Shop Local - December 18, 2020

Today is the final day of Chanukah. I hope everyone had a wonderful eight nights of celebration.
Last week, I shared the Chanukah miracle of more Ethiopian Jews arriving in Israel. This week 252 members of Bnei Menashe from India arrived in Israel with your support. Hailing from northeast India, the Bnei Menashe have preserved the Jewish tradition across generations. Since 2003, 2,437 members of the Bnei Menashe community have made aliyah to Israel.
As we approach the end of the calendar year, now is a great time to make charitable donations and pay outstanding pledges. As the saying goes, “cash is king.” It allows each organization to do their work and fulfill their mission. I am proud to say that our Jewish Federation has the highest pledge payment rate of any Jewish federation in North America at over 99%. THANK YOU! If you would like to pay your pledge to the Jewish Federation, please click here.
At the same time, we are in the middle of our 2021 Campaign for Community Needs. We are off to an incredible start and have already raised more than $2.2 million! If you have yet to do so, make a new pledge (payable by December 2021) or make a direct contribution, by clicking here.
This Sunday is our community’s Super Sunday from 10:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. We encourage you to “answer the call” when a volunteer contacts you and make your gift to our annual campaign. (It is possible you will receive a call from an out-of-town area code as many of our volunteers may use their cell phone.) Your support is greatly needed and appreciated during these challenging times.
I have written multiple times about the COVID relief fund generously supported by our community, the Oregon Jewish Community Fund, and the Jewish Federation. We have been transparent throughout and shared how every dollar was allocated. Please click here to see a simple infographic explaining the deep impact this fund had on our community.
Our Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), as part of a coalition called United in Spirit, recently met with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler about ways we can be supportive of the city. His message was quite simple and clear – shop locally!
The JCRC is seeking to mobilize the Jewish community to support local businesses, including minority-owned small businesses, that have been harmed by the combination of vandalism and COVID. The coalition made up of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Black, Latino and Indigenous organizations, states, “We are people who care deeply about Portland. We are concerned about our fellow citizens who provide services to the marginalized, who own businesses that hire people, creating jobs that enable them to provide for their families…We are concerned for workers and their families and for the business owners who can no longer work safely nor operate their businesses in Portland because of violence and destruction of property.”
Below is a list of organizations the Mayor’s office and Prosper Portland have partnered with in getting the word out to shop locally. The websites provide store information, contact information, and types of items from every business in their directory. All are small local businesses, which offer online options and in-store pickup for safe shopping. Additionally, there are locally owned restaurants offering take-out. 
These local businesses all welcome your patronage and support.
Last night I had the opportunity to moderate a conversation with Michael Schill, President of the University of Oregon, and Stephen Percy, President of Portland State University. They discussed the challenges of pivoting during COVID-19, creating a positive college experience, and the importance of safety and health on campus.
A few key takeaways:
  • Winter term will feel very similar to the fall term with online classes. There is hope that with the vaccine things will be more “normal” during the spring and beyond.
  • Nothing can replace the campus experience. There is great value in being together and sharing with one another whether in the classroom or on campus.
  • As hard as online classes are on students, it is also very difficult for faculty. They miss the personal interaction with their students and the sense of engagement in a classroom.
  • Online education is here to stay. A wider variety of higher learning opportunities will become available.
  • Funding from the state budget needs to increase to keep the schools competitive.
  • The SAT and ACT will eventually go away.
  • Making college campuses a safe space for dialogue and disagreement is key. It is important to recognize that “all sides” have freedom of speech. It may be uncomfortable, but through disagreement comes growth.
I am sorry we did not record the conversation. Both presidents were quite engaging and very “real” about the challenges in higher education today. 
Two important community announcements for January:
The Jewish Federation, in partnership with other Jewish organizations, invites the community to Br’iut and B’rachot -- A Community Wellness Havdalah on Saturday, January 9, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. This brief Havdalah service, which marks the conclusion of Shabbat and the start of a new week, will be co-led by Community Chaplain Rabbi Barry Cohen & Cantorial Soloist Ilene Safyan. Details and registration are here.
This is part of a community-wide effort around mental health and wellness during these uncertain times. We have also created a community mental health web page with important resources. Our Jewish community is truly here for you.
In addition, since the late 1970s, the Oregon Board of Rabbis (OBR) has sponsored the Introduction to Judaism Class. The Spring 2021 session begins January 21. This 18-week course is taught by members of the Oregon Board of Rabbis, representing a variety of Jewish denominations. A carefully constructed curriculum includes Jewish history, life cycle events, holidays, ritual and daily practice, theology, study of Torah, and contemporary Jewish America. While not a conversion class, most OBR member clergy consider it a prerequisite for students beginning study for conversion. Classes are Thursday evenings at 7:00 p.m. and will be held virtually. Register online or contact JoAnn Bezodis, class facilitator, at 971-248-5465, or email her here.
Shabbat shalom.
Marc N. Blattner
President and CEO


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