Pathways Ahead

Let me start with some very exciting news – in 2020 (the Jewish Federation’s Centennial Year) the Portland Jewish community will once again host the Wexner Heritage Program. This two-year program will be open to 20 younger leaders from across our community. The recruitment process will not begin until 2019, but I wanted to make the announcement as soon as it became final. Portland last hosted the Wexner program twenty years ago, which had a tremendous impact on the leadership in our community.

We are now 61 days into our 100 Days of Impact and I am delighted to share that our campaign is currently over $2.36 million! This is an incredible start – especially noting that our current donor-for-donor increase is at 10%. This means most of our donors are meeting the challenge grant created by Scott and Elena Shleifer where they will match all increases of 10% or more dollar for dollar and all new gifts. Help us maximize this opportunity (up to $200,000) and enable our community to grow its resources and impact.

On Sunday, December 4 we will be holding our annual Super Sunday. Be a hero – volunteer and join us at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center from 9 a.m. – 1p.m. – and help reach out to our community.

There is an old adage in the philanthropic world – “We cannot do tomorrow’s work with yesterday’s dollars.” That is why we must grow our campaign – and we can only do that through your generosity. Thank you to those who have already contributed and we hope that those who have not – will join thousands of others in our community’s campaign.

Two weeks ago, we welcomed our second cohort of the PDX Pathways program. There are 21 young adults in this group of which 18 are from out of state (many arriving within the past few months from places like London, Jerusalem, Boston, Austin, and Baltimore). This is a testament to the growing young adult population in our community. Click here to meet our new program participants and click here to view photos form the recent kickoff event.

On Monday night, I did one of my favorite things -- I had the opportunity to dialogue with many of these young adults. It was a very honest and frank conversation. They shared their interest in getting involved in our Jewish community, some of the barriers they have already faced, and their willingness to “roll up their sleeves” and get involved. They were spirited and full of ideas. Three main topic areas came out:

  • They want to develop personal relationships. This does not mean via social media. This means sitting down face-to-face with their Jewish peers and finding social, professional, and personal connections.
  • They want to find “community” – community that speaks to them. This was very interesting to me. As one participant put it, “I know there are synagogues, federation, the MJCC, and other community institutions which are all great. But I am not looking for an institution, I am looking for community.” There is a difference for this generation.
  • They want there to be trust between the individual and the organization. There were those who expressed feelings that organizations were only about money (membership dues, contributions, etc.) and less interested in their individual needs and desires. Some were unsure if the organizations were able to help them navigate as they move through various life stages. And others just wondered if organizations were truly interested in young adults and what they have to offer.

Understanding this was a small sample, which included things we have heard before, the question is “now what?” How do we keep these young people engaged for the long-term? How do we move them from opportunity to opportunity based on their stage of life? What is it we are not offering that would be of interest to them?

Here are three simple ideas they mentioned to me:

  1. They are willing to serve as “welcomers” to new young adult arrivals in town. We are fortunate that these people all “stepped forward” and came to us. Most young adults do not do that. But if we know of new young adults to town, this group is happy to connect with them.

  2. They like the idea of Shabbat cluster groups. Shabbat dinner is social, fun, and a great way to meet new people. How can we provide more opportunities for young adults to share Shabbat dinner together? We are currently funding Moishe House  and Moishe House Without Walls that provide these opportunities, but we want to expand our offerings. You may remember last week I wrote about One Table, and this just adds to the thought of bringing the program to Portland.

  3. They want to be “idea generators” and program implementers. They have new and fresh ideas. They may be ideal for boards and committees. They are ready to work.

I came away from this conversation feeling that our future is bright. Young people are moving to Portland. They have a seriousness about our Jewish community and their Jewish self. They care! They want to be involved! They have creative energy and enthusiasm! And they are willing to invest themselves in things that interest them!  Now our community must do its part to engage these talented young people -- today!

Best wishes to you and your family for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Despite the uneasy times in our country, I do believe we all have much to be thankful for in life and our community.


PS – This past week we celebrated the 32nd anniversary of one of our greatest achievements as the Jewish people. On November 21, 1984, a seven-week clandestine operation to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel began. The unprecedented undertaking, code-named “Operation Moses,” was a three-way collaboration between the Mossad, the CIA and Sudanese State Security (SSS) to smuggle nearly 8,000 Jews out of refugee camps in Sudan in a massive airlift to Israel. Here is a beautiful short video detailing the operation.


Add Comment