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About P’nai Or

P'nai Or of Portland welcomes you and invites you to share in the wellspring that is Jewish Renewal!

P’nai Or (Faces of Light) celebrates the divine image reflected in the rich tapestry of individuals and families – LGBTQ, interfaith, Jews by birth, and Jews by choice – who journey with us. We are a vibrant, egalitarian Jewish Renewal congregation founded by Rabbi Aryeh Hirschfield, zt"l.

Whether you are steeped in the wellspring of Jewish knowledge, part of an interfaith family, or know very little about Judaism but want to learn more -- you are welcome!

Our inspiration draws from Torah, Kabbalah, the teachings of the Chassidic masters, and Jewish and non-Jewish contemporary sources, as well as our community and visiting rabbis throughout the year. 

We support each other in our spiritual practices, our studies, our children’s education, and our lives. Through the practice of mitzvot (sacred deeds) and tikkun olam, we strive to heal ourselves and the world.

We are affiliated nationally with ALEPH: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal, the organizing body for Jewish Renewal, founded by Reb Zalman Schacter-Shalomi, zt"l.

P’nai Or Principles

How do we bring into being a community that will thrive? A living, growing, Jewish Renewal community requires the following: 

The gifts of belonging, meaning, and purpose.  We ask people who come to us to do as much as they can to commit and participate.  The gifts of meaning and purpose in building community can then grow.

The gift of respecting and appreciating one another: We respect the rights and individual beliefs and needs of each of our members. We support the health, security, and sacred space of our community. We take a non-hierarchical approach to spiritual community, careful and kind listening, and generous acknowledgment of all kinds of contributions.

The gifts of rich and deep relationships. We are a community of loving people, where deep, sustaining relationships and friendships develop when we accept some measure of responsibility for nurturing our community. Providing support during times of trial, as well as celebration, is holy work.

Gratitude and forgiveness. As we come together in the spirit of sustaining and growing our community, while helping each other evolve and heal from old wounds, we hold each other with the grace of gratitude and forgiveness.

P’nai Or Governance

We are a community of volunteers with an elected Council. We are committed to actively and democratically including our community in major decisions.

We encourage the creative expression of each person’s talents and abilities to serve our community, organizing around community interest, plans, and personal energy.

Our council focus is to develop and support structures so that congregants feel effective and fulfilled when they contribute their time and effort. Guided by our bylaws, the council also serves to assure the integrity of our budget, policies, communications, and religious practices, working with our committees to initiate religious and community events in a timely manner. All council positions are filled through congregational elections that occur twice a year.

History of P’nai Or

The seeds for what would become P’nai Or of Portland were planted in the fall of 1991 when Rabbi Aryeh Hirschfield led a workshop for the Portland community at Gesher (a Jewish outreach organization). Several attendees met privately over the ensuing months and eventually invited Rabbi Aryeh to come monthly from his home in Ashland to lead Shabbat services.

These services were held in private homes in Southeast Portland. The small group of 12-15 people grew to 30-40 in the first year. During that year the rabbi began teaching Thursday night adult education classes in addition to Friday night and Saturday morning services. All events were held in the living room of a home. A governing council of six people was established to create by-laws and policies. In 1994 the group was too large for a living room and began renting community spaces for services. The rabbi came once a month and the community gathered at lay-led services for the High Holy Days and celebrations.

By 1995 the congregation had grown to 65 people and invited the rabbi to come twice a month. After several months he, his wife and their son moved to Portland. Volunteers from the community acted as administrative help for Rabbi Aryeh, who began a regular schedule of counseling congregants.  Committees were created: a religious services committee to plan services, a religious practices committee to create policy for community services and events on matters of Halacha, an events committee, and a tikkun olam (repairing the world) committee.

A bi-weekly children’s education program began in the fall of 1996, meeting in our homes on Sundays until 1998, when the congregation moved its services to the Koinonia House of Portland State University. This allowed the children’s class to meet on Saturdays during the service so that the rabbi could gather the children for singing and storytelling before services and classes began. By that time, there were many weekday evening activities. Adult education, Hebrew classes, music and singing groups, meditation, and healing circles all met regularly.

Since 2004 the congregation has been meeting at St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Southwest Portland for services, celebrations, interfaith activities, and classes. We planted fruit trees and the congregation grew quickly at this location with a full-blown children’s and adult education program, many social and spiritual interest groups, several life passage events each year, and regular services every week.

On January 6, 2009, Rabbi Aryeh passed away.

The following two years while our community mourned deeply, we were guided by Rabbi David Zaslow of Ashland Oregon, who served as our interim Rabbi and who had received ordination from Rabbi Aryeh.  We subsequently studied and prayed with Rabbah Deborah Kolodney who was with us until 2014.

We continue to evolve, guided by committed core congregants who draw great inspiration from our tradition and each other. We have been a lay led congregation since 2014, enjoying the blessings of community and the teachings of each other, inspirational resources, and visiting rabbis.