Philanthropic Champions

Every four years I am glued to the television watching the Summer Olympics. I am mesmerized by the total commitment these athletes have to their sport. The training and dedication is truly inspiring to me. And then one realizes, when someone wins a gold medal it means they are the best in the world in that specific event on that day. It is an incredible achievement to be an Olympic champion!

Plus, as I watch, I can hear my grandmother in my head cheering on all the Jewish athletes. I know she would be kvelling over Aly Raisman in gymnastics and Yarden Gerbi of Israel who won the bronze medal in women’s judo, among others.

Portland has its own “Olympic” athletes who recently returned from the Jewish Community Center Association Maccabi Games in St. Louis. Our outstanding delegation of 20 teenagers participated in basketball, soccer, and track and brought home gold or silver medals in all three sports. The athletes not only enjoyed their sporting events, but also developed friendships with other teens from across the country. We hope to have even more athletes from Portland participate next year. If interested, please contact the Mittleman Jewish Community Center.

Whether it’s the Olympic athletes in Rio or our own participants at the JCCA Maccabi Games, it takes true passion to be a champion.

We are fortunate to have many passionate philanthropic champions in our community. I want to share three short inspiring stories that all occurred in recent weeks.

  • A month ago, I received an email out of the blue from a community member who wrote, “Are there organizations or one-time needs which could not be funded this year or some that were severely underfunded - or one that might benefit from multiple year donations that you are aware of?  I understand there is always a need, but I am looking for ones already vetted by Federation and could not get funding because of money limitations.

I immediately contacted the individual and we met several days later. In one hour this anonymous donor (who had a recent business windfall) committed $100,000 to provide additional funds for our Jewish Right Start program (pre-school incentive grants), partner with other donors to support a new community chaplain (more details to come), and created a special fund for Jewish educator professional development.

  • An individual recently set up a $50,000 educational endowment for Federation (through the OJCF) with the yearly distribution to be used to “increase the young learning experiences for children at impressionable ages hoping that Jewish life in my beloved Portland continues to be secure in the future.” This fund can be used for innovative Jewish educational programs, teen Jewish programming, scholarships and travel stipends for educator professional development conferences, and tuition assistance for Jewish pre-school to high school age children.
  • I received a beautiful handwritten note in the mail along with a check for $58. A recent widow brought a tzedakah box to her bank and inside it was $58 in coins. The tzedakah box had been given to her husband thirty years ago as appreciation for his leadership service to the Jewish Federation system. She graciously sent the tzedakah money to Federation and asked for the money to be added to our Jewish Free Loan fund.

Each of these are wonderful gifts and blessings for our community. Moreover, these gifts, and every gift (no matter the amount) the Jewish Federation receives, are precious and make a difference for our Jewish community. We certainly celebrate the thousands of philanthropic champions in our community!

Jewish Camping

When I finished graduate school and was about to start my new job, I suddenly realized my summers at Jewish camp were over (maybe I should have become a camp director). I realized it was the first time since I was 3 years old that I would be unable to attend Jewish day and/or overnight camp (as a camper and counselor/unit leader). Although I do not get to participate at camp, I do have the opportunity to visit them.

Last Friday afternoon, I visited Camp SEED, a Jewish day camp for children ages 3-11 sponsored by the Portland Kollel. I celebrated with the children at their closing carnival. It was so much fun to see the children having such a great time along with the devoted counselors.

And on Monday, I visited Camp Solomon Schechter (CSS) with the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver (BC). Both of our communities have many campers who attend the camp. It was wonderful to see the camp site, their new building plans, and, most importantly, the campers. The highlight of this trip was seeing both the CSS campers and the Sephardic Adventure Camp (SAC) children (who I wrote about last week) going through their activities. It truly is amazing what the CSS team was able to do to accommodate the SAC campers.

Our community is blessed to have so many wonderful Jewish day and overnight camp options. In fact, we have children at 18 different Jewish camps this summer all across North America.

Hood to Coast

For the past several years, the Jewish Federation has proudly sponsored a team in the Hood to Coast race. I was just made aware that a team volunteer is needed from 5:45pm - 9:45pm on Friday, August 26 at Exchange 12 (east side under the Hawthorne Bridge). Possible volunteer roles include helping with parking, keeping the running route clear, and calling out numbers as runners come to exchange. Please contact our team leader, Glen Coblens  who can provide full details.

Finally, last night the Jewish Federation’s Governing Board and professional team had a social event at Big Al’s Bowling Center to get better acquainted. A fun time was had by all.

Amazingly, I bowled the high game of the evening.

Shabbat shalom and Saturday night we begin observance of Tisha b’Av.

Shabbat shalom.



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