Important note: We recently had issues with the Tigard Post Office. If you mailed anything to the Jewish Federation and it was returned to you, please let me know by replying to this email. Also, feel free to resend to 9900 SW Greenburg Road, Suite 220, Tigard, OR 97223.
Do not forget about the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland’s first-ever Please Don’t Show Gala. This is a fundraising “event” (enjoy staying home) for these challenging and unpredictable times. Join the hundreds who have already sent their “RSVP” and make your commitment to the 2022 Campaign for Community Needs here.
In addition, we are delighted that once again a donor will match all 10%+ increases to our campaign. We need your support to reach our goal.
Several weeks ago, I wrote about the 80th anniversary of the massacre at Babi Yar. Following that email, a community leader shared with me a story about a local person. These personal accounts inspire the work that I do and it is why your generosity matters.
Radiya, a Holocaust survivor, passed away on September 12, 2020 at the age of 91. If it was up to the Germans, she would have been killed 79 years earlier at Babi Yar.
Radiya was 12 years old when the Nazis occupied Kiev. She recalled her neighbors in their communal apartment telling her grandmother (who was ethnically Russian and not Jewish) they needed to leave or they would report the child to the German soldiers. The girl and her grandmother fled and found an abandoned home in Kiev where Radiya hid in the basement for two years.
The person who shared this with me wrote, “Imagine yourself as a child living in a dark basement for two years. Imagine you can’t leave this basement, not today, not tomorrow, and maybe not ever. You don’t know if you will be free again in the future. You only know you may be found at any moment. Imagine you have to give up your dog because she barked every time the Germans walked by your basement window. ‘It’s a paradox,’ Radiya said, ‘the dog was a German Sheppard but didn’t like German soldiers, walking by with the obnoxiousness of occupiers, laughing, spitting, pushing each other.’ The dog had to go before being discovered.”
Radiya, sadly, remembered seeing the Jews being rounded up from from her small basement window. Soon, they would go to their death. 33,771 Jews of all ages were killed at Babi Yar – solely because they were Jews.
As the war came to the end, it became more dangerous to remain in the basement. The Germans were going door-to-door looking for Jews. Radiya and her grandmother twice walked 15 miles under the darkness of night to join partisans in the woods. Unfortunately, the first time, several village people told them to leave because they did not look like locals, and thus they walked back. They made the journey one more time for their own survival, eventually going east, and then ultimately arriving in Portland.
While living here, Radiya was supported by our Jewish community. With the assistance of Jewish Family and Child Service, she received needed social services, food, and home cleaning assistance. In addition, JFCS worked for two years to get her approved for a small monthly pension from the German government near the end of her life. As my friend wrote, "Think about it -- two years of hiding in the basement and two years to receive a small measure of justice." In between, she lived her life and was able to tell her story.
In addition, Radiya needed financial support for her burial. Since 2008, our community has supported Hesed Shel Emet, a program that assures that all low-income Jewish residents of Oregon and Southwest Washington can be buried with dignity in accordance with Jewish law and custom. As part of this program, the community was able to raise additional funds to support the burial of any Holocaust survivor. Radiya was a beneficiary.
Radiya is just one of many in our community who has an incredible personal story and journey. You may never know these people, but through your generosity, you give them care, compassion, and a higher quality of life. That is what our Campaign for Community Needs is all about.
On a different topic, you may have seen in the Jewish press that Sunrise DC, a branch of a national climate action group, turned down a role at the Freedom to Vote Relay-Rally (in support of voting rights) because a “number of Zionist organizations” will be taking part. Those organizations were the National Council of Jewish Women, the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
Sunrise DC said in a statement, “We oppose Zionism and any state that enforces its ideology.”
Interestingly, there are two other Jewish groups belonging to the same coalition that Sunrise DC had no issues with -- Bend the Arc and Workers Circle. Bend the Arc has no position on Israel and Workers Circle backs a two-state solution (same as the three organizations mentioned above), but has been highly critical of Israel.
It was also noted that in the coalition are at least two groups that are highly critical of Israel, the Arab-American Institute and Code Pink. Neither group objected to joining a coalition that included the three Jewish groups named by Sunrise DC.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) tweeted, “Refusing to participate in civic life with Jewish groups — especially those groups who are committed to social justice here in the US, in Israel and around the world — is misguided, unproductive, offensive and wrong.”
I know many debate whether anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, saw the actions of Sunrise DC in only one way, “Anti-Semitic — plain and simple.”
Sadly, the battle against anti-Semitism continues.
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