Sigh...Where to Begin? - May 6, 2022

Last week, I shared statistics from the ADL’s annual audit of antisemitic incidents. We can now add several more to that list – and these are all local.
Last Saturday night, the Eastside Jewish Commons had a window smashed by a person walking past. A review of the incident showed it was clearly deliberate. Although the person has not yet been identified, Portland Police have concluded he is the same individual who tried to set the NE Muslim Community Center on fire earlier this week.
On Sunday morning, Congregation Beth Israel discovered a small fire had been set in front of its sanctuary doors as well as spray painted vandalism: “Die Juden.” The next day a rock was thrown through a synagogue window. The Oregonian shared this article
These incidents were reported to Portland Police, along with the FBI and our community security director. At this time, the incident at Congregation Beth Israel has not been connected to the other vandalism, although an investigation is ongoing and that may change.
These types of things must not deter us. Despite the feelings this evokes, we become stronger as a people and as a Jewish community. More importantly, we realize quickly that we are not alone.
Western States Center, a partner of our Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), shared this very strong statementIt includes these important words, “The city of Portland cannot be allowed to miss this opportunity to stand with our Jewish neighbors and say that we reject antisemitism in all its forms,” said Mariotta Gary Smith, chairwoman of the organization. “All of us who love this city and call it home should make it clear that we won’t be silent in the face of attacks like these. I hope our community leaders–political, civic, business and religious–will speak with one voice to declare that Portland won’t let Congregation Beth Israel face hate alone. We’re behind them every step of the way.”
It is for reasons like this why the Jewish Federations of North America continues to lobby Congress for increased security funding. Every Jewish organization needs cameras, secure entries, and security to monitor what is happening on their grounds. We are urging Congress to double the funding available to $360 million. Due to funding limitations, only a select few of our Jewish organizations received grants in the past. We want to change that! Every Jewish institution and other faith-based groups should be able to receive assistance in enhancing their security protection.
Our community is prepared, remains vigilant, and we will not give in to bigots and bullies.
In addition to that news, earlier this week a Supreme Court draft was leaked, indicating the court’s apparent intent to overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminating the guarantee of legal abortion in all 50 states.
In 2014, our JCRC position on this issue was ratified -- “Acknowledging that the decision to end a pregnancy may be a difficult one, but above all is a personal one, and should only be made by a woman in consultation with her doctor and others whom she chooses to involve, we oppose any executive, administrative, legislative or judicial action (federal, state or local) that would deny or delay women their right to reproductive choice.”
Studies show that 83% of the Jewish community believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases. If you are curious about the Jewish perspective on abortion rights — which can best be described as nuanced — check out this informative articleYou can also read this article sharing various thoughts from the Orthodox community. Finallylearn more about how Israel’s Health Minister is looking at this issue. Israel legalized abortions in 1977, four years after Roe v. Wade. Since then, even as religion looms large in Israel, no significant movement to outlaw abortion has taken root thereIn fact, in 2014 Israeli lawmakers signed off on allowing government funds to pay for abortions.
We will continue to follow this important story and want the Jewish community to make its voices heard.
This week, Israel commemorated Yom HaZikaron and then celebrated Israel’s 74th birthday for Yom HaAtzmaut.
Yom HaZikaron is Israel’s Memorial Day. Enshrined into law in 1963 as a day of memory for soldiers who lost their lives in battle on behalf of the Jewish homeland. With the passage of time and the collective trauma due to ongoing conflict and terrorism, the day now honors not just fallen soldiers, but also those who lost their lives in terrorist attacks. As of now, the Defense Ministry puts the total number of fallen soldiers at 24,068 and 4,217 civilians who have been killed in terrorist attacks, including three people last night on Yom Ha'Atzmaut, bringing the total to 37 this year.
Yom HaAtzmaut follows moments after the sun sets on Yom HaZikaron. Sorrow turns to joy as the day marks the anniversary of Israel declaring its independence on the 5th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar in 1948. Unfortunately, with the terror attack last night, the mood of the country was changed.
How about some better news…
The last 8 days have been a “collective first” -- my first communal
in-person gatherings since the pandemic shut everything down in
March 2020. I attended a special event for Greater Portland Hillel followed by B’nai B’rith Camp’s 100th anniversary celebration. Both were filled with incredible warmth, ruach (spirit), and generosity as people were together once again.
And this week, I, along with two colleagues from the Jewish Federation, attended a Jewish professionals conference in Cleveland. We joined 1,200 other Jewish communal professionals from the entire spectrum of Jewish organizations (176 in all) for the first in-person conference since fall 2019. To actually gather and see people in person was something remarkable -- I am unsure I realized how much I missed being with people.
Two comments about the Cleveland conference:
  • I was inspired by the number of young people (which only means I am getting older) in attendance. These vibrant people have chosen to devote their professional lives to work for and enrich Jewish community. I am excited to learn from them and watch them develop in the years ahead.
  • The theme of the conference was collaboration – something we all learned to do better during the pandemic. It is amazing what we can accomplish when we remove the “silo mentality” and share our accomplishments in Jewish life. As one presenter remarked, "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."
Shabbat shalom and I look forward to more in-person gatherings.


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