Upcoming Opportunities for Inclusion and Community

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, May 12, 2017 / 16 Iyyar 5777

Summary: Rabbi Kosak reviews this past week’s book launch and cantorial candidate weekend, and highlights upcoming events.

  1. A Look Backward: A Book and a Song
  2. Cantor Bletstein Farewell
  3. Israel360-A Special Participatory Evening
  4. We Refuse to Be Enemies
  5. An Interfaith Shavuot
  6. Pulpit Swap

A Look Backward: A Book and a Song

Our community is fortunate to have quite the variety of activities and opportunities to deepen our connections with one another, to lend a helping hand to our larger community and to challenge our hearts and our faith to grow ever more robust.

This past week was no exception as we marked the book launch of Lois Shenker and Rabbi Posen’s Pirkei Imahot, a book that provides a forum for women’s voices and wisdom. We were honored at that event to hear from Ruth Messinger, a global ambassador for human rights, as she spoke about the power each of our voices has to make this world a little bit better. I want to offer a special thanks to our local Federation for co-sponsoring this event. Congregation Neveh Shalom, throughout our storied history, has always focused on providing for and engaging with the larger community. We’ve never been content with just looking out for ourselves, and we know that the Federation is motivated by that same vision of community.

That was followed by a moving weekend of song with Cantor Eyal Bitton. Cantor Bitton carries within his soul remarkable musical range. Just last night, our community voted to extend an offer to Cantor Bitton to become our next hazzan. We hope to welcome him, Michèle and daughter Miya to our kehillah. I am confident that they will help our congregation continue to thrive and also will add to Portland’s music scene.

Cantor Bletstein Farewell May 18th

While Cantor B will be with us through the end of May, our formal goodbye festivities take place this coming Thursday, May 18th at 7 pm. I feel fortunate to have had her as my colleague and am grateful for the guidance she provided when first “getting my feet wet” here. Her strong work with our b’nei mitzvah students of course will leave a lasting impression on them. Those efforts also molded our standards and are a reminder that with proper support and belief in them, children will meet or exceed expectations.

There are particular moments seared into my memory when her voice carried our entire community and left their mark. I am certain that each of us has our own collection of these powerful memories; taken as a whole, they are part of her enduring legacy. Cantor B, I will miss you.

We Refuse to Be Enemies on May 21st from 4-8 pm

If I had the opportunity to personally invite everyone reading this to attend, I would do so. This wonderful upcoming evening of music, conversation and friendship will bring Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders to our congregation. There will be panel discussions featuring Rev. Michael Ellick of First Congregational Church of Christ, my colleague Rabbi Michael Cahana of Beth Israel, Sahar Bassyouni who is a well-regarded educator and head of schools at Muslim Educational Trust and Wajdi Said, also of MET. We will also hear from our Multnomah county librarians. We’ve partnered with them (and thank you Mel Berwin for your behind the scenes educational work) to provide a series of three directed programs. These will bring our youth together to further the important work of this event.

The panels will hold some fascinating discussions about what their religions have to say about friendship and pluralism. This will be followed by a complimentary supper in Birnbach Hall where participants will have the opportunity to continue the conversation among themselves.

We refuse to be enemies. What a sentence. It reminds us that while we may click with certain people easily, enmity is a choice that we make about a person, a group or a nation on an ongoing basis. Many emotions arise within us; they appear, swell, then soften and fade to be replaced by another. That happens almost automatically. We choose, however, to nurture these momentary feelings into enduring states such as hatred.

By the way, if you read the Beaverton Valley Times, an article about the significance of the event is anticipated to be carried in their “Living Here” section on May 18th.

Israel360–A Special Participatory Evening on May 25th

There’s been a special soul in our midst for the past half a year. In June, he returns to Israel. Elad Vazana counts artist, educator and facilitator among his many skills. For the past fifteen years, he has brought together Palestinian and Israeli adults and youth–Muslims, Christians and Jews alike–and built trust among these divergent populations. By employing his philosophy that “story is the shortest distance between people,” he has helped individuals establish trust with one another.

On May 25th at 7 pm, Elad will be our guide. In this unusual program, we will each have the opportunity to safely share our own thoughts, experiences about Israel and its place in our life. Although we are still developing our culture of dialogue skills around Israel, for this particular evening, non-members are welcome to participate. Please RSVP to Lila at lwoloshin@nevehshalom.org. Please put Elad in the subject field.

Attendance will be capped at 150 due to facilitation and space limitations.

An Interfaith Shavuot and Peace Pole Ceremony on May 30th

Please keep an eye out for promotional material for our upcoming interfaith evening of learning as we mark the giving of the Torah on Shavuot. We will have an enhanced program this year, with recognized scholars and religious leaders from colleges and institutions from around our city. This will be a night you won’t want to miss.

Pulpit Swap June 9th

On June 9th, my friend and community leader, African American activist and spiritual leader, Pastor JW Matt Hennessee, will give the sermon at our regular Friday night service, beginning at 6:15 pm. That Sunday, June 11th, I’ll be preaching at Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church at 10:45 am. I hope you will be able to attend.

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.