February 9, 2024
By Solly Kane
President & CEO
It’s been a busy week in the Seattle Jewish community. Our annual Connections event was this past Sunday and it was a great gathering with hundreds of leading women philanthropists in our community and friends.
Featured speaker Erin Gruwell was inspiring as she shared about her experience as a teacher in Los Angeles with a group of students who had largely been written off by everyone. Erin’s students’ story became the book, and later movie, Freedom Writers. Erin spoke so beautifully about the work she has done to foster tolerance and understanding, educating the Freedom Writers about the Holocaust, and eventually bringing them to the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. and to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp to deepen their understanding. Erin’s students have gone on to become writers, business owners, and catalysts for change—and it was easy to see how Erin’s inspiration led them on that path.
This week’s Torah portion is Mishpatim—Hebrew for laws. It is a portion that contains 53 mitzvot, commandments, and is a fitting portion for us to be reading right now, as our Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) is busy advocating for a number of laws in Olympia, many of which speak to the messages Erin taught us about fostering tolerance. We are advocating for: the establishment and funding of a Hate Crimes and Bias Incident hotline, mandatory Holocaust and genocide education in public schools, and a significant increase in the State Nonprofit Security Grant Program.
We need your help standing up for these important issues, and others, and making sure that legislators in Olympia hear from the Jewish community. It is not too late to join us for Jewish Community Lobby Day on February 15 to advocate on behalf of the Jewish community. Whether you have visited your state legislators countless times, or this will be your first experience, I hope you will join us—we need your support!
The ongoing rise of antisemitism is a major area of focus for us. This week, the Federation’s Cardozo Society, our legal affinity group, partnered with the JCRC and the ADL to speak out against a recent article in the King County Bar Association (KCBA) Bulletin which perpetuated antisemitic ideas. In response to our advocacy, and many attorneys reaching out to share similar concerns, the KCBA removed the article from their website and shared this statement, apologizing, from their Board of Trustees. We will continue to call out such incidents when they occur and, at the same time, work toward a world like which Erin Gruwell taught us about this week, where there is a deeper sense of understanding.
Finally, while we are busy with lots of work standing up for the Jewish community, we are involved in creating many meaningful experiences for the Jewish community. This week Rabbi Donniel Hartman, President of the Shalom Hartman Institute, was here in Seattle, at Temple De Hirsch Sinai, and spoke powerfully at an event co-sponsored by the Federation.
Another example of meaningful engagement for our Jewish community is the Federation’s Reset & Refresh program—a cohort based learning and community experience for mixed-heritage couples. The program has received attention nationally, and this coming week representatives from four cities across the country – Atlanta, Austin, Buffalo, and Portland – in partnership with the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), will be here in Seattle learning from the Federation team about the program and how it can be scaled to their own cities. Seattle is a city where innovation is in our DNA, and this sort of innovation, which can then be replicated in other places, is core to the work of the Federation.
Thank you for your ongoing support to make all of this important work possible.