Shine the Light - December 1, 2023

This morning we awoke to news that the fighting has renewed between Israel and Hamas. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, "We support and we will continue to support Israel doing everything possible to ensure Hamas cannot repeat the horrors of October 7 and no longer has the capacity to carry out attacks. How Israel does it is up to Israel, but it is also imperative to protect civilians and ensure humanitarian aid goes to Gaza. That is something that is vital to us and the Israeli government agrees with.”


Tuesday night, the Jewish Federation along with 35 organizational partners, held a gathering in support of the hostages remaining in Gaza. Four hundred people attended in person and another 1,500 households watched via livestream. Our focus and reason for gathering – to BRING THE HOSTAGES HOME! As of this morning, 137 still remain.


The most difficult and moving part of the program was hearing from Efrat, a local Israeli whose brother, Ohad, and nephew, Eitan, were taken hostage. Fortunately, earlier this week, 12-year-old Eitan was released. Ohad remains in Gaza. I cannot even imagine the mixed emotions and feelings of one being home and the other still being held by terrorists.

You can watch a recording of the 45-minute program here. And news coverage from KGW here.



Chanukah begins next Thursday night. Here is a calendar of local Chanukah happenings and a Chanukah resource page.


At its core, the tradition of Chanukah, and specifically the lighting of the menorah, is a call for amplification of light and tolerance. It is the perfect holiday for a multicultural world. We can preserve our values and trumpet our beliefs – not so other people adopt them, but so that other people accept them. Chanukah is a “home” holiday where the lights of our menorahs can illuminate our neighborhood and world.


People have asked me whether they should put their menorah in their window or hang Chanukah decorations with the rise in antisemitism.


My answer is an emphatic YES!


Putting menorahs in windows is a sign of strength amid strife. Our classical Jewish texts tell us to place our menorahs in the window of our homes to publicize the celebration of a miracle. So, this year – I hope our entire Jewish community will proudly SHINE THE LIGHT for all to see.

In that way, the light will spread. We will fight the ugliness of antisemitism with the light of understanding, the light of tolerance, and the lights of our proud Jewish identities.


This reminds me of Billings, Montana in 1995. You may remember the story when the people in Billings stood up to white supremacists when a Black church, a Native American family, and a Jewish family became the targets of intimidation. Townspeople of all races and religions found common ground against attacks to their neighbors. Religious and community leaders, labor union volunteers, law enforcement, the local newspaper and concerned residents united in action and spoke loudly against hate and intolerance, proclaiming in no uncertain terms "Not In Our Town." 


A brick was thrown through the window of a six-year-old Jewish boy who displayed a menorah for Chanukah. This was the signal that violence in Billings was escalating.


The community rallied and urged residents to place menorahs in their windows as a sign of solidarity. 10,000 people put menorahs in their windows to show they would stand together against hate and bigotry. We can do the same in Portland!


For 40 years, Chabad has been doing public menorah lightings in Portland. Join them on the first night of Chanukah at 5:00 p.m. at Pioneer Square. Their goal this year is to have 1,800 people light the first Chanukah candle and together proclaim: “A little light dispels much darkness.” There will be Portland Police and security at the event -- please register here.


Rabbi David Hartman wrote, “The miracle of Chanukah is not that one vessel of oil lasted for eight days, but that the community was willing to light one vessel not knowing whether it would last. The true miracle is daring to dream. And that is the key to Jewish life. Any realistic analysis says, ‘Forget it! You will never succeed.’ But if you say, ‘I believe in the power of a little bit of light,’ and believe in the kinds of things that are not codified, then you are saying, ‘I believe that this little flicker of faith I have can produce an enormous transformation, so that somehow I will have a greater and great effect on the world.’”


A few extra things to share:


  • Here is Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s speech on antisemitism in America he delivered on Wednesday. He called out the wave of antisemitism that has followed the October 7 Hamas terror attacks on Israel, denouncing anti-Israel protesters, the media, erstwhile allies, and others whom he said were helping to propagate antisemitism, and who have abandoned or failed to grasp the scope and severity of the crisis Jewish Americans are experiencing.


  • I encourage you to listen to our weekly Wednesday webinar series with voices from Israel. Next Wednesday we will again hear from an IDF spokesperson -- register here. Here is a recording of our first webinar with representatives from our partner, Dror Israel.


  • There is an important survey crafted to gain valuable insights into the demographics and interests of Jews of Color (JoCs) in the Pacific Northwest. The confidential data collected from this research is being stewarded, conducted, and analyzed by Jews of Color through a partnership between TischPDXJOC Collective, JOCI and TiyuvIf you identify as a Jew of Color, currently live in the Pacific Northwest, and are age 18 or older, please take the surveySurvey responses will be accepted until January 5, 2024.


As we approach the end of the calendar year, if you have yet to do so, we encourage you pay your pledge or make your commitment to the Jewish Federation’s Campaign for Community Needs. The campaign is the “support engine” for our local Jewish community and makes it possible for the Jewish Federation and community to respond to world events like the attacks on October 7. It also enables our community to fight antisemitism and provide security. Most of all, your gift to the annual campaign ensures that every day we are prepared for a bright future.


Please click the box below and either make a contribution or a pledge (payable by December 2024) right now to support our annual campaign and the daily work of our Jewish community.


Please give generously!



As Chanukah approaches, enjoy this Taylor Swift inspired Chanukah song parody.


Shabbat shalom and may the light of the menorah always be a source of strength and inspiration to the Jewish people – and to all humanity.


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