Letter from the Editor: The beauty of knowledge

Knowledge can enhance your health, your heritage and your community. We explore many facets of the lifelong quest for knowledge in this issue of Oregon Jewish Life.

Because Ashkenazi Jewish women are more likely than the general population to have a genetic mutation that increases their risk for breast and ovarian cancer, our section on women’s health provides information about those risks. Our intent is not to cause extra anxiety, but to ensure women have information that will help them make good choices about their health. As one of our profile subjects says, “Ignorance is definitely not bliss.” With knowledge, women can make informed choices about screening and treatment options.

In this section, we also tackle some common misconceptions about health. While common sense once dictated that cancer patients rest to conserve their energy, recent studies have shown that exercise actually reduces cancer fatigue. In another story, a fertility specialist tackles some common misconceptions about infertility and treatment options.

Our bar and bat mitzvah section considers how the knowledge young people gain as they become b’nai mitzvah deepens their connection to their heritage. Studying to become a bar/bat mitzvah is a big time commitment that competes with many other activities in today’s over-programmed society. We asked four rabbis how congregations can make this an exciting time that will inspire students to make Judaism an ongoing part of their lives. The rabbis all emphasize the need to help students find meaning that resonates with them. Many youth find that meaning in their mitzvah projects. We’ve profiled students as they care for animals, solicit donations for the needy, provide safe fun for at-risk children, support projects in Africa and help children attend Jewish summer camp. One student commented he believes it is important to have a balance of the ethical mitzvot of helping people and the ritual mitzvot.

And as they put their knowledge of tikkun olam (healing the world) into action, they improve their communities and get a sense of the impact they can have on the world.

Isn’t that what being an adult is all about?

But learning doesn’t end with adulthood. The quest for knowledge is a lifelong journey.

We have stories on a Jewish childbirth class and the successful Mothers Circle, which helps mothers without a Jewish background raise Jewish children.

Seniors, too, continue down the path of lifelong learning. A group of women at Rose Schnitzer Manor celebrated a new step in the life of their study group with a Mussar dinner. For each course, the women paired a Mussar (ethical) trait with a dish – for instance, strawberry margaritas signified enthusiasm and challah stood for sustenance.

While bread sustains the body, mitzvot sustain the soul and knowledge sustains the mind. I think our b’nai mitzvah youth already understand that.
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Letters from readers

Open Letter to Sen. Ron Wyden:

Like many, I was very moved reading Bill Keller’s op-ed in the New York Times (“The Last Bipartisan,” Monday, 8/27/2012), in which he highlighted your continued efforts at bipartisan lawmaking. As Keller noted, your efforts stand in the tradition of iconic leaders such as Ted Kennedy and Orin Hatch, who worked for the good of the country to find common ground, even as they held on to their opposing ideals. In our sadly hyper-partisan era the good of the nation has been set aside in efforts to score quick political points and disingenuous sound bites. Meanwhile the serious problems our nation faces go unaddressed and people continue to suffer.

Senator, I honor you for your efforts and pray you are able to find willing partners to continue.

In our Jewish tradition, the great model of the lawgiver was Moses. Moses suffered, though, through an absolutist perspective. He was respected, but the rabbis see him as unable to connect to the real life of the people. It is his brother, Aaron, who was revered by the rabbis as the Peacemaker. Aaron, according to the midrash, would see neighbors quarreling. Springing into action, Aaron would visit one party to the conflict and tearfully explain how badly his opponent was feeling and how sorry he felt for his actions. Then he would rush to the other person and tell the same story about the first! When the two would next meet, they would fall into each other’s arms, embrace and reconcile, convinced that the other had apologized first!

Aaron, the Peacemaker, became the first Priest of the Jewish people – the public face of the ritual that brought all the people closer to G-d. He “reached across the aisle” and changed people’s lives – not through pronouncements from on high, but through a clear vision of the lives of those around him. Real lives affected by the laws of our people.

Thank you, Sen.Wyden, for being that peacemaker. And may your efforts be fruitful.

Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana
Senior Rabbi, Congregation Beth Israel
Portland

Dear Editor:

It’s not surprising that Kevin Mannix didn’t put his name on Measure 84; he must know that would be enough for many to reject it, but I’m hoping Oregon Jewish Life readers will look at the measure and vote no on the merits.

Not only would Measure 84 phase out the estate tax, which only the wealthiest 2% of Oregonians potentially pay, it would create a new loophole allowing for the avoidance of capital gains taxes altogether.
It should be clear to everyone by now that taxes pay for services and infrastructure we need; the very things that have made this state a good place to live: schools, road and bridge maintenance, health care and housing assistance for our most vulnerable, public safety, parks and much more.

Because I feel so strongly about maintaining quality of life for all our residents and that paying one’s fair share is an act of tikkun olam, I’m serving as treasurer of the Vote No on Measure 84 PAC.

We have a choice between handing a new tax break to those who don’t need it and providing for the common good by avoiding tax cuts which would further strain the state budget. Please join me in voting NO on Measure 84.
Sandy Polishuk, Vote No on Measure 84
Portland

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