Rambling On... - May 5, 2023

This month is Jewish American Heritage Month. It recognizes what we all know -- since the very beginning, the story of the Jewish people has been woven into the fabric of our Nation. It is a story of resilience, faith, and hope in the face of adversity, prejudice, and persecution. It is a story of Jewish Americans enriching every part of American life -- as educators and entrepreneurs, athletes and artists, scientists and entertainers, public officials and activists, community leaders and military service members, and so much more.


Here is President Biden’s full 2023 Jewish American Heritage Month Proclamation.



This week, I hope you will allow me to ramble a bit…


Wednesday night I had the pleasure of meeting Maksym, the newest Ukrainian refugee our community helped resettle in Portland. With the support of a “Welcome Circle” from Congregation Shir Tikvah, Maksym, age 24 from Odessa, arrived almost two weeks ago. Maksym shared with me that within three of hours of President Zelensky calling for war, he and his family fled to Romania. After several months, the family eventually settled in Vienna where his parents and sister remain. While Maksym told me Portland is “the right place at the right time,” his parents and sister are waiting to go back to Odessa to reclaim their home and property. We welcome Maksym to our community.


One thing you should know about me is that I love television – you should see my DVR and my list of shows to watch on every streaming channel.


Do not miss A Small Light (on National Geographic Channel, Disney+, and Hulu), which tells the story of Miep Gies, a secretary who helped Anne Frank and others hide in Amsterdam during World War II. She is also the one who found and saved Anne Frank’s diary. The show’s title is taken from a quote by Gies: “Even a regular secretary, a housewife or a teenager can turn on a small light in a dark room.” I look forward to the upcoming episodes.


My wife and I saw, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, at its opening last week. We both loved the movie. The “coming of age story” reminds me so much of my daughter at that tween age. In addition, the internal/personal/family dynamics of being in an interfaith family raise many key points for people even today.


Sad to see the final episode of The Goldbergs on ABC. It was the longest running “identified Jewish family” show on network television. One thing I enjoyed the most is that it was about life in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania -- the town two blocks from where I lived in Philadelphia.


With my two recent trips to Israel, I had the opportunity to finish two books about Israel.


First, I read Daniel Gordis' book, Impossible Takes Longer: 75 Years After Its Creation, Has Israel Fulfilled Its Founders' Dreams? In 1948, Israel's founders had much more in mind than the creation of a state. They sought not mere sovereignty, but also a "national home for the Jewish people," where Jewish life would be transformed.


Gordis uses Israel's Declaration of Independence and its goals and principles as his focal point to judge how well Israel has done in achieving its founding vision. Did they succeed? The state they made is "a place of extraordinary success and maddening disappointment, a story of both unprecedented human triumph and great suffering." Gordis concludes that the Jewish state is a success far beyond anything its founders could have imagined.


As an avid reader of his blog, I was a bit surprised by his upbeat conclusions. Perhaps what has transpired from when he actually wrote the book to where Israel is right now, his opinion may be different. It is an excellent book that brings a new lens in which to examine Israel and her place in history -- so far.


I also read Dr. Pnina Lahav's fascinating biography of Golda Meir titled, The Only Woman In The Room: Golda Meir And Her Path To Power. I heard Dr. Lahav speak about the book on a recent podcast and wanted to learn more.


Some insights from the book and podcast. In March 1969, Golda Meir was appointed the fourth prime minister of the State of Israel, thus becoming one of the first women in the democratic world to serve in her country’s highest political office. She previously served as foreign minister from 1956 to 1966, making her the only female minister from 1948 until she resigned as prime minister in 1974 following the Yom Kippur War.


Lahav digs deep into the obstacles Meir faced being a woman. She was “a woman struggling for self-fulfillment, who had a good sense of herself and her abilities and was not always appreciated by the Israeli public.” Meir was a perpetual victim of prejudice in the Israeli press by being mocked for her looks, dress, and demeanor. And feminists did not think she did enough for women based on her position of power.


One quote I loved from Golda Meir: “What I condemn in the young is their presumption in saying that everything you have done is wrong so we will redo it all from the beginning. Well, if they were to do it all over again better, I would not even mind. But in many cases they are no better than us old people and can be even worse.”


A few special announcements:


Mazel tov to Fred Rothstein on his retirement after serving 22 years as Executive Director at Congregation Neveh Shalom and several years as the director of the MJCC. I will miss his wisdom and deep understanding of Jewish communal practice.


Welcome Marlene Edenzon, the new Executive Director at Congregation Neveh Shalom, who comes to Portland from a congregation in Los Angeles.


We wish a fond farewell to Rabbi Yerachmiel and Miriam Kalter who have served the Maayan Torah Day School for the past nine years, including Rabbi Kalter serving as the principal for the past few years. Their energy will be sorely missed as they move to Orlando, Florida where he will be the head of the Orlando Torah Academy.


Welcome to Rockne Roll, the new Editor of the Jewish Review. Rockne comes to us with a strong background in journalism and we look forward to what he brings to the online newspaper every two weeks.


Finally, the Jewish Federation’s Annual Meeting will take place on Tuesday, June 6 at 7:00 p.m. at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center. At the meeting we will share the findings of our 2023 Community Study conducted by Brandeis University. You do not want to miss it. Register here.


Shabbat shalom.



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