Positives and Negatives - June 4, 2021

Wednesday night, the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland held its final board meeting for this fiscal year. At the meeting we finalized our allocations decisions based on a very successful campaign. We also made special funding decisions we are excited about. I cannot share the details today since we are meeting with each organization first to inform them of our decisions. Please join us at our 101st Annual Meeting on June 14 at 4:30 p.m. when we will share everything with the community. Register here.
This is certainly a busy time with lots of positive, and, unfortunately, negative news to share:
  • After four elections in a two-year period, Israeli opposition parties reached a coalition agreement to form a government and oust Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history. Will it actually happen between now and when the confidence vote happens (within the next 10 days) is a question. The new coalition is an unusual alliance between eight political parties from a diverse array of ideologies, from the left to the far right. It includes the membership of the Raam party, the first independent Arab party in Israeli history to join a governing coalition as a full member. The alliance will be led until 2023 by Naftali Bennett (Israel’s first Orthodox prime minister). If the government lasts a whole term, it would then be led between 2023 and 2025 by Yair Lapid (first-ever prime minister to belong to a Reform synagogue), a former television host. We will watch to see how the coalition fares.
  • Isaac Herzog, Chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), was elected Israel’s 11th president, a largely ceremonial role that is meant to serve as the nation’s moral compass and promote unity. Herzog is former head of Israel’s Labor Party and comes from a prominent Israeli family. His father, Chaim Herzog, was Israel’s 6th president. His uncle, Abba Eban, was Israel’s first foreign minister and ambassador to the United Nations and United States. And his grandfather was the country’s first chief rabbi.
  • Late Friday prior to Memorial Day, a very disturbing email was sent to the entire student body of Oregon State University from the student government, Associated Students of Oregon State University (ASOSU). The email was a one-sided, inflammatory letter fully supporting the Palestinians (including a fundraising appeal) and strongly attacking Israel and Zionism. Interestingly, the ASOSU says they reflect/represent “every student at Oregon State University.” Apparently, students who are pro-Israel and Zionist are excluded.
  • Credit goes to Oregon Hillel Executive Director, Andy Gitelson, for his immediate leadership and action. Upon hearing from concerned and angry students about the email, he sent this statement to the OSU administration and Jewish students on campus (and their families) sharing concerns. As of today, Oregon Hillel has yet to hear from the ASOSU or the OSU administration. And sadly, Andy has shared that students are angry, upset, and fearful to be openly Jewish on campus. 
  • In addition, Andy proactively sent a message to the University of Oregon administration to make them aware and to, hopefully, prevent a similar circumstance from happening. We are grateful to University of Oregon President Michael Schill for his strong statement against anti-Semitism on campus. We wish other university presidents across the country would take a similar stand.
  • Last week I shared about our incredibly successful community-wide summit: A Community Call to Confront Hate. As promised, here is the link to all the presentations on topics including: anti-Semitism in America, Latinos confronting oppressive systems, evolving threat of white nationalism, racism in Oregon towards indigenous people, stopping Asian hate, anti-trans backlash, Islamophobia, and the rise of online hate.
  • Upon the retirement of Laurie Rogoway following 30+ years of work at the Jewish Federation, we created the Laurie Rogoway Outstanding Jewish Professional Leadership Award. In addition to the award itself, the professional also receives a stipend of up to $1,800 for their own professional development. I am delighted to share that this year’s recipient is Rachel Nelson, Director of Jewish Education Initiatives and Intergroup Outreach at the Jewish Federation.
  • Since 1992, the Jewish Women’s Round Table has been recognizing women leaders from Portland-area Jewish women’s organizations and agencies via the Song of Miriam Awards. I am pleased to share that Eliana Temkin is the Jewish Federation’s Song of Miriam awardee. Eliana serves on the Jewish Federation’s Board of Directors, chairs the Federation’s Rogoway Outstanding Jewish Professional Leadership Award Selection Committee, sat on the Federation’s Allocations Committee, and previously worked professionally at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center. Eliana brings a deep passion and understanding of our community – from a professional and volunteer lens. The Jewish Review in upcoming issues will be sharing stories on the various Song of Miriam Awardees so they get the recognition they each deserve.
  • In 2019, the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford started a program called Dignity Grows, which provides personal and menstrual hygiene products every month to people who cannot afford them, roughly 20% of those who have a period. Three months ago, Jewish Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy became the 15th chapter of Dignity Grows across the country.
  • The program works with community members sponsoring Dignity Totes for $10 each, which include: a month’s supply of sanitary pads and tampons, toothpaste and a toothbrush, a bar of soap, deodorant, and shampoo. Volunteers then pack the supplies and distribute to local partner organizations in the community. To learn more, volunteer (men included), or to purchase supplies click here or email here.
  • June is LGBTQ Pride Month -- a time to celebrate the vibrant rainbow of LGBTQ identities in our communities and honor the tremendous (and still incomplete) work towards LGBTQ equality and dignity. Let us learn more and celebrate together. Check out our community’s Facebook page.
  • Hard to believe, June 1 was my 27th anniversary in Jewish communal professional work (all at Jewish Federations) and this week’s Torah portion, Shelach Lecha, marks 39 years since my bar mitzvah. My children may be right, I am getting old.
Shabbat shalom.
Marc N. Blattner
President and CEO


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