media. We do not trust the Chinese media. So why should we trust the reports from Gaza?


Our final webinar will be next Wednesday with Col. Kobi Marom. He will give us an on the ground view of the war and share his thoughts on how things will move forward in the weeks ahead. Do not miss this opportunity – register here.


Finally, we talk a great deal about the Hamas-Israel war. Tomorrow marks two years since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war. Our partners, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Chabad affiliated Jewish Relief Network Ukraine continue to provide life-saving support to Jews in Ukraine. But more help is needed. Here is a short video highlighting these efforts.


Shabbat shalom.



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