Oh, The Places You'll Go

Every day I feel glued to the news headlines. The feeling of uncertainty seems to be pervasive.

This past week, JCRC Director Bob Horenstein, JCRC Chair Michael Weiner and immediate past JCRC chair Randie Peterson attended the annual policy conference of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs JCPA) in Washington, D.C. The JCPA is the national umbrella body for 125 Jewish community relations councils across the country. The conference was entitled The Path Forward, and focused on, among other things, reengaging the Jewish community in civil rights issues, the challenges of advocacy with a new administration and Congress, and advancing the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Featured speakers included Cornell Brooks, President of the NAACP, Aaron David Miller, former US Middle East envoy, columnist Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post and political commentator E.J. Dionne of the Brookings Institute.

In addition, our concerns center on anti-Semitism in Jewish communities across our country. We are grateful to President Trump for his strong statements on Tuesday night when he addressed Congress. But more must be done!

Earlier this week, the national umbrella organization for Jewish Community Centers – the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America (JCCA) -- issued the following statement:

We have shown strength, resilience and determination in response to the bomb threats that have plagued JCCs across the country over the last two months. The tireless commitment to maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for all people in the community is inspiring. 

It's time to demand that our government agencies work as hard as you are to put an end to this hate. 

It's time that we made that call.

Visit JCCA.org/one-call. Find the number of your government representative and follow the script to demand that the Department of Homeland Security and FBI act swiftly to put an end to these threats and the rise of anti-Semitism in North America. It takes less than five minutes to make the call and make your voice heard.

On Wednesday night, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly pledged his department’s assistance to Jewish communities throughout the nation that have been besieged by bomb threats and other anti-Semitic intimidation tactics. Kelly said the department’s protective security advisers will offer advice and protection strategies.

On Monday alone there were 31 bomb threats called into 23 community centers and eight Jewish day schools. Fortunately, no calls have been received in Greater Portland.  

This morning, a suspect was arrested in St. Louis for making threats against Jewish institutions. This is a developing story, and authorities do not believe this person is responsible for all the threats.

Our community is in constant contact with local and national law enforcement agencies to monitor the situation. We have reached out to many of our community agency partners to offer assistance and support. We have also been in touch in regard to the security of our local Jewish cemeteries. Safety and security is a top priority at all our Jewish institutions. If we/you hear or learn anything, it must be reported and communicated.

In addition, here is a blog post in the Times of Israel of five things you can do right now to support JCCs. 

During these times, I like to think about much happier things. Yesterday would have been Theodore Seuss Geisel’s (aka Dr. Seuss) 113th birthday. To celebrate his life and work, March 2 is also the National Education Association's Read Across America Day, when children across the country take part in reading events. (And our own Michael Jeser read PJ Library books to children at the MJCC/PJ Library co-hosted Indoor Playground.)

In honor of the man behind favorite children's classics like The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham (is that book kosher?), here are some favorite lines and rhymes that I hope resonate with you:

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. 

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.  

You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams. 

Why fit in when you were born to stand out?

To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.

Dr. Seuss also said, “Today is your day, your mountain is waiting. So get on your way.” He must have been speaking to the 8thgraders at Portland Jewish Academy (PJA) and the Confirmation class from Congregation Beth Israel (CBI).

Earlier this week, ten 8th grade students from PJA began their special journey to Israel. For most of these students it will be their first time there. They will be joined by the Contra Costa Jewish Day School for the eighth straight year. Beyond the typical sites in Israel, the group will be volunteering with Leket, Israel’s national food bank, enjoy an experience with the Druze community in Usafiya, visit Portland’s longstanding partner Neve Michael Children's Village, and celebrate Purim, including making mishloach manot and delivering them to seniors at Yad Lakashish.


And yesterday, 21 tenth graders from CBI left for Washington, DC to learn and to share their voices in our democratic process. It should be an incredible experience with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.


Here are a few things Dr. Seuss may have said to these students prior to their trip:

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut. (No sleeping on the bus!)

I wish these students an incredible experience and look forward to hearing about their trips upon their return.

Shabbat shalom.




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