Things To Share - June 16, 2023

Many years ago, the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland became the first Jewish federation in the country to institute a sabbatical policy. Every seven years, each professional receives an eight-week paid sabbatical. Here is an excellent article from Harvard Business Review on the transformative power of a sabbatical.


I am about to conclude my 13th year as CEO of the Jewish Federation. For no good reason (other than I like to go to work each day or I am just plain foolish) I have yet to take my sabbatical from six years ago. With the appropriate nudging of the Jewish Federation leadership, I will be taking a sabbatical from June 26 to July 31. No Marc’s Remarks, phone calls, emails, etc. during that period.


I am grateful for the opportunity to spend time with my family and to do things I/we have put off for far too long.


This Shabbat marks 31 years since my bar mitzvah. We will read parashat Shelach Lecha, which tells the story of the 12 spies sent by Moses to survey the land. Ten of the twelve return with an ambivalent and fearful report -- fertile land but the people are giants and their cities impregnable. Two men, Joshua and Caleb, argue to the contrary. 


Our Sages teach us that only Joshua and Caleb showed leadership. They told the people that the conquest of the land was achievable because God was with them. The people did not listen. In the end, the two leaders received their reward as they were the only ones of their generation to actually enter the land.


Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (z”l) teaches, “One of the fundamental tasks of any leader is to give people a sense of confidence: in themselves, in the group of which they are a part, and in the mission itself. A leader must have faith in the people they lead and inspire that faith in them. As Rosabeth Moss Kanter of the Harvard Business School writes in her book Confidence, ‘Leadership is not about the leader, it is about how he or she builds the confidence of everyone else.’ Confidence, by the way, is Latin for 'having faith together.'”


Rabbi Eve Posen, at the Oregon Jewish Community Foundation annual meeting on Wednesday, shared, “In this Torah portion there is great fear of the unknown. Since we do not know what could be, we become afraid. We ask ourselves what do we do now?" Too often we do not have the information we may need to make a decision. Today, our own Jewish community has plenty of information with the recently completed Jewish community study.


Rabbi Posen continued, "Back then, the Jews did not know what was needed to build a community. They only knew Egypt and wandering in the desert. They did not have a plan for what would be next in their journey. Follow up from the community study can be our plan to build our Jewish community.”


I was touched by her words and linkage of the study to the Torah portion. There are now less “unknowns” -- and plenty of opportunities for us to be clear thinking, open minded, and innovative in our future approach. The “buzz” around town about the study is very exciting to me. I love how people look for “nuggets” of information that either affirm their beliefs or learn new things about our Jewish community. Just remember, multiple people can look at the same piece of data and come back with different opinions -- just as the twelve spies did.


As I said before, now the real work begins.


This past Tuesday, 20 young leaders in our community completed their two years of learning in the Wexner Heritage Leadership program. The group has one last program at the end of this month with cohorts from several other communities. It has been quite a journey. Every two weeks, in four-hour sessions, the group learned from distinguished scholars from around the country. Topics included Jewish history (Biblical to modern), the development of and changes within denominational movements, the origin and structure of our prayers and the siddur, leadership-based skills training, and simply great conversations about Jewish life.


In our last session, we each shared our own visions for the Jewish community. I listened carefully and took notes on what people said. It reinforced to me that even though we had such an incredible array of Jewish scholars learn with us, my colleagues in the class were the true teachers. I wish you could hear their passion for Jewish life, commitment to building community, and insights each has from their own Jewish lens. As I told the group, I was honored to be a part of the program and look forward to seeing the impact these leaders have on our community in the years ahead.


Mazel tov to Fred Rothstein, the long-time Executive Director of Congregation Neveh Shalom and previously the Mittleman Jewish Community Center on his retirement. At his celebration last night, he, too, referenced Shelach Lecha and mentioned that we all face turning points in our lives. Fred is a “pro's pro” and a skillful and thoughtful Jewish communal professional. We all wish him boundless joy and fulfillment in the years ahead.


The Jewish Federation office will be closed on Monday in observance of JuneteenthIn honor of the holiday, we invite you to a program, “Freedom is a Verb,” sponsored by Zioness and Jewish Federation of North America's JEDI Initiative for Jewish Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion on Monday, June 26 from 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm PT. Raven Schwam-Curtis, a Black and Jewish educator, will speak on the origins of this important holiday. The discussion will explore the historical significance of Juneteenth, as well as best practices for honoring these histories without exploiting Black trauma. Register here.


Finally, warmest wishes for a Happy Father’s Day on Sunday to all the dads and father figures out there. The nation’s first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910, in the state of Washington. However, it was not until 1972 -- 58 years after President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day official -- that the day honoring fathers became a nationwide holiday in the United States.


Shabbat shalom.



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