New Year...New Time...New Opportunity

By the end of this weekend you will have received the final edition of the print version of the Jewish Review. This important community resource has played a vital role for our community for the past 53 years. Its continued excellence for the past 20 years was made possible by the leadership, passion and tireless hours of Paul Haist. He is an incredible journalist and even better person. I know you join me in extending Paul warm wishes as he begins his retirement.

I also want to acknowledge the 19 years of dedication by Deborah Moon. She, too, has done so much to create the character of the Jewish Review. We extend our best wishes to her as she assumes the role of editor for Oregon Jewish Life magazine.

Starting January 15th, you will be receiving community news (local, international, upcoming event information, community announcements) via email. The e-newsletter will be sent on the 15th and 30th of each month (unless those dates fall on Shabbat). Then, at the beginning of February, the new Oregon Jewish Life magazine will send out its first issue. We are confident that these two vehicles will provide even more expansive news coverage about our Jewish community.


I recently read Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum’s book, That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back. The basic outline for the book focuses on four main challenges impacting America -- globalization, changes in information technology, our nation’s political divide, and excessive energy consumption -- and the authors share their thoughts on what our country should do now to preserve American power in the world.

My favorite chapter in the book is titled, “Average is Over.” It is basically a rallying cry for people/organizations to do what it takes to stand out from the crowd in a world that keeps getting more crowded. Friedman and Mandelbaum write, “What was ‘average’ ten years ago is below average today and will be further below average ten years from now. As a result, everyone needs to raise his or her game to stay in place, let alone get ahead.” We all have to find our “next gear” – our unique talents, abilities, and skills that will separate us from the pack and allow us to do things that are truly special.

The business and non-profit worlds, in general, are overflowing with products, services, technology, and marketing campaigns that are adequate. The real challenge – and even greater opportunity – is to turn something adequate into something amazing. “The most successful companies, products, and brands have figured out how to become the most of something. That is, to find and embrace their ‘extra.’”

It is difficult to take a long-standing mainstream organization and turn it into something with a distinctive and compelling point of view. In a world of hyper-competition and limited attention, the only way to stand out is to stand for something special. A mentor of mine once told me, “If most organizations were honest with themselves, their mission statements would read, “Org X: We are no worse than anybody else.”

Our Jewish community should never be “no worse” – we should, in fact, “be a light unto other organizations.” Let’s embrace this opportunity and look at three resolutions for the new year:

  • More synergy and less suspicion. A local non-profit leader in the general community recently asked me about my “takeaways” since arriving in Portland. I shared my personal thoughts and then he said, “Ever been in a town where people and organizations are so suspicious of each other that they are afraid to work with you because they feel you may take something from them?” I had never thought about my experiences in that way. Working together for the greater good can only bring about excellent results.

  • Big and bold ideas will carry the day. We continue to think in incremental ways -- we take baby steps. It is time for a significant investment in resources and new brash ideas to “jump the curve.” Perhaps not everyone will be happy, yet the potential positive outcomes can change our collective Jewish future. All I know is that if we keep doing what we are currently doing, we will have diminishing returns.

  • History is a guide, yet should not stop us. Michael Weiner, Federation Chairman of the Board, and I recently visited the Jewish community in Austin, Texas (they claim “Keep Austin Weird” came first) to learn firsthand how their community is structured and operates. There are many similarities between Austin and Portland, yet three significant differences -- our Jewish community is double their size, their organizational structure is unique, and more importantly, the Jewish community there describes itself as “going from the telegraph straight to the cell phone with no land line in between.” Their message – the Jewish community is very young (the community rapidly grew after Dell Computers was founded) and thus communal history does not get in the way of change. To paraphrase John Maynard Keynes, “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.”

This should be our mantra as we enter 2012. This is a new year, a new time, and a new opportunity for all of us.

Best wishes to you and your family for a happy, prosperous and healthy new year.

Shabbat shalom.



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