Getting Out and Getting In

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, March 22, 2019 / 15 Adar Sheni 5779

Living Room Shabbat tonight at 8 pm. Bring a bottle of wine and come lounge in comfortable clothes as we welcome in Shabbat on plush sofas with our wonderful cantor and musicians.

Summary: Rabbi Kosak discusses our evacuation drill that will occur tomorrow toward the end of Shabbat services. He also talks about the tiny home being built in our upper parking lot and what we can do to address homelessness in Portland.

Sometimes to be safe, you have to get out or take cover.

As many of you know, our congregation takes security needs very seriously. We have had a pretty well-thought out plan that we revisited each year. We have applied for a grant from the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) for several years running. Our two schools also regularly schedule drills. We were ahead of the curve by many measures.

Nonetheless, after the Pittsburgh shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, we felt even this was not sufficient. Since then, we have enhanced our efforts to secure our building against the worst possibilities. Some of those changes are visible. We now have only one entrance into the building, and I hope most of you have made the acquaintance of Robert Steele, our security officer.

Additionally, for those who attend on Shabbat morning, you have probably noticed a small group of motorcyclists standing guard. They are members of the Star Cruisers, Oregon’s only Jewish motorcycle club. In consultation with our leadership, they have taken it upon themselves to stand in solidarity with us and provide an extra layer of deterrence. A couple of the guys are veterans as well. We are grateful for their presence and their camaraderie. Please thank them when you see them.

Many of the other changes we have made to harden our facilities have remain unspoken. This is part of best practices, so that we don’t telegraph outward the measures we have taken, in part to make it harder for a bad actor to develop countermeasures.

In today’s world, however, we can’t turn a blind out to the worst case scenario or be complacent. The worst case in today’s world, unfortunately, is an active shooter scenario (though we need to be ever mindful that tomorrow’s threats are likely to evolve). In order to prepare for that highly unlikely event, we will have a special guest tomorrow, toward the end of our Shabbat services. We are fortunate that Officer Brian Hubbard, of the Criminal Intelligence Unit of the Portland Police Bureau will be joining us in plain clothes. He will observe us as we run an evacuation drill from our main Shabbat services in Stampfer Chapel. While we are aware that the composition of Shabbat attendees changes from week to week, we also know that we have a core constituency. Having a nucleus of people who are familiar with a practice evacuation will improve our group movement were the unthinkable to occur. I hope you will consider attending. Please know that plans are also in place for our mobility impaired congregants.

Sometimes to be safe, you need to get in a building or a shelter.

For many of our neighbors, the dangers they face on a regular basis occur because they are already out on our streets. I think we all are aware that Portland has a housing crisis and a resultant crisis of homelessness. Thousands of our fellow Portlanders live in tents, in sleeping bags or in impromptu cardboard structures that have become the Hoovervilles of our age.

While many of our houseless neighbors suffer from addiction or mental illness, national statistics tell us that 75% of this population simply can’t afford an apartment. This is a moral crisis, and unlike so many of the world’s tragedies, this one is occurring on our watch and in our back yard. That tells us that we have a more immediate responsibility to address this humanitarian disaster.

What CNS is Doing

Neveh Shalom has a storied history providing different resources for our city’s vulnerable populations. As we secure our congregational home for the next 150 years, it seemed appropriate that we should make a large, visible statement of our collective and communal concern.

To that end, we are building a small home to help an individual or family transitioning out of homelessness. You can watch the home being built in the upper parking lot. I want to give a special thanks to Sandy and Jeff Axel for giving up their reserved parking spot for the next 6 weeks or so while the tiny house is completed. We will be completing the interior and exterior of the home here on site.

After that, our home will be transferred to Hazelnut Grove in North Portland. There it will be part of a small “village” of these tiny homes, located close to community services. This will be a self-governed community that will operate similarly to a kibbutz.

Our home will be #4 in the village. As we approach Passover, we are reminded of the four types of redemption that God enacted for our enslaved ancestors. Providing our people with a home was the fourth type of redemption. How appropriate that we can pay this ancient debt forward!

I want to invite you to join in our communal mitzvah. This Sunday from 12-4, Jennifer Kalenscher will be overseeing the work with Bob, an employee from Cascadia Clusters with whom we are partnering in this project. Please stop by.

Additionally, we intend to create venues to discuss the homelessness in our community so we can understand the scope youe of the problem and the many solutions out there. Stay tuned for more details of how we can create dialogue in our community to be an advocate for people who find themselves homeless. Look for our tri-fold brochure for more information, as well as a single sheet that will shortly be available describing ways you can participate in the mitzvah.

Shabbat shalom,

Rav D

Shabbat Table Talk

  1. When did you first encounter a homeless person? How old were you? Where did this occur?
  2. What most disturbs you about the housing crisis in Portland? Nationally?
  3. How much can or should a society spend to ensure housing for its citizens? What programs would you consider giving up to finance this? Why?

If you’d like to continue this discussion, follow this link to CNS’s Facebook page to share your own perspectives on the topics raised in this week’s Oasis Songs. Comments will be moderated as necessary.

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