Observant Leader

For over 20 years, our community has generously donated funds to ensure that everyone has the food they need to celebrate a joyous Passover. Our Passover4All campaign helps area families truly celebrate Passover.


With your help, over the next 10 days, we will raise in excess of $10,000 to provide local families who would not otherwise be able to celebrate with the food they need to make a seder. Food boxes and an additional food gift card are packed and delivered to families by volunteers from Congregation Kesser Israel and Jewish Family and Child Service. We ask that you please give generously by donating here.



On Wednesday, Senator Joseph Lieberman (z”l) passed away at the age of 82. (Sadly, yesterday was his wife’s birthday.) As you will recall, Senator Lieberman represented Connecticut from 1989 until 2013. He was notably the first Jewish American nominated to a national ticket as Vice President Al Gore's running mate in the 2000 presidential election. Remember how proud the Jewish community was of this accomplishment?


Senator Lieberman was also known for his steadfast commitment to and observance of Orthodox Judaism. He would walk from his home (4.5 miles away!) to Capitol Hill if he was required to cast a vote on Shabbat. “My Jewish faith is central to my life. I was raised in a religiously observant family. Given to me by my parents and formed by my rabbis, my faith has provided me with a foundation, an order, and a sense of purpose in my life. It has much to do with the way I strive to navigate in a constructive way through every day, both personally and professionally, in ways that are large and small.”


By every account, he was a model of integrity and ethical behavior and fought for many critical public policy issues: support for Israel, religious liberty, civil rights, environmental protection, and more.


In November 2001, a year after losing the election, he was the keynote speaker for the Jewish Federation in Baltimore. I was the professional in charge of the event and had the opportunity to spend private time with Senator Lieberman. He asked about my family and I shared that my first child was born four months earlier. He told me that she could always call him “Uncle Joe.” Moreover, while he was waiting to speak, he saw that I had his press photo in my event folder. Without any prompting, he reached over, pulled it out, and wrote a simple note to my daughter. He was a true mensch. Baruch Dayan HaEmet -- May his memory be for a blessing.


For close to 20 years, the US Department of Homeland Security has provided invaluable security grants for nonprofit institutions. Last year, the government budgeted $305 million of which our local organizations received over $1 million. Unfortunately, it was announced yesterday that funding for the program would be reduced by 10% -- this, at a time with increasing reports of antisemitic and Islamophobic attacks and threats.


The cuts, which were across the board for the Department of Homeland Security, came as part of a massive last minute $1.2 trillion package negotiated by the Biden White House, the Democratic-led Senate, and the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives.

This will make the process even more competitive this year.


Andy Gitelson, former executive director at Oregon Hillel, recently sent me this very interesting article about Jewish student experiences during World War II at Oregon State University. It is quite the read.


The author concludes, “It still does not seem like it is incredibly safe to be publicly Jewish on a college campus right now, let alone outwardly proud. The culture at OSU is no longer blatantly antisemitic, like it was during WWII for many Jewish students, but that still does not mean much if there is a lack of support. OSU has the power to make all religious minorities on campus feel safer, so that we do not risk experiencing history repeating itself.”


One example is Columbia University. The school is investigating a student event, “Resistance 101,” where speakers expressed support for Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups and encouraged students to back “armed resistance” against Israel, including attacks like October 7.


This past Wednesday, the Berkeley (CA) City Council had its final meeting ahead of a spring hiatus. The agenda for the meeting included marking Holocaust Remembrance Day and funding educational programs around this commemoration. There was nothing on the meeting agenda about the Hamas-Israel War. Sadly, with Holocaust survivors in the room, hecklers yelled shameful and antisemitic remarks. You can watch clips of the meeting here.


One person at the meeting shared on social media, “I spoke during the public comment period on 'non-agenda' items. I did not speak about the Holocaust, or current events in the Middle East. I thanked the council for continuing to focus on issues pertaining to local politics and safety (as is their duty) and then proceeded to explain that I do not feel safe as a Jew in Berkeley.”


No person in our country should feel unsafe.


Joe Lieberman wrote in January 2024:


The Jewish-American community cannot defeat antisemitism without help from the rest of America, any more than African-Americans alone can stop racism, or women alone can defeat gender bias or sexual abuse, or LGBT Americans alone can end hatred based on sexual orientation. It will take the broadest possible coalition of Americans coming together to fight hatred against any subgroup who are its victims. That is surely what our shared national values call on each of us to do.


We need to get there.


Finally, the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and Jewish Federation of Lane County made national news. Our decision to move our endowment investments out of fossil fuels is the top story in several Jewish media sources.


Shabbat shalom and I hope students and teachers enjoyed their spring break.



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