Notes Before Labor Day - September 1, 2023

Rosh Hashanah is only two weeks away! The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland has created two websites that may be of interest and helpful.


Click here for a High Holidays calendar. We have many wonderful synagogues in our Jewish community who are very welcoming and other groups holding New Year's programs and activities.


Click here for High Holiday resources.


In addition, has created an email series on how to be more comfortable in a synagogue. One of the key learning lessons in our community study was people felt uncomfortable in Jewish settings due to their personal Jewish knowledge. 



Hard for me to believe that I am celebrating my bar mitzvah. Today is my 13th anniversary serving as the President and CEO of the Jewish Federation. To be honest, I have loved every single day working on behalf of our community. I am truly honored and privileged to be in this position and to work with so many tremendous volunteers and professionals who care so much about Jewish Portland.


This week we began the Jewish Federation’s 2024 Campaign for Community Needs. (I know the timing can be confusing – we are seeking pledges now, yet payment is not due until December 2024.) This week, we held a special event for lead donors with Julie Platt, Chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, and as of today our campaign has raised $746,368!


There are two keys to any campaign effort – increase the number of donors and raise more dollars. There is an old adage, “You cannot do tomorrow’s work with today’s dollars.” If we are to meet the challenges of the community study, along with the impact of inflation, then we need your help in raising more funds. So, when you get a call (remember to thank the campaign volunteer) or a direct mail letter, we hope you will join thousands of others in our community and make an increased commitment to our annual campaign. Or, you can donate right hereAll increases of 10% or more over last year will have the increase matched dollar for dollar. Please know that every gift is greatly appreciated. Thank you!


There was an excellent article in The Forward earlier this week. The legendary advice column, Bintel Brief, had the following headline, “I feel so disconnected from Jewish life. Help me find community.” This seemed to come straight out of our community study and apparently is a question that comes up more than any other in letters to the Bintel Brief. 


The article crowdsourced several ideas to help. I encourage you to read the article. (If you do not subscribe to The Forward, you may need to sign up for two free articles.) Several comments stuck out to me:


“Finding the right community also means taking chances. They need to take the first step and walk in that door,” said a woman joining the conversation from the Pacific Northwest. “Many Jewish organizations are not just family-centered. It’s a lot easier to make assumptions and complain when you don’t make the effort to connect in some way. My synagogue calls itself a family and we really are. There’s a lot of love in the community just waiting for new people to embrace. Also, do not give up after one try. Did you give up on dating after one wrong turn?”


“Sometimes the only way to find a good fit is to try a variety of things and compare,” chimed in someone else. “It’s not a failure if you try a thing and decide it’s not for you, and it’s not the end of the road. It’s part of the process.”


“When one feels a lack of something, there are often others who share their feelings. And so, if they are willing to take the initiative, they may be able to create what they seek.”


I believe Jewish Portland offers tremendous opportunities for involvement and engagement. But our study says the top two reasons why people do not participate are: 1) programs are not of interest and 2) traffic and geography of where events are happening.


Our community has to do its part to meet people where they are. As follow-up to the community study, we are developing “think tanks” to look into how we learn what programs may be of interest and how we get out “outside of our buildings.”


However, people still need to make the choice to check “us” out once we are in their geographic area offering a variety of opportunities to meet different interests, etc. Plus, it is important to try again if the first thing does not work out. The “Jewish community,” too often, gets lumped together as one entity when there are so many different organizations and varieties of Jewish opportunities out there. A negative experience at one should not be broadcast across the Jewish community.


I will be curious in your thoughts on what the article says.


I also encourage you to listen to an excellent podcast from this week – Identity/Crisis -- from the Shalom Hartman Institute. Eric Fingerhut, CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, is interviewed. The discussion provides an excellent understanding of the role Jewish Federations play and their impact on global Jewish life.


I want to thank the Jewish Federation-sponsored Hood to Coast team. They had another successful relay and we look forward to doing it again next year.



Just a reminder that Dr. Rick Hodes will be speaking in the evenings of September 11 (at Mittleman Jewish Community Center) and September 12 (at Eastside Jewish Commons). Dr. Hodes is a true Jewish hero. He was in charge of the health care of all Ethiopian immigrants to Israel from late 1990 until 2016, about 1% of the Israeli population. He also participated in Operation Solomon, the historic airlift of over 14,000 Ethiopians to Israel in 36 hours. Today, Dr. Hodes directs JDC’s non-sectarian medical programs, including cardiac care and treatment of spine disease. He has been inducted into the Medical Mission Hall of Fame and has been selected a “CNN Hero.” You can register here.


 Shabbat shalom and have a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend.


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