Key Information - February 12, 2021

This week, I want to share with you some key happenings in our Jewish community.
We are concerned that some may have difficulty in navigating the process to get a vaccine. Here is an excellent resource guide from the Oregon Health Authority that outlines everything you need to know. In addition, our Jewish community is here to help. Contact the CNCOS team by calling 971-990-5652 or email if you have any issues.
CNSCOS is a team engaged by Congregation Neveh Shalom, with funding from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), tasked with limiting the spread of COVID-19 by providing services and information to the metro Jewish community. More information can be found here. For their latest newsletter, click here.
Mark your calendar for Thursday, March 4 at 4:00 p.m. for a webinar on COVID-19 vaccines. This workshop, co-sponsored by CNCOS, the Jewish Federation, and Boost Oregon will cover the COVID-19 virus, the vaccines available currently, the safety and effectiveness of them, the process of developing the vaccines and monitoring their safety, and potential reactions to the vaccines. They will also address whatever questions you have. Click here to register.
In addition, CNSCOS is partnering with the OHA to provide free COVID-19 testing on Sunday, February 21 from 12:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. at the MJCC. Click here for registration information.
Mazel tov to the Jewish Federation’s Jewish Free Loan program on its 5-year anniversary. It all started with a bequest from 1938 combined with funds from the Director Family used for a free loan program at Jewish Family and Child Service. We are delighted it has grown into what it is today.
This week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, is where we are commanded to help our fellow human beings with interest-free loans: “If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, don’t be like a creditor to him, don’t impose interest on him. If you should pawn your fellow’s garment, return it to him by nightfall.” (Exodus 22:24-25)
Rabbi Asher Meir, author of the book Meaning in Mitzvot, wrote “We might think that helping out a needy person with charity would be an even greater kindness, but our tradition clearly indicates the opposite. Giving a loan is considered a greater mitzvah than giving charity, so much so that the Hebrew word for a free loan is a ‘gemach’ – an acronym for ‘gemilut chasadim,’ meaning 'granting kindness.' This linguistic identity points to a cultural reality that giving a loan is the basic act of mutual aid in Judaism.”
This special importance is not only because the lender is getting no benefit from the loan. In fact, making a business partnership with a needy person, where there is an expectation of profit, is considered on an equal level with a loan. Rabbi Meir concludes, “The greatest level of charity, with nothing higher, is to strengthen the hand of a weakened Jew, giving him a present or a loan or starting a partnership, or giving him work.” This is why we created our Jewish Free Loan program.
Here are some details about the successes of the program:
  • There is approximately $220,000 in the lending pool (the fund started with $90,000 and has grown due to generous donors and market gains). Of this, $54,000 is currently out in active loans. The maximum loan is $4,000.
  • Since its inception, JFLGP has given $127,500 in loans to 52 individuals or families. This includes $107,000 in traditional loans and $20,500 in COVID-19 Emergency Loans (loans of up to $1,000 with less stringent guidelines).
  • There have been no defaults on repayment!
  • The loans have been given for many different needs including: tuition assistance, Jewish overnight camp, teen Israel experiences, job loss or transitions, legal fees, housing assistance, paying off high interest debt, family planning, small business loans, and wildfire relief. We are open to all potential needs.
  • The Jewish Free Loan of Greater Portland’s long-range vision is to be able to offer larger loans, provide a limited number of loans that are backed by angel guarantors, and ensure the long-term viability of the program through an endowment.
We are very proud of this program which literally helps people with “life’s ups and downs.” A special thank you goes to Les Gutfreund, Chair, and the wonderful volunteers who have helped grow the fund and who take such care with each loan applicant. To learn more or to apply for a loan click here or if interested in donating to the program please email here.
It is time again for nominations for the 2021 Laurie Rogoway Outstanding Jewish Professional Award. This award was established seven years ago to honor our esteemed colleague and friend Laurie Rogoway, a pillar of Jewish professional leadership for over 30 years in Portland.

The award recognizes an individual currently working in a professional capacity at a Jewish communal organization in Greater Portland. This is for early to mid-career professionals (minimum 3 years in Portland Jewish Community). The nominee must demonstrate outstanding professional work and a commitment to the field of Jewish professional leadership. The recipient receives up to $1800 to participate in a professional development experience. 
Please nominate an outstanding Jewish communal professional by March 12. Please review the eligibility guidelines and complete the nomination form here.
Finally, this year’s Weekend in Quest will be held on Sunday, March 7 virtually and free of charge. Stav Meishar, a circus artist and academic, will serve as the scholar-in-residence and speak on “Circus Jews Under National Socialism: A Lecture/Performance.” The true stories of Jewish circus artists between the world wars are told with sensitivity and humor. The lecture is based on extensive research and combines photos from personal albums, recorded testimonies, and personal stories. Additionally, Meishar will present excerpts from her show "The Escape Act", based on one of the stories she uncovered -- that of a Jewish acrobat who survived the Holocaust hiding in a German circus. Learn more and register here.
Shabbat shalom and stay safe with the snow.
Marc N. Blattner
President and CEO
PS -- Today is the 28th anniversary of the release of the movie Groundhog Day. Funny story. A few weeks after its release I was traveling to Israel with a stopover in Europe each way. On all four flight segments the one movie they showed was Groundhog Day. So, if I factor it out correctly, following those four flights, I saw the movie 1,345,867 times.


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