Loss of Brilliance - August 7, 2020

The Jewish people have lost two brilliant minds.
I was saddened to learn of the passing of Gersham Goldstein (z"l) yesterday at the age of 81.
Gersham was a nationally recognized tax attorney, who retired as a partner at Stoel Rives. He was brilliant, a true expert in his field, and an excellent teacher.
I knew a very different side of Gersham. From 2009 to 2011, Gersham served as Chair of the Board of the Jewish Federation. It was during his term that I was hired to be the CEO of the Jewish Federation. He was my greatest supporter! On my first day he said to me, "Go do the job we hired you to do and I am here to support you 110%." And he did.
Gersham loved Jewish life and the Jewish community. He held leadership roles in multiple Jewish organizations and always had a special affinity to Chabad for their care of a family member. He was very passionate about the State of Israel. And I personally witnessed his generous and quiet philanthropy.
Gersham was a learner. He loved tax law and proudly told me he knew the tax code better than anyone at the IRS. He enjoyed taking Jewish Leadership Institute classes through Chabad and would often discuss with me what he was learning.
I will miss our lunches at the Lotus Club (we ate there one last time right before it closed), his quirky sense of humor, and his incredible use of the English language. He was one of the smartest people I have ever met. And also fun. One time, I had the pleasure of joining his family, including his son Marcus (z”l) who passed away not long after, at a World Wrestling Entertainment event at the Moda Center (Gersham liked the "bad guys"). Most of all, I will miss his warm smile and genuine care.
My grandmother would say, "There is no greater compliment than being called a good person." Our community, sadly, lost a great person. And I lost a friend, teacher, and mentor.
My thoughts and prayers go to his beautiful and loving wife Pauline, daughter Deborah, and her husband Magid, daughter-in-law Jennifer, and his four grandchildren.
This morning we learned of the passing of Israeli scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (z”l), renowned for his unmatched, encyclopedic commentary on the Talmud. Rabbi Steinsaltz, after 45 years of 16-hour workdays, completed his life’s work, a 41-volume translation of the entire Babylonian Talmud into modern Hebrew (and subsequently translated into English). This was revolutionary -- a "once-in-a-millenium" intellectual undertaking (as Time magazine described it) -- in making the Talmud accessible to ordinary people.
More on Rabbi Steinsaltz next week.
Yesterday and today we lost two brilliant individuals who loved the Jewish people and had the rare ability to fully comprehend the most complex of subjects -- the U.S. tax code and the Talmud.
May both families be comforted along with all mourners in Zion, and may their memory be for a blessing.
Earlier this week, Rose Ritch, a student leader at the University of Southern California, wrote a very difficult letter to the student body announcing her resignation as the Undergraduate Student Government Vice President. Here are excerpts from her letter:
I announce my resignation as Vice President, effective immediately…As this is my last public communication to the USC community, I would like to address the experiences that led to this decision.
I have been harassed and pressured for weeks by my fellow students because they opposed one of my identities. It is not because I am a woman, nor because I identify as queer, femme, or cisgender. All of these identities qualified me as electable when the student body ​voted last February. ​But because I also openly identify as a Zionist, a supporter of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state…I have been told that my support for Israel has made me complicit in racism, and that, by association, I am racist. Students launched an aggressive social media campaign to “impeach [my] Zionist a**.” ​This is anti-Semitism, and cannot be tolerated at a University that proclaims to “nurture an environment of mutual respect and tolerance”...
An attack on my Zionist identity is an attack on my Jewish identity...
The sad reality is that my story is not uncommon on college campuses. Across the country, Zionist students are being asked to disavow their identities or beliefs to enter many spaces on their campuses. My Zionism should not and cannot disqualify me from being a leader on campus, nor should others presume what that means about my position on social justice issues.
And then in today’s Forward, it was reported that Rabbi Daniel Lehmann (who I knew 25 years ago when he was the Assistant Principal at a Jewish day school in Baltimore), the first non-Christian president of Berkeley’s esteemed Graduate Theological Union (GTU), resigned his post earlier this year for his pro-Israel Zionist views. This was the first time I had heard about this in the press.
The article states, “The relatively brief tenure of Rabbi Lehmann, which was greeted with fanfare at its start but given little public explanation at its end, raises questions about whether having Zionist views — supporting a Jewish state in Israel — has become a liability for those seeking high office at progressive institutions like the GTU. Or whether, given the public scrutiny that attends such appointments, it has even become disqualifying.”
This is unacceptable!
Whether in student government or the ranks of academia, being pro-Israel and a Zionist is being demonized at every turn.
Our institutions of higher learning must be better!
We must speak out! Be vocal! Support our Jewish students and faculty. Our partners at Hillel, Chabad, and Akiva on campus cannot do this alone.
Despite this type of news, I wish you all a Shabbat shalom.
Marc N. Blattner
President and CEO
P.S. -- Parents with school-aged children are invited to join us for a facilitated conversation with Karen Twain, Director of Programs at Children's Institute and former Assistant Superintendent at Tigard-Tualatin-School District to talk about children and school in the fall.
Middle School Families will have the opportunity on Sunday, August 9th at 8:30 p.m. Registration Link
High School Families will have the opportunity on Monday, August 10th at 8:30 p.m. Registration Link


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