New Styles For Current Trends - January 5, 2024

Welcome 2024! And with the new year, here is my one resolution – this will be a year of change and innovation for our Jewish community. The data from the Jewish Community Study challenges us to address a variety of priority areas and service gaps within our Jewish community.


In Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, there was an article titled, “He Revived Old Spice. Can This CEO Save a Sneaker That Lost Its Cool?” The article highlights the change efforts of Bracken Darrell, CEO of VF, the parent company for such brands as North Face, Supreme, and Timberland. It is also the company that owns Vans -- the iconic "skateboard wear" company.


Darrell went on a listening tour to better understand why Vans’ sales were lagging. He noted that innovation at Vans stalled as the company remained focused on selling shoes designed in the 1970s while many consumers gravitated to more comfortable alternatives. The desires of people changed while the company’s offerings remained the same.


It made me think -- is this happening within our Jewish community organizations? If we look back at Federations, JCCs, synagogues, Jewish social service agencies, etc., how different are we today than 50 years ago? Yes, we may be offering different programs and services but have we truly kept up with modern trends?


Vans, like many Jewish organizations, has had its levels of success throughout the years. However, once you have success, you often start taking fewer risks.


The article shares that Darrell, while previously serving as CEO at Logitech, penned this Dr. Seuss-like poem titled, “The Secret to Success: Avoid It.” It reads in part: 


SUCCESS makes you fearful,

of losing your place,

of gambling with stature,

of losing your face.


Darrell said, “Vans, which was founded in 1966, became too reliant on five classic styles that it has sold since its infancy—including the checkerboard slip-ons worn in the movie ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ by Sean Penn (Spicoli).”


Several years ago, Hal Lewis, former President of Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago, wrote, “For many of us in the Jewish community, it is not easy to walk away from established programs (or classic style Vans), especially if they happen to be beloved by board members, funders, or customers. Plus, organizational culture is often the antithesis of change. Past practice becomes an excuse for failing to try new things. Too frequently, big dreams come to die, not incubate, in the culture of community organizations.”


Our community is blessed that many “legacy” and “new” Jewish organizations are changing this paradigm. They are seeking to reach the broadest spectrum of people in our Jewish community by tailoring spaces, programs, and services that “nurture Jews” (self-defined) and creating meaningful Jewish experiences. But, as Darrell is doing with Vans by pushing executives to move faster to churn out new styles that are more in tune with current trends, so must our Jewish organizations do the same in 2024 and beyond.


Watch as our community pushes forward. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, we can all learn from yesterday, live for today, but most of all, dream for tomorrow. In 2024, let’s continue to dream together!



Ninety-one days into the Israel-Hamas war and there are still around 103 hostages in Gaza (no one knows for sure how many are still alive). I want to share this inspirational music video (which many of you may have seen) produced in the Caesarea Amphitheatre by over 1000 Israeli musicians, some who are families of the hostages held by Hamas terrorists. Let us continue to fight to bring the hostages home -- NOW!


Wednesday night, 100 young/youngish adults came together for a comedy night featuring the Sklar Brothers. What made this program so special were the sponsors. The event launched the new PDX Cross Collaboration for young adult/NextGen programming. The partnering organizations include: Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, Congregation Neveh Shalom, Greater Portland Hillel, Jews Next Dor, Moishe House, Moishe Pod, OneTable, PDX MOTS, and Portland Jewish Connection. We look forward to partnering on more community events for this population and connecting more young people to the Jewish community. If you would like more information, please contact Laura Jeser.


The Jewish Federation and Greater Portland Jewish community is delighted to participate in the Shabbat of Love on Friday, January 19. Jews of all ages, backgrounds, and identities are invited to come together as a community with family, friends, and neighbors to experience the sacred joy of Shabbat, to spread light and love for who we are. Be part of the largest continental Shabbat celebration ever!


You can participate by attending a community program -- click here for congregations and Jewish organizations hosting Shabbat of Love programs. In addition, personal/home-based participation is also encouraged. Check out the Shabbat of Love website.


The Jewish Federation is very proud to bring to our community nationally recognized speakers/authors. Here are two individuals you do not want to miss):


Join our weekly Wednesday webinar series with The New York Times bestselling author, Dan Senor, on Wednesday, January 10 at 9:00 a.m.. Dan will share his insights about Israel – you can register here.


You are also invited to hear from Noa Tishby, author of The New York Times bestseller, Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth, on Thursday, January 18 at 7:00 p.m. Tishby is among the best-known pro-Israel figures on social media. The Jewish Federation is grateful to StandWithUs and Seattle’s Temple De Hirsch for making this possible. Register here for the livestream link.


Finally, I saw this photo and loved the message. I think this holds true in our personal life, professional life, and Jewish organizational life. 


Shabbat shalom.


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