Sarah Liebman wins Charlie prize
Jewish activist builds community for ‘under-served’ young adults
By Amy R. Kaufman
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Portlander Sarah Liebman has won the prestigious 2008 Charlie Award for her outstanding service to the Portland Jewish community.
She is one of two Americans to receive the international award, for which 130,000 alumni of Taglit-birthright Israel were eligible. Liebman said she will travel to Israel in July for the fifth-year reunion of all 60 Charlie recipients.
In a 2007 Jerusalem Post profile of Liebman, she expresses her interest in organizing events for younger people outside of Jewish institutions, creating “meaningful communities” and fostering “meaningful engagement with Jewish text and Jewish identity.”
Through Machar, a group Liebman founded in 2006, she said she seeks to empower people “to create communities they want to live in.”
Liebman’s work in the Portland Jewish community has focused on the needs of “post-college,
pre-kids” adults in their 20s and 30s.
Machar was conceived as a nondenominational group that gives these “difficult-to-reach and under-served” individuals a chance to increase their leadership skills and engage their peers in Jewish activities. Machar is a program of Morasha, a nonprofit organization.
Each year, said Liebman, a small group of participants engage in leadership workshops with experts and learn how to plan events, build programs, network and raise funds for projects that will engage their peers.
For example, she said, one member created several hikes during the Machar program, and subsequently he created the Portland branch of the Mosaic Club, a network of non-profit organizations dedicated to organizing outdoor and environmental activities for Jewish singles, couples and families.
Machar participants also develop their Jewish literacy by enrolling in classes at the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School in Portland, which currently is subsidized through a one-year grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. Machar and the student also contribute.
Liebman is also the founder of Urban Jews PDX, an informal social network that sponsors and publicizes events on Jewish themes. Through a confidential, shared online list, people in the target age group and others can learn about events and activities of interest to them.
Liebman said she also helps Jewish community leaders of all ages to design events that will attract young adult Jews. She said to date she has partnered with more than 25 local Jewish groups, synagogues and organizations.
Machar is currently recruiting young adults for its September 2008 program, Liebman said.
On Sunday, April 13, Urban Jews and Hadassah will co-sponsor a festival of three short films directed by Israeli film students at Hadassah College, Jerusalem. The films will screen at the Laurelhurst Theater and Pub at 12:30 p.m.
On Friday, May 2, from 7 to 9:30 p.m., Urban Jews will hold a Shabbat potluck featuring conversation with Lee Gordon, a founder of Hand in Hand, a network of Israeli K-12 schools in which Jewish and Arab students learn together in bilingual classrooms.
An alumna of Portland Jewish Academy, Liebman holds a master’s degree in education from Portland State University and a bachelor’s degree in history from Grinnell College.