Summer Catch Up

I hope everyone is enjoying this magnificent summer. For many of us, it is a slower time of year, the opportunity for well-deserved vacations, excursions to the Coast, and perhaps the chance to “wind down” a little. Federation is busy planning for the upcoming year.

In that light, I wanted to catch up on some important/interesting happenings going on in the Jewish world.

  • First, and of great interest, is the renewed efforts in the Israel-Palestinian peace process. Understanding that there are people who may be positive or critical about the potential for peace, credit must go to Secretary of State John Kerry for his continued diligence and efforts. His six trips related to this effort in a short four month period underscore his drive to move the parties forward. We will watch as this process evolves – one which will take leadership from everyone involved.

  • The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, in partnership with Oregon Community Foundation, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Oregon State University, Oregon Health & Science University, and DHM Research/Policy Interactive, invites you to join fellow Oregonians and participate in the 2013 Oregon Values and Beliefs SurveyThis survey is done once every ten years, so your input matters.

This is your opportunity to give voice about some of Oregon’s most pressing decisions -- from health and health care to jobs and the economy. The information you provide will be reported back to policy-makers and the public in an impartial and non-partisan way and will be part of the state’s decision making landscape for years to come. A parallel scientific survey is being completed to help provide demographically representative findings.

All of your answers will be treated confidentially and will be analyzed in aggregated form only. The survey will take some time to complete, yet your input is invaluable.

Click here for the survey.

After your participation you can choose to be entered into a raffle to win one of 45 prizes. We appreciate your time and effort.

  • Last week, Haaretz reported that a group of 18 mixed-race Peruvian converts to Judaism, also known as "Jews from the Amazon," made aliyah (immigration to Israel) to Israel last month, as part of a renewed immigration in which a total of 150 are expected to arrive by 2014. These Jews are from a small Jewish community in Iquitos, on the banks of the Amazon in Peru. Since the end of the 1990s, hundreds of the Iquitos community made aliyah and integrated successfully in Israel.

There is a total of 284 Peruvians from Iquitos - the largest city in the rainforest located in northern Peru - who converted to Judaism under a Conservative rabbinical court in August 2011, after they engaged in Jewish studies for five years. They are the descendants of Moroccan Jews who arrived in the Amazon in the 19th century seeking employment in the rubber industry, and who married and had children with local women.

The Jewish Agency for Israel, one of Federation’s overseas partners, notified the Israel Interior Ministry that it had determined the conversions performed for the group of 284 Peruvians fulfilled all the necessary criteria to make them eligible for immigrating to Israel under the Law of Return.

  • I continue to follow the news/fallout from the Polish parliament’s decision to ban kosher meat slaughtering. Until January, Poland was doing well exporting kosher and halal meat to Israel and Muslim countries, but ritual slaughter was banned by a constitutional court under pressure from animal rights groups, which say it causes unnecessary suffering because the livestock aren't stunned before being killed. A law that would have reinstated shechitah (ritual slaughter) was rejected by the Sejm, the Polish parliament, on July 12 by a vote of 222-178.

Earlier this week, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he had no plans to reintroduce legislation to lift the ban.

The Polish ban is not the first time a European country has put animal welfare concerns above the religious freedom of its Jewish and Muslim minorities. In 2011, a large majority of the lower house of the Dutch parliament passed a bill banning the practice, but it was scrapped by the Dutch Senate. Laws banning kosher slaughter also are on the books in Norway, Switzerland, Latvia, Sweden and Iceland.

  • You may recall last year I mentioned in a “Marc’s Remarks” that Ken Klein, a local filmmaker, was creating a documentary on Jewish life in Portland. The focus of the film is truly about Ken and his family’s own personal Jewish journey. I am pleased to share that the premiere of Wandering in the Woods: A Portlander’s Search for Jewish Identity will be August 11 at 4:30 p.m. at the Hollywood TheaterClick here to view a trailer for the film and to purchase your tickets today.

  • Finally, as I send this, close to 9,000 athletes from around the world, including 10 from Oregon, will soon celebrate Shabbat together at the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel. What an incredible feeling of Jewish unity – I cannot wait to hear the stories from our returning athletes.

Please continue to enjoy the beautiful sunshine and Shabbat shalom.



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