Two Important Weeks - April 21, 2023

This week and next are two particularly important weeks in our community.


This past week we commemorated Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. A special candle lighting took place with survivors on Monday night and Tuesday morning was the annual “Reading of the Names” at Pioneer Courthouse Square. I had the moving experience of reading names of those murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. As you read the names you see the far reach of the Nazi regime and the incredible loss of Jews of all ages. It is important that we always remember!


With Yom HaShoah in our minds, I must share that the Jewish Federation and our Jewish Community Relations Council continue to receive calls from local schools trying to deal with antisemitic incidents. Graffiti, bullying of Jewish students, and more are sadly happening in our schools. We, along with the Anti-Defamation League and Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education are there to support families and educate school leaders on addressing this ongoing and growing concern.


Also, David Fuks, former CEO of Cedar Sinai Park and child of Holocaust survivors, is doing a reading of his short stories and a conversation regarding the impact of the Holocaust on extended family members. The event will take place at Havurah Shalom on April 30 at 2:00 p.m. Learn more here.


Israel continues to be in the news with ongoing demonstrations against the potential judicial changes and more. In fact, 500,000+ people are protesting across the country every week – to put that in perspective that is equal to 17 million people in the United States protesting every week!


Our community was fortunate to have Yossi Klein Halevi speak to an audience of 350 people on Wednesday (here is a video link to his presentation). I, unfortunately, could not be there that night, but did have a chance to have a small group breakfast with him that morning.


Yossi, a well-known journalist/author in Israel who I like to refer as an “articulate observer,” shared his personal views on what is happening in Israel. His opening line to us was, “Israel has a democratically elected government that is challenging democracy itself.” In every poll, the lack of trust in the government is overwhelming.


Yossi was clear that Americans have a challenge in understanding what is happening in Israel. This is not about left vs. right. This is about a coalition government needing far-right extremists -- who in the past could never get into the government -- to stay in power. And, as a Portlander living in Israel wrote to me, “The opposition considers the coalition legally legitimate, but morally illegitimate. And the coalition said we won, and we will do what we will.”


No one is sure how this will go in the end. It feels now that this is beyond the issue of judicial reform. This is about the “heart and soul of the country.” People from the left, right, and center are all coming together. As Yossi shared, the symbol of the protests in Israel is the Israeli flag – thousands of them at every rally. He added, how often do we see the American flag as the symbol of protests in our country? To Yossi and the protesters, this is about the State of Israel itself. And the question is whether the coalition government will listen or even compromise, understanding the loud voices of the people or will it move the legislation through because it is all about power and this may be their only chance?


At the time of the election, the country seemed divided 50/50. Today, the polls show a collapse in support for the coalition government (as one person told me, less about changing one’s core position and more about mistrust in leadership, security lapses, and the sentiment that “the country is losing”). Knowing this, it only makes the coalition “dig in deeper,” because they recognize if they do not pass legislation to advance their narrow agenda, or if the government falls, they may not have another opportunity.


Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer, President of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, recently said, “Democracy is not the rule of the majority…a democracy is measured by the ways that the majority rule respects the rights of the minorities over whom they govern. All of this seems at risk.”


We will continue to watch and see.


Several important upcoming community events:


Monday, April 24 at 7:00 p.m. at Congregation Neveh Shalom will be our community’s service in honor of Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. The evening is being organized by Congregation Neveh Shalom, Greater Portland Hillel, and Keruv Levavot and is open to all.


Join in the fun and celebrate Israel’s 75th Independence Day with the Portland Jewish community on Wednesday, April 26 from 4:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center. This celebration is a collaboration of the Mittleman Jewish Community Center, Keruv Levavot, Israeli American Council, Greater Portland Hillel, Israel 360, and Congregation Neveh Shalom with a sponsorship grant from the Jewish Federation.


There will be Israeli food available for purchase, Israeli dancing, trivia, Israeli music sing-along, a photo contest, youth and teen programming, and a DJ to close out the night. It is free and open to all. Register here.


We understand that mental health of our youth is a major challenge today. Unfortunately, we do not always know where to turn and what resources are available. Jewish Family and Child Service and Congregation Neveh Shalom are hosting a four-part series, starting on May 1, that can provide information and answer questions to assist parents and their children. Learn more here.


May is national Jewish American Heritage Month. In honor of the month, the City of Beaverton will be reading a proclamation on May 2 at 6:00 p.m. at Beaverton City Hall. Everyone is invited to be there.


Shabbat shalom.


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