Memory Lane

I am a history buff and always appreciate learning from the past. Earlier this week, Laurie Rogoway, my colleague at Federation, shared with me four “annual reports” for the then called Jewish Welfare Federation of Portland from the 1960s. These are true treasures of our community’s rich history and I want to share a few actual excerpts from the reports with you.​

First, some interesting overall observations (certainly times have changed):

  • People estimate there were 8,000 Jews in Portland during this time period. 2,800 individual donors made pledges to the Federation, which means approximately 75% of the Jewish families contributed to the Annual Campaign.

  • Every donor was listed in the annual report in alphabetical order, by last name, and with their actual dollar amount pledged (not ranges) to the Federation for that year. (For those of you interested in your actual giving in those years, I am happy to share that with you – please just email me).

  • Every woman listed was referred to as either Miss (real name) or Mrs. (followed by the husband’s name).

  • The number of local, national and overseas agencies funded by Federation numbered close to 40.

  • 45% of all dollars raised via the Annual Campaign were sent overseas to support Jews in Europe and Israel via the United Jewish Appeal (UJA).

I encourage you to watch this very special UJA video made in 1950 starring Edward G. Robinson and many other familiar Hollywood stars of the time encouraging the American Jewish community to provide financial support for Jewish refugees.

From the annual reports:

In 1962Annual Campaign raised $210,000

Some 280,000 displaced Jews in France…some 200,000 Jews in Morocco, Tunisia, and Iran culturally and economically oppressed…some 300,000 Jews in Israel still in need of rehabilitation and readjustment many of who are immigrants that are ill, blind, or crippled. There are the growing needs of our local programs – Jewish Education Association, Jewish Family and Child Service. Oregon Service for New Americans, and the Robison Home for the Aged (yes, these were the only four local agencies that received funding from the Federation Annual Campaign in 1962). All these needs must be met – and quickly.

In 1964Annual Campaign raised $226,175

The vital concern of all Jewry is fulfillment of obligations to our brothers the world over. Through the central fundraising services of Federation, a portion of the money raised is distributed overseas so that the relocation, settlement and rehabilitation of refugees may be continued.

The hospitals and correctional institutions in our state lacked chaplaincy service for Jewish patients, residents and inmates. The Federation Board, after studying factors involved, authorized establishment of the post of State Chaplain, and is currently financing this needed service.

Each of us is called upon to participate and provide leadership to the extent of his strength and ability, and contribute commensurate with his resources. Those who comment, criticize, expound and do so without giving of their person or resources, ring with a hollow sound. For they detract and they diminish, the efforts of the great majority who seek to create and to build. – message from Dr. Clifford Josephson, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation

In 1967Annual Campaign raised $285,768 and the Israel Emergency Fund raised $378,390

Federation is people helping people. Hundreds of men and women give unselfishly of their time and energy and money to make Portland, and indeed the world, a better place. In 1967, Portland’s Jewish community joined in supporting Israel in one of the most important moments in Jewish history. Once again we proved that we cared.

In 1969Annual Campaign raised $351,480 and the Israel Emergency Fund raised $267,241

All we ask is that you feel Jewish. Because then you will do what one Jew does when another is in trouble. You will help. – Gen. Moshe Dayan, former Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff – quote on cover of report that year

The fact that Portland exceeded its regular campaign goal demonstrated its concern. It was a demonstration of our concern for our 8,000 people in this city, 300,000 Jews being assisted by the Joint Distribution Committee in all corners of the world and 2.5 million people who are living in Israel. There are still, unfortunately, a great many Jews behind the Iron Curtain who need our help – particularly those in the Soviet Union – whom we are still unable to reach. Their future is still very much our agenda.

Here at home we must make it possible for the constituent agencies of the Jewish Welfare Federation to do their jobs to make sure that we have a strong Jewish community in the next generation. It is more than helping them to accommodate their present tasks to the present inflation. More important, it is to allow them to do additional things, the new things which are essential. Whether it be the care for the aged, services to our youth, Jewish identity, yesterday’s approaches and yesterday’s financing are no longer adequate.


As the Passover holiday approaches, we are reminded that it is our obligation to retell the story of the exodus from Egypt during our seder. I believe it is also important to tell current and future generations about “our story” here in Jewish Portland. These excerpts are just part of the life-saving and Jewish-enhancing work our Federation has been leading for over 90 years – with your generosity.

May we continue to go from strength to strength in providing future generations with a community that cares and is committed to the collective needs of the Jewish people around the world.

Shabbat shalom.



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