Moms And Other Special People - May 12, 2023

This week, I received the first draft of our Community Study from Brandeis University. Let me just say it is filled with fascinating data that will provide all of us with a new perspective on Jewish life in the metro area. There is a new estimated number of Jews in Portland and Southwest Washington…learn where they live…information about how they engage or do not engage in Jewish life…social service needs...economic challenges…and you will even learn what percent of our Jewish community has “Jewish body art.” All of this and more will be unveiled at the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland’s 103rd Annual Meeting on Tuesday, June 6 at 7:00 p.m. at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center. Please join us for this in-person only event. Register here.



In the late 19th Century, Anna Reese Jarvis attempted to create a holiday to honor mothers, hoping this would help heal the emotional scars left on families due to the Civil War. Though Anna died in 1905, never seeing the dream realized of a day to honor mothers, it would eventually come true. On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared "Mother's Day" an official American holiday. He encouraged the public to express their reverence for mothers on this day, and we have been purchasing flowers, chocolates, and Hallmark cards filled with loving sentiments on the second Sunday of May ever since.


Sunday is Mother’s Day. But did you know that Jews have their own Mother’s Day? It is the 11th day of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan (in October/November). This Jewish Mother’s Day commemorates the death of Rachel, Jacob’s wife. 


Rabbi Judy Chessin explains the significance of this observance in her article “Celebrate Mother’s Day the Jewish Way,” published in the Dayton Jewish Observer in 2011. She writes, “So why would Rachel be chosen as the quintessential Jewish mother, rather than one of the other matriarchs: Sarah, Rebecca, or Leah? After all, Rachel suffered infertility for years before becoming a mother, while her sister, Leah, had multiple children with Jacob. Perhaps it was this very suffering and death after childbirth that earned her special merit in our tradition.”


Here is a more in-depth article about Rachel and the 11th of Cheshvan.


Motherhood is not always easy, but the rewards outweigh everything.


Patricia Raskin in Providence, Rhode Island asked these questions for mothers to consider:


  • What is the greatest reward of being a mother?
  • What is the greatest lesson I have taught my children?
  • What is the greatest lesson my children have taught me?
  • How do I want to be remembered by my children?


Think about these (and fathers can, too). Most of all, let us recognize all the women who have nurtured, cared for, educated, and loved us.


I want to mention Erez Kaganovitz, an Israeli photographer whose Humans of Israel photography exhibition is currently at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center (MJCC). I was so touched by his presentation, photos, and stories when he spoke at the MJCC’s celebratory event on Tuesday night. (Mazel tov to longtime community leader Gayle Romain on her well-deserved Pillar of Excellence Award and the Harry Glickman Scholar Athletes, Lily Wand and Ben Rosenfeld.)


Erez shared his photographs of ordinary Israelis, along with the stories behind them. While presenting, he asked the audience, “What do you see in this photo?” There would be a variety of interpretations – exactly what he wanted. It created a thought-provoking conversation about how a “picture is worth a thousand words.” You can better understand what I am saying by watching his Tedx Talk video here.


Erez got the idea from seeing the Humans of New York exhibit and has created other exhibits on Humans of Tel Aviv and his latest Humans of the Holocaust.


Here are two stories that make me proud, because you never know the impact Jewish youth programs – schools, camps, Israel trips, and Hillels – may have on someone.


Hadassah just released their inaugural list of 18 American Zionist Women You Should Knowwomen who are shaping the future of Zionism. Amy Albertson, a former student at Portland State University, president of Greater Portland Hillel, and a leading Israel activist while on campus (through her work with our former shaliach, Amos Meron), is now an online activist and educator who empowers Jews to be unapologetically Jewish.


In 2015, Amy made aliyah to Israel and dedicated herself to working for Jewish nonprofits. Amy created "The Asian Israeli," cataloging her experiences as a Chinese American Jewish woman. Exploring her identity and relationship with Israel led her to her current work. Amy has also received the Women's International Zionist Organization Warrior for Israel Award.


We are also very proud of former Greater Portland Hillel leader and Portland State University alumna, Sharona Shnayder, who was just named one of National Geographic Society’s 15 Young ExplorersSharona moved to Israel two years ago and is the founder of Tuesdays for Trash, a global environmental movement that encourages individuals around the world to dedicate at least one day a week to picking up garbage. You can learn more about her work in the area of climate justice.


Join Co/Lab on May 21 at the Eastside Jewish Commons from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for Good/Food: Jewish Food and Jewish Values in the New Pacific NorthwestThe event will include Portland Jewish food heroes such as Lisa Schroeder of Mother's Bistro and BarNoah Jacob of Jacob and SonsRachel and Aaron of Sweet Lorraine'sjournalist Deena Prichep (NPR, and elsewhere), chef and author Sonya Sanforda host of rabbi/teachers, food activists, and more.


Growing up in the Jewish deli business, I understand that Jewish food is much more than a corned beef sandwich and a knish. As the program description says, "It is a conversation about culture, values, history, and our Jewish future. It is also a conversation about where we are from - and there are Jews and Jewish food traditions from all over the globe." This is a program not to be missed. Purchase your tickets here by May 16.


Finally, many of us are watching the news in Israel. Let's hope for calm and a cease fire.


Shabbat shalom and Happy Mother’s Day.



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