Happy new year to you and your family! I wish you good health, happiness, and joy.
Now that 2023 is here, I want to share my thoughts on areas of importance to our community in the year ahead. This list is certainly not exhaustive and is not meant to exclude anything we are currently doing.
We are most looking forward to the results of our Community Study (expected in May). The importance of this data cannot be understated. It will guide our planning initiatives for the community and our future allocations. For too long, we have based decisions on historical approaches and anecdotes. This data will change that – perhaps less in fiscal year 2023-2024 and more in the years following after our community fully understands the information and trends.
Work on behalf of the Jewish community during the legislative session in Salem. It is important our voices be heard with a new governor and many other newly elected state officials. Our Jewish Community Relations Council will focus on the following issues: protecting services for seniors and people with disabilities, houselessness, Holocaust education funding, supporting reproductive choice, climate change, and protections against wage theft. We will also continue our efforts to fight antisemitism in our state. More on this next week.
On the 5th of Iyar (starting Tuesday night April 25), we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the State of Israel. Our community looks forward to developing a full calendar of programs and events (we will share it with the community as it fills out) to mark the occasion. The Jewish Federation has micro-grants available to Jewish organizations to help offset costs for “Israel at 75” programs. To apply, click here.
One extra special program is a concert with Israeli superstar, Noa, on Sunday, April 30 at the beautiful new Patricia Reser Center for the Arts. She will be joined by Grammy-winning pianist, Rustan Sirota.
Pre-sale tickets are available this Monday at 10:00 a.m. with promo code Israel75. An email will go out Monday morning with all the ticket information.
And let us not forget that over 200 people will be joining our Israel at 75 trip to Israel in March. Hard to believe it is only 10 weeks away!
Over the past several years, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental health needs of youth and young adults have gained increasing national attention. One in five American children either presently, or at some point in their lives, will be diagnosed with a mental health condition. Many have expressed a need for greater awareness of mental health conditions, more tools to manage their mental health and support others, and increased access to professional mental health services and supports. National studies show that almost half of young people surveyed struggle (or know someone who struggles) with anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem. In addition, 22% of the teen respondents experience (or know someone who experiences) suicidal thoughts. These numbers are extraordinarily alarming.
How do we respond? JFCS has hired a social worker focused on youth. BB Camp has hired a year-round mental health counselor. There are local non-Jewish organizations/hotlines that support teens. This is a good beginning but not enough. We are looking at what other Jewish communities have done and perhaps partnering with them or adopting similar type programs. For example, Detroit established We Need to Talk, which is targeted at reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness through education and story sharing, providing mental health and suicide alertness training for teachers, youth group professionals, and camp staff. Los Angeles has created the Teen Talk App, which provides a free, anonymous safe space for teens to request support from trained peers and learn from others with similar experiences.
Focus on a coordinated young adult program. In some ways, the Jewish Federation “outsourced” young adult programs to organizations like Moishe House, Jews Next Dor, TischPDX, and OneTable. They all do great work. However, the Jewish Federation recognizes it can take a leadership role in planning programs for young adults, providing funding to others, and convening the various young adult groups in Greater Portland.
Something we hear about quite often is the need for additional socialization, recreational, and enriching activities for people 50+, seniors, and newcomers to our community. Jewish learning, discussion groups, health and fitness, and day trips are just some of the endless opportunities to enjoy each and every day. These activities need to take place throughout the community (meeting people where they are) and not solely in Jewish spaces. This will require program/activity professionals and transportation assistance.
Community-wide partnered adult Jewish education programs. Judaism values lifelong learning. Our Jewish community can be strengthened by a centralized adult Jewish education program that is open to and brings together people from multiple generations from across geographic and organizational divides. Learning as an adult stimulates deeper participation in Jewish life and generates new meaning for many other aspects of one’s life.
The potential creation of a matching service for older adults living alone and young people looking to share a home. There is the National Shared Housing Resource Center and close to 50 programs of this kind in the United States. This includes HomeShare ATL, coordinated by Atlanta’s Jewish Family Service agency, which is focused on connecting homeowners and home sharers with the right location, amenities, and price. In the end, these programs build relationships, enable older adults to stay at home, and create affordable housing opportunities for both parties.
And, of course, we hope to raise more money through our annual campaign, and continue to expand the number of donors. We hope that everyone will see the importance of strengthening our Jewish community and the impact the Jewish Federation makes.
To do these types of initiatives requires more strategic thinking processes with multiple Jewish (local and national) and non-Jewish organizational partners at the table. We can brainstorm ideas, learn from one another, collaborate to develop innovative ideas that respond to key areas of need, and then implement these initiatives (and others) by maximizing our shared resources. This is how we can make the greatest impact in 2023 and beyond.
I recognize there is so much more we can be doing. Therefore, if you have additional insights for areas the Jewish Federation should focus on or ideas to assist with those mentioned, simply reply to this email and share.
Shabbat shalom and I look forward to a highly successful year ahead.