I am pleased to share that tomorrow another family from Ukraine will arrive in Portland. To date, we have seen multiple people arrive. Through your generosity we have provided funds for case management support through Jewish Family and Child Service, legal assistance, rental support, and the purchase of new laptops and cell phones. What makes this particular family special is they are the first to come via the “Welcome Circle” program. Members of Congregation Neveh Shalom have worked tirelessly to “open their arms” for a family to arrive. The Jewish Federation has provided financial support for plane tickets, housing, and other financial needs, while members of the synagogue and Community Warehouse have provided donated furniture to the family. We look forward to welcoming the family (and their three cats). Thank you to everyone who has been involved in the resettlement process of Ukrainians. And we hope another family will arrive soon via a different “Welcome Circle.”
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which marks the 78th anniversary since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. At this time, we remember the atrocities of the Second World War, honor survivors, and challenge ourselves to make our world a better place.
Based on information from Yad Vashem, the commander of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Rudolf Höss, stated in his autobiography that in 1941 he was summoned to Berlin, where Heinrich Himmler informed him that Hitler issued an order to solve the “Jewish Question” for good, and that the order was to be implemented by the SS. “The existing extermination places in the east are unsuited to a large scale, long-term action. I have designated Auschwitz for this purpose,” Himmler said.
Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the concentration and extermination camps established on Polish soil, served concurrently as a labor camp and as a center for the rapid extermination of Jews. Chosen as the central location for the annihilation of the Jewish people, it was equipped with several extermination facilities and crematoria. Extermination was carried out by means of Zyklon B gas.
Birkenau (Auschwitz II) was established in October 1941, three kilometers from Auschwitz. Exterminations in Birkenau began in March 1942. Until November 1944 the camp functioned as a factory for mass murder, receiving transports from all over Europe. Most of those brought to the camp were Jews and nearly all were immediately sent to the gas chambers. Only a small percentage were selected for labor in the camp itself, labor in munitions plants at satellite camps, or the “medical” experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele and his staff. In the spring and summer of 1944, the rate of extermination was increased as the Jews of Hungary and the Lodz ghetto were brought to the camp.
The Auschwitz camp complex was liberated by the Soviet Red Army on January 27, 1945. Tragically, by then approximately 1,000,000 Jews, 70,000 Poles, 25,000 Sinti and Roma, and some 15,000 prisoners of war from the USSR and other countries had been murdered at Auschwitz.
We must always remember – Never Again!
I hope I am not jinxing anything or speaking too soon, but it does feel like calendars are filling up with programs and events! That is wonderful news as we work to move beyond the pandemic.
Here are some upcoming opportunities:
The Jewish Federation, in partnership with The Braid, a Los Angeles based Jewish theater company, is presenting inspiring stories from the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. Remembrance of Things Present is live via Zoom this Sunday at 11:00 am or Sunday, February 5 at 4:00 pm. (Read a review of the show here.) The program is free of charge courtesy of the Jewish Federation.
To register, click here -- Scroll to find the showtime/date on the right of the screen and click “buy” -- select the number of tickets in “single ticket” and click “add” and then “next” -- select delivery method (default is email) and hit “next” -- enter discount code portlandjf1 on right and click “apply” (this will remove price) then “next.”
Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief of The Forward daily newspaper, will be in Portland for two special presentations. On February 16 at 7:30 p.m., Jodi will speak on Jewish Journalism In A Time Of Rising Antisemitism at the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies at Portland State University’s 18th annual Gus and Libby Solomon Memorial Lecture. Jodi will discuss the challenges that journalists – and especially Jewish journalists – face in covering antisemitism. The program will be held in-person only at the University Place Hotel. Registration is required and the lecture is free to attend.
The next morning, Friday, February 17, the Jewish Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy will have a power breakfast with Jodi at 8:30 a.m. (doors open at 8:00 a.m. for networking) at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center. She will be interviewed by Maxine Bernstein of The Oregonian to address women’s issues in the Jewish community, local and worldwide. Register here.
Jewish Disability Advocacy Day of Action (JDAD) will take place on Wednesday, February 15. Join with other Jewish Federations, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies for a virtual kick-off at 9:00 a.m. by registering here.
Yemen Blues, one of Israel’s most popular international global music ensembles, will be playing on February 19 at Mississippi Studios for the 20th anniversary of the Biamp Portland Jazz Festival. Tickets can be purchased here.
In celebration of Israel’s 75th anniversary, the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland is sponsoring two contests – an art contest for students in grades K-8 and an essay contest for children in middle school and high school. First place winners will receive a $100 gift card and second place winners will receive a $50 gift card. We look forward to the variety of submissions.
Finally, since tickets are going fast, do not miss Noa in concert on Sunday, April 30 at the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts in Beaverton. This is part of our Israel at 75 celebrations. Every seat is excellent in the intimate theater. Purchase your tickets here.