Unsure What to Say

Stunned! Shocked! Relieved! Angry! Disappointed! Unsure what even to say!

On Thursday morning, we learned of the arrest of a 19 year-old Israeli-American teen in Israel suspected of making bomb threats (all which turned out to be hoaxes) called in to Jewish community centers and organizations in 40 U.S. States, four Canadian provinces, New Zealand and Australia.

The teen reportedly used advanced technology and voice-altering equipment to call in the threats to more than 100 JCCs, Jewish day schools and other Jewish institutions in the United States. We are at this time unsure if he was also responsible for the email threats to our JCC and others. He also is accused of making a threatening call to Delta Airlines, leading to the emergency landing of at least one plane.

During the cyber unit’s raid on the teen’s home, police found a computer lab with sophisticated equipment, encryption and transmission systems, and a powerful antenna, according to reports.

In reality, the news was a “mixed blessing.” I am grateful to law enforcement (with cooperation from around the world with the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Israeli law enforcement, and many others) for apprehending the suspect. Sadly, it was someone who was Jewish.

I think most people’s assumption was that the perpetrator of these crimes would be an anti-Semitic individual who hates the Jews. That is not the case. And, just as we ask other religious and ethnic group leaders to speak out when someone from their own community commits a hate crime or terrorist attack, we must do the same.

If this individual (and if there are others) is found guilty of these crimes, then he should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Although the belief is they have caught the perpetrator of the multitude of bomb threats, general concerns about hate crimes and anti-Semitism persist (ie. cemetery desecration). We continue to receive calls about instances of anti-Semitism in our local schools, universities, and in the community at-large.

We must remain vigilant!


Earlier this week I had the opportunity to listen and learn with and from five of my executive director colleagues (MJCC, JFCS, BB Camp, OJCF, Beth Israel) with the assistance of Jathan Janove, an executive coach. I mentioned this a few weeks ago. Jathan has trained under Marshall Goldsmith, one of the top leadership/management gurus of our time and is providing his services pro bono to our communal leaders. This pilot project is one way to provide professional development opportunities and to deepen relations within our Jewish professional community.

Each member of the group is charged with working on some type of “behavioral change.” At the same time, we are exploring ways to create a “group goal” for all of us to partner on together. Each participant was asked to provide names of stakeholders for Jathan to interview so he can garner greater insights into each of us and our Jewish community. Over the course of the next several months, each participant will receive individual coaching opportunities with Jathan, as well as have the opportunity for more group discussions. I will just say the first session was extremely positive and I believe everyone is grateful to Jathan for approaching us with this opportunity.

Thank you to those who have generously given to our Passover 4All campaign to ensure 120 families in the Greater Portland and SW Washington area have food for Passover. For only $36 we can provide a family with a needed food package. The campaign concludes on Sunday. Help us reach our $5,000 goal in just ten days.

Finally, starting Sunday night (until Wednesday) our community will welcome the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association Biennial Convention. Their convention will explore the timely topic of “Peoplehood and People,” engaging in conversations with both scholars and activists, while all the time learning from colleagues doing diverse and  important work in the United States and abroad. Among the questions being asked: What does it mean to be part of the Jewish people in the twenty-first century? How do we identify as – and work to serve – Jews in the mainstream and on the margins? What stories can we share to help us better understand our rabbinic roles and the different communities we serve?

Finally, Passover is only 17 days away. Visit our Passover resource page for information from Passover traditions to local seder opportunities.

Shabbat shalom and for those of you with children on spring break have a wonderful time.



Add Comment