Monday, March 12, 2012
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
This story was really fascinating to report, but I think if I had had another week, I could have written it much better. Still, the family's story is very interesting to me, so I'll share the piece I wrote on their work.
No one met Rabbi Menachem Rivkin at the airport the night he, his wife and 6-month-old twins flew from New York to Portland. No one brought a housewarming gift to their Hillsboro home or joined the family for Friday night prayers.
That was the point. Hillsboro was a city without a synagogue. Its grocery stores had no kosher sections. Jews wanting community, a chance to be themselves without explanation, had to drive to Portland.
In that void, Rivkin saw opportunity, a chance to create, from scratch, a home for Hillsboro Jews. When the plane touched down after a full day of traveling, Rivkin was eager to start immediately. He didn't know a soul, but he had plans for a dozen different classes.
"I always want to spin the wheel faster than it naturally goes," he says.
Rivkin has spent five years laboring to create that community. He is on the verge of reaching his greatest milestone yet: The city recently granted his congregation, Chabad Hillsboro, a permit to build Hillsboro's first synagogue.
Like his father before him, Rivkin practices Chabad, a Hasidic movement that brings services to cities that lack a strong Jewish presence. He grew up in Israel and completed rabbinical studies in New York, where he met Rabbi Motti Wilhelm, whose father directs Chabad of Oregon. Hillsboro needed a Jewish community, Wilhelm told Rivkin.
Sometimes building a community takes no work at all.
As he strode across the Costco parking lot one afternoon soon after his arrival, Rivkin's appearance caught the eye of a young blond boy. Rivkin is Orthodox: A full beard shades his face, a wide-brimmed Borsalino hat perches atop his head. He was only 25 when he arrived in 2007, but his dress gave him an ancient air.
"Hey," then-7-year-old Aedan Mills-Koffel called across the parking lot. "I'm a Jew, too!"
READ THE REST ON OREGONLIVE HERE.