Israel and Local -- It is BOTH - October 20, 2023

Earlier this week, 100 leaders representing over 50 Jewish Federations, along with leaders from major Jewish organizations across the political and denominational spectrum were in Washington, DC to advocate for Israel during this critical time. I was not able to attend, but it was a powerful show of solidarity for Israel. You can watch the video of the event, which was broadcast on C-Span, by clicking here.


At the event, Noa Ben Artzi, one of the few to survive the attack at the Supernova Music Festival, spoke. She survived under a pile of bodies, listening as people around her, including several close friends, were executed.


She painfully shares two thoughts, “In what world does a mother need to pray their child is a hostage so they are alive and not murdered?...While my outside bruises will heal, the scar on my soul I will live with forever.”


We will not forget the brutal murders of October 7. We will not forget the hostages (more on that below). The war is happening. Innocent civilians on both sides are being deeply impacted (let’s not forget rockets are still being fired from Gaza and the north into Israel -- leading to the 24,000 residents in the northern town of Kiryat Shmona being ordered to evacuate today). Polls show that a majority of Americans side with Israel. But with major American media turning its focus increasingly on Israel’s bombing raids on Hamas targets in Gaza, and an imminent IDF ground assault, one can already sense the wave of empathy shifting sides, including some in the Jewish community. Just look at how the media portrayed the missile that hit the hospital parking lot in Gaza.


Jewish leaders across the spectrum have spoken out:


On another day, let’s talk about the occupation and oppression. But right now, No.” said Rabbi Rachel Timoner, the senior rabbi at Congregation Beth Elohim, a progressive synagogue in Brooklyn. “We have to talk about how any country has the right to defend itself against terrorism. Any country has the right to bring its hostages home. It’s not right to ask Israel to refrain from military action when 203 innocent people are currently being held in likely extremely terrifying, possibly torturous conditions.


If there’s a ground incursion, there will be more civilian deaths. There will be images on every newspaper’s front page or every news site’s website. That will, for many people, tip the balance away from Israel. [But] that doesn’t mean that Israel doesn’t have moral justification to try and uproot and eliminate the threat that Hamas poses, which is existential,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. 


Noted Israeli journalist Yossi Klein Halevi wrote, “We know there are no good options for us in this war. Invade Gaza City and the crowded refugee camps and we risk the lives of hundreds of Israeli soldiers and those of our fellow citizens captured by Hamas, along with the lives of thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians who are in effect Hamas’s human shields. A ground offensive risks becoming stuck in the Gaza quagmire. But to allow the Hamas regime to remain in power will further erode Israeli deterrence, emboldening our enemies, from Hezbollah to Iran.”


I am proud that the Greater Portland Jewish community (and beyond) has moral clarity in its support for Israel and against Hamas. To date, our Israel Emergency Fund has raised $1,750,000This is an incredible achievement! We have raised our goal to $1.8 million.


Just to show the collective power of Jewish Federations across the country, over $388 million has been raised for Israel in 13 days.


The media focuses on rockets and the military. But our work is to support the Israeli people. Funds are still desperately needed for mental health and trauma support, direct cash assistance for victims of terror, and aid to thousands of displaced residents from southern Israel. If you have yet to do so, please give generously.


A quick report from one of our funding partners, Dror Israel:


Our therapeutic emotional support program for evacuees is in 33 centers reaching more than 14,700 people. The number is growing as more communities, including those from the northern border, are evacuated to safer locations. Dror Israel educators are relocating to the Dead Sea (watch this news report on how they have rebuilt the preschools of the devastated Kibbutz Be'eri), Eilat, and more locations in order to build stable, consistent educational platforms. Additionally, Dror Israel operates seven daycare centers for children of essential workers (mostly medical staff) in hospitals and clinics, and seven shelters with educational activities for kids in impacted regions. With professional mental health experts and our educational expertise we are able to give these children and families the help they need.


Let’s never forget the people who are being impacted and we are helping with your support.


To learn more, we have two briefing opportunities for you on Tuesday, October 24:


At 8:00 a.m., hear from Yossi Klein Halevi and Amira Ahronoviz, CEO of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI). Learn about how our funds are rebuilding communities and rehabilitating the lives of families shattered by the horrific attacks by Hamas. Register here.


At 9:00 a.m., the Israeli Consulate has coordinated a virtual briefing with an IDF spokesperson for our community. Register here.


Dr. Rick Hodes (listen to his interview on this week’s Jewish Review podcast)the JDC doctor in Ethiopia, when he was in Portland several weeks ago raised an important question, “What is believed to be the greatest mitzvah?” -- The mitzvah of pidyon shvuyim — freeing captives. 


new exhibit outside the Tel Aviv Art Museum features a Shabbat table with 203 settings next to empty seats, one for each of the hostages in Gaza.


To that end, we must not forget the hostages (reportedly 30 are children) currently being held by Hamas. Our community is participating in #BlueRibbonsforIsraela global solidarity campaign in support and solidarity for the safe return of the hostages taken by Hamas terrorists.


The Jewish Federation is making ribbons available at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center, Eastside Jewish Commons, and synagogues and organizations across the city. Please get one and wear it in support of the hostages as our hearts ache for them and their families.


As important as this special emergency appeal is, our 2024 Campaign for Community Needs provides critical ongoing funding to ensure we are ready to respond to crises wherever they occur – whether in Israel, Ukraine, Hawaii, and beyond. It also enables us to focus on our local priorities: caring for Jews in need, building a vibrant Jewish future, and creating a resilient and secure Jewish community. Emergency aid is crucial but does not replace the needs that our Annual Campaign supports.


If you have not done so already, make your generous gift to BOTH our 2024 Campaign for Community Needs and our Israel emergency campaign so we may stand united with Israel AND meet the needs of our own Greater Portland Jewish community. Your donation in support of our 2024 Campaign for Community Needs ensures we have the “day in, day out” infrastructure in place to mobilize in times of crisis. We are grateful for your support.



Finally, mazel tov to Oregon Hillel on their 30th anniversary. It is wonderful to see their growth and expanded services to both University of Oregon and Oregon State University. In these difficult times of rising antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiments on campus, we should be proud that Oregon Hillel, Greater Portland Hillel, and Chabad are there to support our students.


Shabbat shalom and stand with Israel!


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