When I enrolled my sons in Portland Jewish Academy, I had no idea of the myriad benefits I would reap from that involvement. As both a woman and a journalist working in the Jewish press, the connections and experi- ences proved invaluable. Two of those benefits relate directly to the special sections in this edition – Women’s Health and Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
Until I had children, I stayed active with horseback riding, skiing and hiking. But when the boys were young, time for myself seemed rare. That started to change when PJA and the Mittleman Jewish Community Center teamed up to offer youth basketball. At the organizational meeting, the organizers said they had found coaches for all the younger teams (so my fourth-grader was good to go), but they didn’t have anyone to coach the seventh/eighth grade team. If a parent didn’t step up, they wouldn’t be able to offer a team for the older kids. Jim Davidson, who had just moved to town (he went on to become federation president a few years later), looked at me and said if I’d help, he would volunteer. So there I was on the basketball court running up and down to teach boys to play. Soon moms from the fourth-grade team wanted to play too. So we started the MOMS basketball team. My path back to fitness took off.
The next year, my older son’s classmates all began to become bar or bat mitzvah – and since they attended a community day school, that meant we were soon attending services at a different synagogue a couple times a month. Between attending b’nai mitzvah celebrations for both boys’ classmates, I think we experienced services at virtually every congregation in the Portland metro area.
What a gift for someone writing about the Jewish community. When I wrote about an event or issue at any congregation, I had a feel for the place and people involved. I think it has made me much more accessible to the community and has made the community much more accessible to me. I also got to learn about the variety of mitzvah projects the young people undertook as part of their path to becoming a son or daughter of the commandments. Not surprisingly, a lot of those students chose a project related to animals – not unlike the stories you can see in our Bar/Bat Mitzvah section. Talking to the twins working to help the mustangs, I was transported back to my youth reading Mustangs Wild Spirit of the West, which told the story of Wild Horse Annie and her successful efforts to pass legislation to save America’s wild horses. Now a new generation of activists is carrying on her work to ensure that the mustangs have the protection the law entitles them to.
I’ll end on a much more serious note, one that hits home for so many of us in Oregon’s Jewish community. Israel’s struggles are often our own. Be sure to read Mylan Tanzer’s column this month about the war for public opinion that Israel faces today – and has faced for decade after decade.
Some battles just need to be fought over and over again.
Fortunately, one battle where we are making progress is the fight against breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. Thanks to increased awareness and increased funding for testing and research, in recent decades the survival rate has increased dramatically for those suffering from breast cancer.