Today, November 7, marks one month on the calendar since the horrific terrorist attacks in Israel of Simchat Torah 5784: October 7, 2023. It is our Sheloshim.
In Jewish tradition, Shloshim, the one month anniversary of a loved one’s death, marks the end of one period of mourning and the entry into another. Tradition divides mourning into the first week after burial – Shiva; the first month – Sheloshim; and the first year concluding in Yartzeit in what will become an annual remembrance.
Shloshim provides the first step in easing a mourner back into life, as many of the traditional restrictions during that first time are lifted.
As we reflect back on where we are today, many in the Jewish community and Israel don’t find themselves easing back into life. For many of us we are still grounded in the horrors of October 7 – the single worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. Many are still waiting to hear words of comfort or understanding from non-Jewish friends. Many feel betrayed by those who turned immediately to blaming the victim, justifying the murders, mutilations and kidnappings as legitimate expressions of resistance. And many are feeling nervous about the blatant rise in anti-Semitic language and expressions over these last few weeks. Just when we should be mourning and finding comfort, many of us have a growing concern about physical and emotional safety. It is hard to come to any kind of transition out of mourning when there is so much uncertainty.
At Temple we are hearing from you these concerns and the desire for community. Every Friday night we meet many who are coming to services with us for the first time, seeking to just be with other Jews. Every day we hear from congregants about their feelings of anxiety and uncertainty about the future. Every week we hear from our teens about the difficult experiences they are having. Jewish anxiety is everywhere in our lives.
And we are watching a war in Gaza which is taking an enormous toll on civilians.
At the end of shiva, it is customary for mourners to take a walk around the block – to reacquaint themselves with the world around them. At this time of Shloshim, it is a good idea for us to look around ourselves as well.
A few thoughts come to my mind today.
Israel is completely justified in defending itself. It is the responsibility of any nation to provide security for its citizens. Calls for a ceasefire are inappropriate right now. Israel cannot leave the terrorists of Hamas the opportunity to repeat the massacres of October 7.
Israel also has a duty to protect civilian lives in Gaza to the best of its ability. Even though Hamas is to blame for hoarding supplies which could be used to alleviate the suffering of the Gazan people, the Biden Administration is right in calling on Israel to provide humanitarian pauses to allow movement of people and emergency supplies. Hamas will certainly take advantage of these pauses to move and equip their fighters. None-the-less, the civilian need is too great. The kidnapped victims Hamas is holding need to be released. And more attention needs to be paid and shared about visions for Gaza and all the Palestinian people for the day after. There must be a pathway for peaceful co-existence, security and dignity for all in the region.
We who are far away from the fighting are not helpless. We can support the Israeli people – 250,000 internally displaced who have great needs, families of those murdered or kidnapped, families of those whose young adults are serving on the front lines of the military. We also need to push back on the false narratives which are pervasive: the misuse of words like “genocide” and “colonialism;” calling out the truly genocidal meaning behind phrases like “from the river to the sea” and explaining why calls for “ceasefire” are unacceptable when they leave Hamas the ability to carry out more terrorist attacks in Israel. And we need to continually remind the world of the 240 kidnap victims, including children and elderly, who are being illegally held by Hamas as bargaining chips, without even Red Cross inspections to report on their safety.
Lastly, we should remember that we are not alone. CBI has continued to receive cards and letters and phone calls of support from people in the community. Just this week we received three special cards: one from the Ukrainian community of Portland who acknowledged how we stood by them in their time of need and their pledge to support us, one from Rose Haven, with whom we have hosted heating and cooling centers, and another from Lift UP – a local organization CBI helped to found to care for the needs of those in our neighborhood.
We are continuing to update our CBI resource page https://www.bethisrael-pdx.org/israelresources/ with articles and opportunities to give support. If you have suggestions for items to include, please let us know.
As we mark this day of Shloshim, we recognize that the time of our mourning will indeed continue. And that we will survive this dark time.
Am Yisrael Chai.
Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana
As we navigate these troubled times, we know many of you have been thinking about the security of our campus and our community. While part of our security practice is to not publicly share specific details, we do want to want to keep you informed, broadly, of the many steps CBI has been taking:
CBI staff is in regular contact with our Community Security Director, Jessica Anderson, and local law enforcement. These relationships are long standing and on-going. We share with them what is happening on our campus and they share with us, and with all Jewish institutions in our area, their intelligence and expertise. Per these highly-trusted, expert sources at this time there are no credible threats toward local Jewish institutions.
CBI staff regularly reviews all of our security procedures and protocols. This includes the oversight work of our lay-led Safety & Security Committee, regular evaluations and audits conducted by staff and holistic full campus assessments conducted by local law enforcement and other security experts.
Our staff also receive regular training from Jessica Anderson of SCN (Secure Community Network, the safety, security, and information sharing community for the North American Jewish community) on situational awareness, de-escalation, and other skills and techniques to keep our community and campus secure.
CBI evaluates and adjusts our procedures and protocols as we receive feedback from security experts. Some of these adjustments might be more noticeable and some might be less noticeable. All of this is done with intention, and following the advice and best practices of our trusted advisors. This ongoing work has been done with the support of two significant grants from the Department of Homeland Security, and feedback from professionals after full-campus evaluations is that we are doing the right things.
In the last two weeks, CBI staff have met multiple times with local security experts and other Jewish organizations to learn and share best practices. Solutions that work for one organization do not always work for another, but we all benefit from shared communication and expertise.
CBI has adjusted some security protocols in the last week and we are reviewing these often and will continue to adjust our procedures and protocols as situations and advice change.
In the coming weeks, we hope to host a situational awareness and de-escalation training for interested members of the community, particularly those likely to be on campus regularly, whether as Shabbat greeters, event attendees, or parents gathering during Religious School. If such a training would be of use to you, please email our Communications Director, Tracy Manaster Alifanz, and we will let you know as we proceed.
Our greatest asset in moments like these is our community. If you would like to connect with the clergy, please reach out to them here. If you have further questions or concerns about security, please reach out to our Executive Director, Josh Kashinsky.
President, CBI Board of Trustees
Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana
It has been a week since the worst single day in Israel’s history, and the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. We have learned far more about the atrocities of that day and the long-time scars it has imprinted on the people of Israel and Jews around the world.
We have a number of updates:
CBI has created a resource page on our website: https://www.bethisrael-pdx.org/israelresources/ There you will find guidelines for talking to our kids about what is happening, campus resources and links to charities you can support.
Included on the page is a recent letter from Rabbi Kim Rosen who served for many years as Associate Rabbi at CBI. She and her husband have lived in Jerusalem for many years and she tells of the terrifying situation on the ground – a lived reality of Israeli citizens that is not reported in the news.
There were several media reports of a former Hamas leader living outside of Gaza calling for last Friday to be a “day of rage.” Some Jewish day schools around the country canceled classes out of an abundance of caution. As it happened, Portland Jewish Academy had a scheduled day off on Friday. Although there was a protest rally on the PSU campus, the FBI and law enforcement reported no credible threats nationally or locally. As often happens in these circumstances, the hope was to create fear and disruption in the Jewish Community. Our services were held on campus without incident.
One thing you might consider doing to help: many of our college students are feeling particularly lost and helpless without family nearby. Consider inviting a student to a Shabbat dinner at your home. It would mean so much to them. Please contact Hannah Sherman at PDX Hillel: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are looking for some background information on history of Israel and the Israel/Palestine conflict, Stand With Us – an organization to help Jewish College Students – has put together a number of excellent fact sheets.
Some good news:
Many Jews around the country are reporting feeling alone and hearing nothing from their non-Jewish friends. I am happy to let us all know that CBI has been receiving calls of support from the community. They are expressing outrage at the massacre by Hamas terrorists. Some have anonymously sent us flowers, which we displayed during Shabbat Services Friday night. Rabbi Cahana has received personal messages of support from interfaith partners. They want us to know we are not alone.
Immediately after the attacks, the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland started an Israel Emergency Fund to support recovery efforts in Israel. Thanks to an extraordinarily generous matching grant gift of $500,000 from the Stern family, the fund is nearing its original goal of 1 million dollars. Please continue to donate.
Thanks to the efforts of CBI congregants Tony Urdes, Michelle Bombet Minch, and especially congregant and Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran, Portland is joining municipalities around the country in expressing support for Israel. Three Multnomah County commissioners released a strong statement condemning the terrorist attacks and expressing solidarity with Israel. For five nights, beginning last Thursday, the Morrison Bridge is being lit blue and white, matching city halls and other public works around the country. Please take a picture of yourself with the bridge during these evenings and share with us and on social media as a sign of solidarity.
Lastly, as following the typical pattern, news media is focusing on the painful and difficult situation in Gaza without always contextualizing the terrorist attack which precipitated it. It is important that we remember that this war was a chosen by Hamas. They of course knew that Israel would have to respond and weaken or eliminate Hamas in Gaza. And they knew that their own civilians would suffer. As has been their method, they hide among the citizenry and fire missiles into Israel from schools and mosques. Media is reporting the fighting as retaliation. Israelis see it not as revenge, but as the only way to protect the nation by eliminating Hamas as a terrorist threat.
While the media may soon forget, we cannot forget. The threat to Israel’s existence is real. And Israel will prevail.
Last night some 1200 people in person and over 1800 households online joined in a Solidarity with Israel gathering at Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland. Both Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Jeff Merkely spoke of the unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States. They were joined by US Representatives Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer who shared their personal connections to Israel as well as the bipartisan support of the US Congress. The room was filled with political leaders, including Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Oregon State Senator Elizabeth Steiner and Oregon State Representative Travis Nelson. Interfaith partners and leaders spoke and were present including Pastor J.W. Matt Hennessee, Frank J. So of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, James Posey of NAACP and Rev. W. J. Mark Knutson of Augustana Lutheran Church. From CBI all our clergy – Rabbi Cahana, Rabbi Joseph, Cantor Cahana and Cantor Green – were present.
The event was sponsored and organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and co-sponsored by almost every other Jewish institution in the region. Putting an event like this together in just two days over Shabbat and holy days was a monumental task and the incredible turnout and participation is a strong sign of our community’s support for Israel in this difficult time.
Following the brutal attack by Hamas Terrorists over Simchat Torah, the stories of murder, kidnappings and terror moved the crowd. Israelis living in Portland shared the experiences of family and friends – many of whom are still unaccounted for days later. A teen who grew up in Portland and attended PJA as a child, Shani Louk, was among the hundreds murdered and their bodies brutalized at the nature music festival in Southern Israel. The stories are personal.
There have not been mass murders of Jews of this kind since the Holocaust.
At the Solidarity gathering, rabbis representing the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox movements spoke and shared traditional prayers. Rabbi Cahana offered the Prayer for Hostages, noting that an unprecedented 150 hostages, dead and alive, are reported to be held in Gaza. Israel has historically gone to great lengths to bring hostages home, even while Hamas threatens to execute them one by one in retaliation for Israeli strikes in Gaza.
These are difficult times and they will continue for some time.
The Jewish Community of Portland and Congregation Beth Israel continue to monitor the security situation in our area. We are maintaining excellent communication with the FBI and with local law enforcement and are practicing extreme vigilance. We ask that any acts of anti‑Semitism or hate crimes be reported immediately and we can help with that.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland has set up an emergency fund to provide immediate aid to Israelis, through the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Israel Trauma Coalition to support victims of terror, help rebuild damaged infrastructure, and address the unprecedented levels of trauma caused by this horrific attack. You can donate here.
The news from Israel continues to be dire, with killings and kidnappings by Hamas terrorists inside the country. The numbers are chilling: over 600 Israeli dead, 2000 injured and shockingly over 100 kidnapped and being held in Gaza. Terrorists are still active inside Israel and rockets from Gaza and now from Hezbollah in Lebanon and still striking the country. Yesterday is already being called by some the worst day in Israel’s history.
Here is what you can do to help:
Please continue to contact your friends and family in Israel. Even if you know they are safe, let them know that we all stand in solidarity with them. They are not alone.
This could become a long war and there will be much disinformation. One reliable English language news source is The Times of Israel. Stay informed.
We pray for peace, security, and the speedy return of the hostages.
שַׁ֭אֲלוּ שְׁל֣וֹם יְרוּשָׁלָ֑͏ִם יִ֝שְׁלָ֗יוּ אֹהֲבָֽיִךְ׃
Pray for the well-being of Jerusalem;
“May those who love you be at peace.” – Psalms 122:6
I woke this morning to a WhatsApp message from my family in southern Israel reassuring me that they are alright. Clearly terrible news was to follow.
Throughout the day, we are learning the details of unprecedented attacks inside Israel by Hamas terrorists. Hundreds of missiles are being fired into the region near the Gaza border as well as to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Terrorists who have broken through the border and are attacking civilians in the homes and military personnel on their bases. Already there are reports of kidnapped soldiers and civilians – dead and alive – being taken back into Gaza as hostages.
“We are at War” was the statement from Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Also early this morning, I and other Jewish leaders received a text from an interfaith partner here in Portland, Pastor Matt Hennessee, expressing solidarity with Israel and the Jewish community at home. We are not alone in praying for safety and for peace.
This unprecedented attack by Hamas terrorists is timed to occur 50 years after the start of the devastating Yom Kippur War in Israel, and during what should be the most joyful time on the Jewish religious calendar – the holiday of Simchat Torah. Israeli citizens are today in bomb shelters and there is fighting on the streets in some localities.
This wave of terrorist attacks also comes as Israel and Saudi Arabia, with the help of the Biden Administration, are moving closer to normalization of relationships which would lead to unprecedented peace and prosperity throughout the Middle East. This is something the terrorists of Hamas – backed by Iran – are clearly against. Whenever there is movement towards peace which will help the Palestinian people, Hamas terrorists work to undermine it with bloodshed. As always, those who will suffer the most from this war started by Palestinian terrorists will be the Palestinian people themselves and their legitimate desire for peace and independence. These terrorists have no regard for the safety of their own people.
Jewish institutions throughout the world, including the Union for Reform Judaism and The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland continue to provide updates and ways to help. The Jewish Security Network, our national and local partners in safety, are detecting no threats against North American Jewish institutions at this time.
Echoing the Psalmist, we pray for the peace and well-being of Jerusalem and all the people of Israel. We pray for all who suffer from war and bloodshed. We pray for our friends and family during this time. May we know peace.
Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana
On Sunday, December 3, Rabbi Cahana joined a group from Portland and Los Vegas on a Solidarity Mission to Israel. Sponsored by Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, the brief mission is an opportunity to meet with families of hostage victims and view some of the devastation of October 7, as well as meet with some of the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Israelis. They will be learning with journalists and scholars and reporting back on the fast moving situation in Israel.
Rabbi Cahana will be regularly sharing pictures and impressions from this short trip and will discuss his experiences at Shabbat Evening Services on Friday, December 15.
Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana, December 6, 2023 (evening)
–Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana, December 5, 2023.
–Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana, December 5, 2023.
Your Congregation Beth Israel clergy and education team are here to support you in having honest, age-appropriate conversations with your children about events as they unfold. We will build and update list of available resources here on this page, and are always available to connect in-person if you or your family needs more support.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland is working with our core partners (the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and the Israel Trauma Coalition) to support victims of terror, help rebuild damaged infrastructure, and address the unprecedented levels of trauma caused by this horrific attack. We have opened an emergency fund to support these efforts, to which you can donate here.
Emergency Medical Services
American Friends of Magen David Adom: Israel’s national emergency medical service (matching donations)
United Hatzalah: Volunteer EMS service
ZAKA Search and Rescue: Disaster victim identification, among the first to see slaughtered civilians
Nefesh B’Nefesh, in collaboration with the Israeli Ministry of Health, is creating a database of international physicians willing to volunteer in Israel during this challenging time.
Medical Volunteers: https://www.nbn.org.il/dr_volunteer/
Aid for Soldiers
Bayit Brigade: Emergency support for lone soldiers, those without family in Israel
Belev Echad: Providing aid to wounded soldiers
Friends of the IDF: Providing support to soldiers, veterans and their families
The Giving Back Fund: Helping Israeli soldiers fly back to Israel
Latet: Providing front line soldiers with emergency aid kits
Jewish Organizations Helping Affilates in Israel
Jewish Organizations Helping Affilates in Israel
Letters / Art / Photos for Families of Hostages: https://jewishportland.org/ourcommunity/letterstofamiliesofhostages
I want to give you an update on things here. First, Wendy and I are fine. We are still scheduled to leave on Wednesday night (actually, Thursday at 1:00am). So far, El Al is flying its usual schedule with some delays, so we fully anticipate to be on our way home soon.
Here in Israel, things are still incredibly tense. We just heard a report from the military spokesman who emphasized that the military objective is to neutralize Hamas as a fighting (and political) force. He described the Hamas targets that have been hit and, thankfully, reported that the communities around Gaza are now fully in control of the IDF. Over 300,000 reservists are being called up and there is a containing concentration of soldiers and equipment in the south. This may presage an unprecedented incursion into Gaza on a scale not undertaken previously.
Meanwhile, we are also paying close attention to our northern border. In the last couple of days there have been incidents of attempted infiltration of terrorists from Lebanon as well as artillery and mortar fire near the Har Dov area. These threats have been neutralized, but there is still high alert in the north. So far, it appears that Hizbollah is holding its fire and staying out of the fray — for now. It certainly helps that the US has sent a whole carrier group into the eastern Mediterranean as a message of deterence.
On the political front, there are reports that we soon will have an emergency unity government formed to include the parties of the center and center-left. This is encouraging, though there remain many questions concerning the conduct of the government prior to and during these events that are still unanswered. Just as was the case following the Yom Kippur War in 1973, there will be a serious inquiry and soul-searching to determine how we were so unprepared for this catastrophe.
As we listen to the news and see the growing list of casualties we are reminded that Israel is one big family. There are no “six degrees of separation” here. EVERYONE has some connection to those fallen in battle, to the innocents murdered by the terrorists, and to those being held captive by Hamas in Gaza (including the aged, women and children). In tragic irony, the captives include many dedicated PEACE ADVOCATES who have worked towards the reconciliation of Palestinians and Jews. We are also intimately connected to those who have been called up to defend our country in its hour of need. Already, the children of a number of our friends have reported for duty. These are not faceless ciphers — these are our family.
Just this morning, I received word that the grandson of Harris Guedalia, my study partner for over 40 years, fell in combat somewhere in or near Gaza. When my parents and brother died in a plane crash Harris was the first person to come over to comfort Wendy and me. As we spoke on the phone just now we reminded each other of that painful connection. We are ALL family here.
As Wendy continues packing our bags we both have mixed feelings about leaving. There is really very little that we can contribute by extending our stay but, nonetheless, we still feel that this is our home and that we’d rather be here than anywhere else especially at these difficult times.
For now, pray for Israel and its people and for a speedy end to this war. Make your voices heard in support of Israel. Those voices count — especially here, and it gives us courage to know that we are not alone.
עושה שלום במרומיו הוא יעשה שלום עלינו ועל כל ישראל.
Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu ve-al kol Yisrael.
May the One who creates peace in the heavens, create peace for us and for all Israel.
With regards from Jerusalem,
All of us Israelis living here are horrified by these dark days since Saturday morning. What you see on the news is only a small portion of the reality of what we are living. We were in the bomb shelter 5 times on Shabbat and Chag in Jerusalem, and it’s much worse elsewhere, because of rockets. We’ve had little sleep as we are on guard duty. It’s been difficult to hire armed guards as everyone has been called up for reserve duty. So we are relying on those of us in our building with guns. Barry and the other member of the Board decided to close the garage to our building and padlock it as it is a vulnerable entrance. We have put a sniper who lives in our on the roof of our and have 3 armed guards now in the lobby as there is a credible threat of an uprising in the streets of Jerusalem. We’ve made sure everyone is in their apartments with their doors locked. We’ve got a car parked in the front of the building ready to go to the hospital incase we have any breaches and people get injured as no ambulances or police are available to help as they are dealing with hostage situations throughout the country. Hostages that we know have already been murdered. So we are prepared for a crisis, which is what is taking place. We are praying for our soldiers and our civilian hostages, including children who have been attacked, raped, and taken to Gaza and enemy territories. Yes, babies were beheaded. Yes, women have been raped. Yes, kids have been shot in the head, Yes, families have been burned alive. And we pray for our soldiers defending our country and for the strength and triumph of Israel to survive and continue to be a light unto the nations in the face of adversity. I appreciate that everyone wants to be gentle with their words, but what we have experienced is savagery. We are grateful to President Biden as he may very well have prevented Iran from starting war with us. Israel will do what she needs to do! Sorry this is disjointed. But none of us have had sleep. We need everyone’s support. Fasting, praying, supplies for soldiers and displaced families.
Rabbi Kim Rosen
CBI has continued to receive cards and letters and phone calls of support from people in the community, including those pictured her from from the Ukrainian community of Portland who acknowledged how we stood by them in their time of need and their pledge to support us, from Rose Haven, with whom we have hosted heating and cooling centers, and a from Lift UP – a local organization CBI helped to found to care for the needs of those in our neighborhood.