Never Before - So, Let's Start with Israel

Things are not getting any easier.


This past Sunday, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Reed College held a disruptive “noise parade” (anti-Israel protest) to coincide with Erev Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance). On that night, a Jewish student’s mezuzah was ripped down and destroyed from her dorm room door. The following night, rocks were thrown through her window, one of which struck her. Though not physically hurt, the student was quite traumatized. The Reed administration issued a condemnation of this “hate crime,” but in the meantime has allowed SJP to occupy the third floor of the main administrative building and to put up several anti-Israel banners on the outside of the building. The Jewish Federation’s JCRC has connected the student and her parents to the Brandeis Center, which believes this warrants a Title VI civil rights complaint.


I also want to bring to your attention an upsetting public statement from the Oregon Food Bank (OFB) “calling for a ceasefire of Israel’s violence against Palestinians.” This one-sided statement speaks for itself.


Yesterday, I met with Susannah Morgan, OFB’s CEO to share our concerns. I asked her, “Why did OFB issue a statement?” since the organization's focus is on hunger in Oregon. She shared that OFB believes settler colonialism is a root cause of hunger, and war and violence are drivers of hunger. Interestingly, this is the first time the Oregon Food Bank has ever made a statement about an international issue. We recognize the humanitarian needs in Gaza, but to learn OFB has never said anything about Somalia, Sudan, and dozens of other countries with severe hunger issues and/or involved in civil war reinforces the intent to demonize Israel.


Natan Sharansky repeatedly says, "When criticism of Israel is applied selectively and in a grossly unfair manner and Israel is singled out when clearly immoral behavior of other nation-states is ignored—this can be considered antisemitism."


Every time I would share a concern about OFB’s statement, Susannah would look at me and plainly say, “You have been heard.” I hope the leadership of the Oregon Food Bank and Susannah hear from you by clicking here or call 503-282-0555.


Yesterday afternoon, Greater Portland Hillel leadership, Jewish Federation professionals, and six students met with Ann Cudd, President of Portland State University. We took the opportunity for students to share their experiences on campus and to discuss ways to keep them feeling safe and secure going forward.


Students talked about missing classes due to safety concerns, professors who outwardly have an anti-Israel bias, hiding one’s Star of David necklace, and even how other student groups will not engage in dialogue with Jewish students. You could clearly hear their fear and frustration.


During our meeting, President Cudd unequivocally denounced antisemitism. We encouraged her to say that loudly to the entire campus community -- not just the Jews. She agreed with our concerns about any move to divest from any company (Boeing) or entity doing business with Israel. And she even shared that the horrible graffiti in the library criticized Biden, Netanyahu, and herself – but never once mentioned Hamas.


I am glad we had this meeting and felt “she got it.” President Cudd was open and empathetic to the students and our other concerns about campus. We were there to advocate for the safety of all Jewish students and faculty – the campus still has a long way to go.


Earlier this week, I was in Pittsburgh for the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies annual conference. The Network serves as the national umbrella organization for Jewish social service agencies from across the continent. I attended with Susan Greenberg, Executive Director of our local JFCS. The most meaningful session for me was on “big change.” How does one move an organization forward when there are always people (staff, volunteer leaders, etc.) who resist change? How do we get people to agree on a direction, get aligned, and then commit to the change?


Many of us attend professional conferences. It is great to see old colleagues, meet others, and to learn from other communities. And, we become energized by the experience. But what happens when we get home? Research shows the gap between what happens at a conference and the actual amount of implementation is very small. It is because we return to our daily “to do” lists. Conferences provide lots of information but rarely create “make and take” tools. It is important to return home with an already outlined written plan – then implementation will happen. I know Susan and I are coming home with many excellent ideas and a clear path going forward.


Last Sunday we commemorated Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Starting this Sunday night, we begin Yom HaZikaron followed by Yom Ha’Atzmaut on Monday evening.


Yom HaZikaron is Israel’s Memorial Day. Enshrined into law in 1963 as a day of memory for soldiers who lost their lives in battle on behalf of a Jewish homeland. With the passage of time and the collective trauma due to ongoing conflict and terrorism, the day now honors not just fallen soldiers, but also those who lost their lives in terror attacks. It has even more special relevance following the attacks on October 7. Join us this Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center for a special memorial service.


Yom Ha'Atzmaut -- Moments after the sun sets on Yom HaZikaron, we mark the anniversary of Israel declaring its independence on the 5th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar in 1948. Celebrate Israel’s 76th Independence Day with the Portland Jewish community on Monday from 4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center. There will be activities for all ages, snacks, games, and songs, including an energetic performance by the band TLV starting at 5:30 pm. Cost is $5/person or $15/family. Additional security measures will be taken and all attendees must pre-register here.


Stanford University is working on a national Jewish Teen Survey to gauge the state of mental health and well-being among Jewish teenagers in America. We want at least 100 Oregon teens to complete the survey so we have a representative sample for our state. 


Shabbat shalom.

Public Service Announcement – The Portland Police Bureau encourages anyone who believes they have been the victim of a Bias Crime or Bias Incident to report it to the police. Call 911 or 503-823-3333 (non-emergency) or report online at You can also report incidents on our own reporting form here.


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