Lots of Faiths

Last night, I had the pleasure or participating in our community’s 19th annual Intergroup Passover Seder. This event, generously funded by the Emily Georges Gottfried Fund, the Jewish Federation, and the Oregon Jewish Community Youth Foundation, is one of the highlights of the year. Over 150 people from different religious, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds come together to learn and experience a seder together. It was so beautiful and filled with a lovely spirit of warmth and togetherness.

Thank you to Rabbi Eve Posen and Cantor Eyal Bitton from Congregation Neveh Shalom for leading the seder and bringing their own creativity, spirit and interpretations to the seder. I must share that I was very moved by a beautiful song written and performed by Cantor Bitton called, Will Sing, that truly symbolized what last night was all about:

I have a dream we'll be called by fate
To rise against the walls of hate.
I have a dream we'll be judged by deed
And not by skin, by race, or creed.
I have a dream time will show us the way
and guide us all to that magical day.

If there's a song, a song that brings together
You and me and all of us forever, I will sing.

I have a dream of a promised land
Where you and I walk hand in hand.
I have a dream that this land shall be
A land of life and liberty.
I have a dream we shall say truthfully:
We live our lives in the home of the free.

If there's a song, a song that brings together
You and me and all of us forever, I will sing.

In the night or in the light of day;
In the storm, when the skies turn to grey;
I will stand and be strong.
I will sing a new song.

I have a dream that I'll wake to see
A brave new world has come to be.
I have a dream every voice shall sing
A song of freedom taken wing.
I have a dream and it never shall die:
The weak shall walk with their heads held up high.

In addition to the intergroup seder, the Jewish Federation continues to reach out to other faith-based, ethnic and cultural groups in our community. Over a three month period, including multiple dinners (breaking bread together was an important theme), eight members of the Jewish community engaged in a facilitated “dialogue” with nine members from the Latino Network. It was an opportunity for the Jewish and Latino communities to get to know one another, look at our histories through a cultural lens, and share our personal stories and narratives. Moreover, the group looked to understand areas of commonalities and differences. 

One very interesting topic was the concept of “homeland” and “home.” For the Jewish members of the group, Israel is our ancestral homeland. For those from the Latino community, they spoke of Aztlan, the legendary ancestral home of the Aztec people. But the idea of “home” was never resolved. During the dialogue, the group discussed whether their birthplace, where they grew up, or where they live now is truly their “home.” Not everyone felt as though Portland was home to them, no matter how long they have lived here.

Joaquin Lopez of the Latino Network shared the following:

We just wrapped up our inaugural Jewish/Latino Dialogue in collaboration with the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. My heart is full. I was finally able to understand more about the Jewish community. As an arts and culture manager, I was moved by the whole experience. We asked the question: how are we different and how are we similar? 

The participants were candid, unapologetic, and sincere when inquiring about each other's culture and how they experienced life. We shared stories close to home, and we were all charmed to understand how similarly we hold the sense of family, food, and celebration in each of us. These dialogues barely scraped the surface of a cross cultural relationship and collaboration that will have deep roots in years to come. We have so much to learn from each other and so many ways to support our evolving identities and journeys. The Latino Network is very grateful. Gracias! 

We are excited that everyone agreed that another round of dialogues should take place with new people from each of our communities.

I must give a special thank you to Rachel Nelson, Federation’s Director of Jewish Education Initiatives and Intergroup Outreach for her professionalism and leadership in managing both the seder and dialogue.

On a separate note, in an effort to learn more about the local Jewish community in the Greater Portland Area, the Chabad Center for Jewish Life in SW Portland has commissioned an online survey to hear thoughts, perspectives and needs of the Portland Jewish community. The survey is being administered by a local third-party organization (R2C Group) to maintain objectivity and ensure anonymity of all survey participants. It only takes 15 minutes of your time to provide key insights into our Jewish community.

Next Friday will be the beginning of the Passover holiday, the most celebrated of all Jewish holidays. Our community has numerous programs and seders happening and you can learn more here. May you all have a wonderful and kosher Passover.

Shabbat shalom and I hope all the students (and their families) enjoy their spring break (thus, no Marc’s Remarks next week).


PS – Congratulations to Loyola University Chicago for their success in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. My uncle taught in their School of Dentistry for 35 years and three of my cousins all studied there and became dentists. I know how excited they all are.


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