Our Jewish Community Study has launched! It is possible someone in your household received an email this week that included our Jewish Community Study survey. The subject lines read:
Study of Jews in Greater Portland, Southwest Washington, the Willamette Valley, and Lane County
(from firstname.lastname@example.org -- check your spam folder as it may have gone there)
If you received the email or a letter from Brandeis University -- whether addressed to your household or perhaps the wrong name but your address -- please know the study is valid and you should fill it out. Not everyone will be contacted.
You may also be contacted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center on the phone or via text (perhaps add these numbers to your contacts):
Calls will be coming from 603-397-0660.
Texts will be coming from 603-397-0765.
If you have any questions, call 503-245-6449 or email the Brandeis research team at Portland@brandeis.edu or call 781-736-2936.
We are excited for the opportunity to complete the most comprehensive social research study of our Jewish community in its history. We can only do this with your participation.
By now, you should have received your voting ballot. I wholeheartedly encourage you to exercise your right to vote.
Prior to our election, Israeli voters will go to the polls next Tuesday for the fifth time in 3½ years. There are certainly many questions about whether a coalition government will be formed or not. This political instability erodes two of Israel's key strategic assets: the public's trust in the democratic system and sense of solidarity between Israelis. Will the dispute be resolved this time? Perhaps Israelis will find a middle way of combining forces between the more measured voices amid the highly polarized political camps, so that a course of social healing and a renewal of Israeli cohesion will be possible? We will find out.
To help you understand more about this upcoming election:
Here is a wonderful primer on how elections in Israel work and a short video produced by Jewish Federations of North America on the topic.
If you want more details, here is an article on all 39 parties (!) seeking seats in the Knesset. A very interesting read to learn about their platforms, etc.
Finally, here are campaign ads that will give you a taste of the elections in Israel. You can compare them to the ads we see locally.
What are the main issues in the election? According to the Israel Democracy Institute, when asked which factors most influence their vote, Israelis cite the economy, the identity of the party leader, and religion and state as top priorities. But many commentators expressed doubt that this would actually affect voting patterns.
“We are deeply immersed in identity politics — one’s level of religiosity and sense of belonging to a sociological tribe,” Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, explained. The questions of “which tribe [I belong to] and which political party I voted for in the past” impact Israelis’ voting behavior a lot more than policy issues, he added.
Instead of being about policy, the debate focuses on one individual, Israeli political commentator Samuel Hyde argued. “The fight over ‘Bibi yay or Bibi nay’ has tainted much of the discourse to the point of rendering policy discussions meaningless,” he wrote in The Jewish Journal. “Where we are at is simple: Benjamin Netanyahu’s supporters believe that there is no future without him, and his opponents believe that there is no future with him,” he added.
Benjamin Sipzner, who is campaigning on behalf of the Religious Zionism party, lamented that elections in Israel have become about one individual. “Israel’s elections should not be centered around one person, they should not be vacant of ideology and content. We should think about our vision of Israel, its Jewish identity, its army and security forces, and our heritage. We need to think about the politicians and parties who will help promote that vision.”
One of the most important issues in the election is the Arab vote. How Arab Israelis vote and the turnout from the Arab community could sway the outcome of the election. High numbers could swing the election in favor of Netanyahu’s opponents, while a drop could pave the way for Netanyahu’s return.
Most polls are predicting a historically low turnout among Arab voters, even though the outgoing coalition government included an Arab party, a first in Israel’s history. That first-time participation in government has not generated much excitement among voters disillusioned by rampant crime, the rising cost of living, and a loss of hope for change from within a slow-moving political system. Arik Rudnitzky, who studies Arab voting patterns at the Israel Democracy Institute wrote, “I can hardly remember a single election campaign that all depended on the vote of Arab citizens.”
As we wait to see what happens, the day following the election there will be a virtual briefing with the Senior Contributing Editor and Diplomatic Correspondent of The Jerusalem Post, Lahav Harkov. The webinar will be held on Wednesday, November 2 at 12:00 noon PT. Register here.
Earlier this week, our community had the opportunity to hear from Gadeer Kamal-Mreeh, Senior Envoy of The Jewish Agency for Israel to the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Gadeer is a woman of many “firsts,” including being the first Druze woman to become a member of the Knesset and the first non-Jewish anchorwoman to broadcast the evening news in Israel for the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation. She shared her unique story as a Druze citizen of the State of Israel and her time as an emissary here in the United States. A recording of her talk is here.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the 4th anniversary of the synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh. HBO is now airing a documentary called ‘A Tree of Life,’ which I hope you will take time to watch.
On a final note, I am excited to share that next week is the 5th anniversary of Rachel’s Well Community Mikvah. This has been a wonderful addition to our community and we are proud it is an open and inclusive mikvah for traditional and contemporary uses for all Jews. Please join us at one of our two upcoming open houses to visit this special space on November 14 (1:30 - 3:00 pm) or November 17 (2:30 – 4:00 pm). Click here to RSVP and for the address.