Victory Day

It's my pleasure to announce that following a national search the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland has hired a new Director of Financial Resource Development. Michael Jeser will begin his role with us on June 16. He and his wife Laura will be moving from Los Angeles to Portland. Michael previously worked at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and was the Executive Director of Hillel at the University of Southern California. I know our community will welcome Michael and Laura as they make their transition to the “Rose City.”

An interesting aside – Michael spent his childhood in Orlando, Florida, where I am from. Both his parents are Jewish communal professionals. Michael is many years younger than I am, so I remember him as a very young boy before his family left for the New York area. As was pointed out to me yesterday, there are three Jewish communal professionals from Orlando currently working in Portland – Rabbi Ariel Stone, (soon) Michael Jeser, and me. Who would have thought?

Throughout the globe and across time, the Jewish community has been blessed with countless heroes who have made a difference. During World War II, millions lost their lives, among them hundreds of thousands of Russian Jewish soldiers and officers who fought in the Red Army against Nazism. May their memory be for a blessing.

On May 9, we join three million Russian-speaking Jews from around the world (including Portland) who will commemorate the 70th anniversary of Victory Day. On this day, 70 years ago, Nazi Germany capitulated to the Soviet Union, finally closing the Eastern Front of World War II, or the Great Patriotic War as it was known in that part of the world.  Thus, Victory Day – is a celebration of the triumph over Nazism, of the end of a long and bloody war and, of course, a memorial to those who lost their lives in the struggle.

Ilia Salita, Chief Executive Officer of the Genesis Philanthropy Group (a global foundation established to strengthen Jewish communities around the world through ensuring that current and future generations of Russian-speaking Jews are connected to their heritage) stated that “Victory Day is the story of the 500,000 Jewish soldiers and officers who fought in the Red Army, just as V-Day is the story of the 550,000 Jewish soldiers and officers of the U.S. Armed Forces. It is the story of airmen and partisans, of nurses and factory workers, of those who died and of those who survived. They fought for their lives, the lives of their families, the lives of so many others whom they had never met, and they were victorious.”

Several decades later, their children, grandchildren and, in many cases, they themselves, due in no small part to the hard work of the Jewish Federation system, as well as to the generosity of the North American Jewish community, won another victory: the right to live where they choose.

Thank you to the many Russian Jews in Portland who served their country and helped to end the Nazi regime. The leader of the group, Izrail Dekhtyar (who I have written about before), was from a small town near Odessa. During World War II, Izrail took part in a number of major battles as a frontline soldier and was awarded multiple medals for his service by the Soviet military command.

Izrail came to the United States in 1994 from Uzbekistan. He continues to serve as the President of the Portland Association of the World War II Veterans. Every year he contacts me about the Jewish Federation sponsoring their annual gathering to celebrate Victory Day at the MJCC. It is always our pleasure and honor to recognize these proud individuals and true heroes.

A reminder -- Tuesday, June 9 is the Jewish Federation’s Annual Meeting. We will celebrate an incredible year for our Jewish community. Plus, you will be inspired by Avraham Infeld, an internationally renowned Jewish leader. Avraham is the founder of Melitz (a non-profit educational service institution that fosters Jewish identity rooted in a pluralistic understanding of Jewish life and the centrality of Israel), the first ever Shaliach (emissary) from Israel in the United States in 1968, and president emeritus of Hillel: the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. Avraham has invested a lifetime developing strategies to building Jewish identity, instructing Jewish youth on five core principles: the Hebrew language, the Land of Israel, Jewish values, the Jewish religion and the Jewish community. Join us for what will be an inspiring, motivating, and informative evening. Plus, we will announce the recipient of the first ever Laurie Rogoway Jewish Communal Professional of the Year Award.

Finally, this Sunday we celebrate Mother’s Day. Thank you to all the mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers (and, the “one-day-will-be mothers” – oddly, throughout my childhood my sister and I would each receive cards and gifts for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day with the hope that one day we would each be parents) for all that you do on a daily basis. And I am blessed to be married to the most incredible mother who helps make our children better people each and every day.

Shabbat shalom.



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