Yo-Yo Strings Don't Break - January 12, 2024

We are now 98 days into the war. 98 days for the hostages! No one knows how many are still alive. Kfir Bibas is the youngest hostage being held captive in Gaza by Hamas -- a baby who just turned one. When the U.N. General Assembly convened for a discussion on the war in Gaza on Tuesday, Israel's ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan, held up a birthday cake.


“Kfir, this birthday cake is for you,” Erdan said from the podium. Kfir’s brother, Ariel (age 4) and parents, Shiri and Yarden Bibas, also remain in Hamas custody. Erdan continued, “You are the reason Israel is fighting day annight. My only wish for you, for your first birthday, is that next year, God willing, you will celebrate your birthday surrounded by the love of your family, and that we will live in a world where the suffering of Israeli babies is important to the United Nations. I ask that Kfir's birthday cake remain here on the podium as a painful memory so that everyone who comes up to speak here today will remember Kfir and our duty to bring him home."


Oregon for Israel, not affiliated with the Jewish Federation, is having a rally this Sunday (weather permitting) on the Burnside Bridge (east side) from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. in support of the hostages as they enter their 100th day in captivity.



When I was a child, one of my father’s favorite sayings was, “Yo-yo strings don't break.” He was referring to an incident when he was 11 years old walking around downtown Jacksonville, Florida and had his yo-yo string fully extended, swinging it around. His mother told him to stop. And my father shared his famous last words.


Of course, the yo-yo string did break. A store window was broken. And my father had to take responsibility. His mother did not have the funds to replace the window so he had to “work” (chores around the store) to pay the cost.


I share this story because of the recent door-plug failure on Alaska Airlines. CEO of Boeing, David Calhoun, said the company needs to acknowledge its mistake. On Tuesday, in his first remarks since the harrowing accident, Calhoun told Boeing employees a misstep by the aircraft maker played a role. “We are gonna approach this -- No. 1 -- acknowledging our mistake. We’re gonna approach it with 100% and complete transparency every step of the way.”


His response serves as a learning lesson for all of us.


Harvard Business Review shared in 2008, “Accept consequences. Few executives need schooling in taking credit, but too many need some reminding about what happens when things go wrong. Accepting the consequences for failure is not a sign of weakness; it is a measure of leadership. While no one likes to fail, the sooner you accept what happened, the sooner you can move forward.”


Michael Hyatt, a world-renowned corporate trainer, shared four steps people can take following a major mistake:


  • Take ownership. It starts with responsibility. It takes an act of courage to own a bad situation. It can be terribly frightening to admit a wrong, to be vulnerable and expose yourself to anger and even punishment. Courage means doing it scared.


  • Show remorse for the problem. It does not end with ownership. If we want to turn things around, we have to add remorse to responsibility. Our failings cause difficulty to others.


  • Express gratitude for the reckoning. When a major mistake comes to light, the natural response is to get defensive or hide. Learn from it.


  • Resolve to take action. Once a major mistake comes to light, it can be easy to slink off and leave the problem in others’ hands. If you cannot fix the actual problem, you can still address your part in it -- your failings, misjudgments, whatever contributed to the crisis.


In the end, great leaders give credit when things go right and take responsibility when things go wrong. I hope this is something we all strive to do.



This past Wednesday I had the opportunity to interview bestselling author Dan Senor for our weekly Wednesday webinar seriesIt was a remarkably interesting and insightful interview and I encourage you to watch the recording hereNext week we will hear from Nachman Shai, formerly Israel’s Minister for Diaspora Affairs and a retired Brigadier General who served as the IDF spokesperson during the Gulf War. Register here.


Last night, I was at a gathering celebrating 40 years since Rabbi Moshe and Devora Wilhelm moved to Portland to begin Chabad of Oregon. It is remarkable the lives they have touched and the incredible growth of Chabad throughout our state. Yasher koach!


The Jewish Federation and Greater Portland Jewish community are delighted to participate in the Shabbat of Lovenext Friday. Jews of all ages, backgrounds, and identities are invited to come together as a community with family, friends, and neighbors to experience the sacred joy of Shabbat. Click here for congregations and Jewish organizations hosting Shabbat of Love programs and register your plans here.


The Jewish Federation is sponsoring a special community opportunity on Monday, January 22 at 7:00 p.m. at Congregation Neveh Shalom with representatives of Sharaka (“partnership” in Arabic). Sharaka was created by young adults following the signing of the Abraham Accords in September 2020. The delegation visiting comes from Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Egypt and they will discuss peace and normalization between Arabs and Israelis during this difficult time in Israel and Gaza. Registration is required – click here.


In celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, join us at the “Work for the World Fair at Portland Jewish Academy (6651 SW Capitol Hwy) on Monday from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.. This program, co-sponsored by PJA, BB Camp, PJ Library, and the Jewish Federation, is free and open to preschool through 5th grade children and their families. Register here.


Shabbat shalom and be safe with the impending weather.


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