Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon, USA

"Rose City,"  "Bridgetown," "Stumptown"

Lat: 43 31', Long: 122 40'

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Compiled by Linda Kelley genportland972@gmail.com

Updated: Sept. 2020

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Early Jewish people who died in Portland were buried in the non-Jewish Lone Fir Cemetery, in Southeast Portland, Stark and 26th Ave. Burials began there in 1846, when it was part of the J.B. Stephens family farm. It became a cemetery in 1854. Lone Fir Cemetery is located at 2115 SE Morrison Street. [Lowenstein, Steven, The Jews of Oregon 1850-1950; Portland, Oregon, Jewish Historical Society of Oregon, 1987; with permission from the Oregon Jewish Museum, formerly the Jewish Historical Society of Oregon, p. 49, and Wikipedia 

Mt. Sinai Cemetery Association was incorporated 1856. Land was purchased in Carruthers Addition close to Portland. [p. 49, Lowenstein] Carruthers Addition was an area near the South Waterfront, where Interstate 5 is. No cemetery is there now.]

In May 1858, a group of men met at the National Hotel in Portland, and formed Congregation Beth Israel [house of Israel], the first Jewish congregation in Oregon. Leopold Mayer was its first president. It met in Burke's Hall on First Avenue in an upstairs loft over a livery stable and blacksmith shop. The first wedding was held there on September 19, 1858, when Simon Baum and Marjana Bettman were married. [Lowenstein, p. 49-50]

Congregation Beth Israel built its own building at Fifth Avenue and Oak Street in 1861. Laymen led the services:  Samuel Laski, Herman Bien, and Herman Bories. Beth Israel absorbed the Mt. Sinai Cemetery Association. [p. Beth Israel Cemetery is located at 426 S. Taylors Ferry Rd., Portland, OR, across the street from River View Cemetery [Google and Google Maps]

In 1863, Julius Eckman became the first ordained rabbi to lead Beth Israel. Julius Eckman was born in Posen in 1805. He was trained under Leopokd Zunz at the University of Berlin. He served as rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco. He founded the first Jewish newspaper in the West, the Weekly Gleaner in 1856. He worked to restore the ancient Jewish congregation of Kai-Fong-Fu in China. There were conflicts in the congregation whether to keep the traditional German service. Rabbi Eckman left in 1866 and returned to San Francisco to edit a new newspaper, the Hebrew Observer. [Lowenstein, p. 50-51] The Library of Congress website says that the Hebrew Observer was published until 1888 in English, German and Yiddish.

In 1867, Isaac Schwab from Bavaria became rabbi and chazzan [cantor]. He, too resigned. The congregation was becoming more Reform. In 1872, Mayer May from Bavaria became rabbi, chazzan and Hebrew schoolteacher. He was progressive and pushed for the prayer service to include English. He got into conflicts over his ideas and words, and he resigned in 1880. In 1884, the congregation appointed Rabbi Jacob Bloch from Bohemia. The congregation quietly and gradually became more Reform. In 1889, a large, new building was erected at Twelfth Avenue and Main Street. It had large stained glass windows, two towers topped by onion domes. Louis Fleischner was the fundraiser. The building was destroyed in 1923 by an arson fire. The synagogue's shammes [caretaker], a Christian named Theodore Olsen, risked his life to try to save the Torahs, but was only able to save prayer books and records. He worked at the synagogue for forty-seven years and was buried, at his request, in Beth Israel's cemetery. After the fire in 1923, the congregation held services at the First Presbyterian Church, until the new building was completed in 1928. Congregation Beth Israel is located at 1972 NW Flanders Street, Portland. [Lowenstein, p. 52-55, Google]

In 1869, Ahavai Sholom  [lovers of peace*] was formed as an Orthodox congregation, and hired Rabbi Julius Eckman to return to Portland. On December 5, 1869, the new synagogue was dedicated. It was near Beth Israel on Sixth Avenue between Oak and Pine streets. Rabbi Eckman stayed two years. He returned to San Francisco, and died there in 1877. Rabbi Robert Abrahamson became the Rabbi and chazzan from 1880 until his death in 1922. [Lowenstein,  p. 50-55] See Abrahamson article link. Ahavai Sholom congregation began as Orthodox, and gradually became Conservative.

For Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, new synagogues were founded to suit their customs and make them feel welcome.

Talmud Torah 
was founded in 1893 at Third Avenue and Mill Street. Its first members were Russian Jews from North Dakota, and the congregation was set up as Conservative. They met in rooms above stores downtown. In the late 1890s, the Brethren Church at SW Eleventh Avenue and Hall Street was purchased for $4,500. [Lowenstein, p. 103-104]

In 1900, a small group formed an Orthodox congregation called Neveh Zedek [oasis of righteousness]. They held services daily at a small store on First Avenue between Mill and Montgomery.
In 1902, Neveh Zedek merged with Talmud Torah to form Neveh Zedek Talmud Torah.

In 1902-5, the strictly Orthodox members started Shaarie Torah [gates of Torah]  leaving Neveh Zedek Talmud Torah to remain Conservative.
In 1911, Neveh Zedek Talmud Torah dedicated a new synagogue with a square central tower and stained glass windows. The name was later shortened to Neveh Zedek. It existed for fifty years.
In 1961, Neveh Zedek merged with Portland's other major Conservative synagogue, Ahavai Sholom, to form Neveh Shalom. A new building was completed in 1965, located at 2900 SW Peaceful Lane, Portland. [Lowenstein, p. 94, 102-104, 113, 118, 123, 152-3, 164m 175, 195-6, 200, 214, Google, Neveh Shalom's website https://nevehshalom.org/]

In 1902, Shaarie Torah used a building at Second and Morrison, then one at First and Hall. The congregation expanded under its first president, Joseph Nudelman. In 1905, it purchased a Presbyterian Church at Third and Washington, and had the building moved to First and Hall. Thus it became the "First Street Shul." In 1916, Rabbi Joseph Faivusovitch became the synagogue's charismatic leader for the next thirty years. The family changed its surname to FAIN. Abraham Lapkowski came to Portland in 1905 from Golta, Russia. He became the shammes at Shaarie Torah in 1918 and held the post for over forty years. The family changed its surname to LABBY. Rabbi Fain was distinctive with his red beard. He traveled throughout Oregon and Washington to perform weddings and circumcisions. He was taught to be a mohel and perform circumcisions by Rabbi Robert Abrahamson of Ahavai Sholom. Rabbi Fain also performed ritual slaughters and supervised the milling of grain for Passover.
Shaarie Torah has had only nine rabbis in 109 years. In 1960, Shaarie Torah built a new building at Park Avenue and Jackson Street. Harold and Mark Schnitzer co-chaired the building campaign. The congregation was forced to move because of the planned freeway construction. The Schnitzers raised more money, and the State Highway Commission compensated the synagogue. The new location was at Twenty-fifth Avenue and Lovejoy Street in Northwest Portland. Orthodox congregants, who walked to synagogue, had to relocate to live near the new building, which is at 920 NW 25th Avenue, Portland. [Lowenstein, p.m 102, 104-108, 111, 113, 133, 139, 175, 189, 194, 200, 205, 214, Google, Shaarie Torah's website https://shaarietorah.org/]

Ahavath Achim [brotherly love] was founded in 1910 by Sephardic Jews from Turkey/the Ottoman Empire, and the Isle of Rhodes/the Ottoman Empire. Their traditions came from Spain. In 1492, the Jews were forced to leave Spain, or convert to Catholicism. Their language was Ladino, a combination of Spanish and Hebrew. The first services were held in the old Newsboys Club at First and Hall. They moved to the Neighborhood House, then to the Lodge Room at the B'nai B'rith Building, the Jewish Community Center, where it met from 1913 to 1930. In 1930 the congregation began work on a brick building at Third Avenue and Sherman Street.

Congregants led the services, and a traveling rabbi from Seattle came for High Holidays. In 1962, urban renewal forced a move. They attempted to move the brick building, but it collapsed and cracked after traveling one block. A new building on Barbur was completed in 1965. It has a domed ceiling and rounded roof. No microphone is needed when someone is speaking in the center of the round sanctuary. The sanctuary's altar is a beautiful, hand-carved wall. Today the weekly services are held at a location on Capital Highway in Hillsdale, and membership includes some Sephardic Jews and others. The building on Barbur has been purchased by the city for a future transit center, and leased back to the congregation for now. It is used for holidays and events. [Lowenstein, p. 81, 108, 110-111, 113, 198, 215, Google, Ahavath Achim's website https://ahavathachimpdx.weebly.com/]

In 1911, Congregation Tifereth Israel [glory of Israel] at NE Twentieth Avenue and Going Street was the only synagogue established on the east side of the Willamette River. It was a small Orthodox congregation. It gradually became more Traditional, then merged with Shaarie Torah in 1986.

Linath Hazedek  [resting place of righteousness*] [1914] was formed by Eastern European Jews as an Orthodox synagogue. It merged with Shaarie Torah in 1964, when urban renewal pushed them from their little building at First and Caruthers.

Kesser Israel
[crown of Israel*] [1916] was formed by Eastern European Jews as an Orthodox synagogue, and still exists today at 6698 SW Capitol Highway, Portland. It is the longest-established Orthodox Shul in Oregon, according to its website, https://www.kesserisrael.org/

In 1924,  black-bearded Rabbi Zucker came to Portland and started the short-lived congregation of Machzika Torah, as an offshoot of Shaarie Torah. [p. 106 Lowenstein]

These newer congregations are listed in a Google search for synagogues in Portland:

Beit Haverim [house of friends*] has two locations:  1111 Country Club Road, and 530 4th Street, both in Lake Oswego. It is a Reform congregation founded in 1992. https://www.beithav.org/

Congregation Bais Menachem
[house of Menachem*] is located at 6612 SW Capitol Highway, Portland, in the Maimonides Day School building. It is a Chabad congregation. chabadoregon.com/

Congregation Beit Yosef [house of Joseph*] is located at 4200 SW Vermont Street, Portland. It is Orthodox/Sephardic. Members are both Ashkenazi and Sephardic. https://beityosefportland.wordpress.com/

Havurah Shalom [fellowship of peace*] synagogue is located at 825 NW 18th Avenue, Portland. It is a Reconstructionist congregation, organized about 1980. https://www.havurahshalom.org/

Kol Shalom [voice of peace*] Community for Humanistic Judaism meets at 1509 SW Sunset Blvd., #1E. It was organized in 1993 as a Reform congregation. https://www.kolshalom.org/

P'nai Or  [faces of light] This congregation started about 1991, as a Jewish Renewal congregation. It is influenced by Torah, Kabbalah, Chassidic teachings, Jewish and non-Jewish sources. It meets in the Hillsdale Community Church, 6948 SW Capitol Highway, Portland. https://www.pnaiorpdx.org/

Shir Tikvah [song of hope] is located at 7550 NE Irving Street, Portland. It is a mid-sized independent congregation, founded about 2000. https://www.shirtikvahpdx.org/

Kehilat Ari Yehudah [Lion of Judah*] meets at Bethel Church, 7220 SE Duke St. and 72nd Avenue, Portland. It is a Messianic Jewish community, not a standard Jewish synagogue. https://kehilatariyehudah.wordpress.com/

There are twelve active synagogues in the Portland area, of every denomination.


Jones Pioneer Cemetery had some Jewish burials. It was established in 1872. It is owned by Metro Regional Parks and Greenspaces, and is an Oregon Historic Cemetery.
Lone Fir Cemetery had some Jewish burials before there were any Jewish cemeteries. It is at SE 26th Avenue and SE Stark Street, Portland. The first burial was in 1846. It is also owned by Metro, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Jewish Cemeteries

Ahavai Shalom Cemetery is at 9323 SW First Avenue.
Neveh Zedek Cemetery is at 7925 SW Canyon Lane.
They are both part of Neveh Shalom Congregation.

Congregation Shaarie Torah Cemetery is at 8013 SE 67th Avenue.
Nearby is Kesser Isreal Cemetery at 6509 SE Nehalem Street.

Beth Israel Cemetery is at 4265 S. Taylors Ferry Road.

Jewish Cemetery at Riverview Cemetery is at 0300 S. Taylors Ferry Road.

Havurah Sholom Cemetery is at 825 NW 18th Avenue.


The South Portland Jewish neighborhood had its own newspapers. In 1893, the American Hebrew News began weekly publication in Portland, under its publisher, Isaac Stern, and its editor, L. Rosenthal. The paper cost two dollars per year and reported news across the spectrum of the Jewish community. It stopped publication in 1900. [Lowenstein, p 123.]

1902, the Jewish Tribune was published by Rev. Dr. Nehemiah Mosessohn and his sons, David and Mose. Dr. Mosessohn was an Orthodox rabbi and lawyer in Odessa. He and David both attended the University of Oregon Law School, and graduated at the same time. The newspaper was strongly Orthodox and Zionist. David and Mose were in the Chamber of Commerce, and the newspaper was published in the Chamber Building. In 1919, the family moved to New York City to publish the paper there. The paper was sold in 1932 to the American Hebrew News of New York. [Lowenstein, p. 123-4]

In 1919, the Mosessohns sold the assets of their Portland newspaper to David Cohen, who began the Scribe:  A Record of Jewish Life and Thought. Rabbi Jonah Wise was the editor; Max Merritt was the associate editor and David Cohen was the manager. In 1926, Rabbi Jonah Wise moved to New York. The publication moved to the Railway Exchange Building. David, and later, with help from his wife, kept the paper going until 1951. It had serious content, and also a lot of reporting about Portland's Jewish social events. [Lowenstein, p. 124]

The Portland Jewish Review began in 1959 under the Jewish Welfare Federation, which had been the Federated Jewish Societies. It stopped in 2012, and started back up in 2020, under the direction of an editorial board. [Lowenstein, p. 124] It is online at https://www.jewishportland.org/jewishreview, as a function of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland.

Editor, Jewish Review


Jewish Federation of Greater Portland

9900 SW Greenburg Road, Suite 220

Tigard, OR 97223

503-892-7404 (leave message)

Oregon Jewish Life is online at orjewishlife.com. It is published by MediaPort LLC, Phoenix, AZ.

Jewish Journal is about Jewish life in California, Israel and all over the world. It covers stories about Portland. jewishjournal.com


Steven Lowenstein said in his book that the Neighborhood House was the most important social institution in South Portland. [Lowenstein, p. 138]

The Portland Chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women founded the Neighborhood House in 1897, led by Mrs. Ben Selling from 1900 to 1932. Its headworker and guiding spirit was Ida Loewenberg from 1912 to 1945. It was a settlement house and community center, open to all. Newcomers learned sewing, cooking, gardening, bible, household and manual skills. The first dedicated Neighborhood House building was completed in 1905. It had club rooms, an office, and a gym with showers. It had a kindergarten until 1917, when Portland Public Schools added kindergartens. The Neighborhood House reopened its kindergarten in 1925. Americanization classes taught English and prepared immigrants for citizenship. In 1909 there were three hundred pupils and fourteen teachers. Another building was needed.
The new building was completed in 1910 at Second Avenue and Woods Street. In 1925, addition was added, to include a swimming pool, handball courtsm a stage, boxing, wrestling and weightlifting rooms. The Neighborhood House provided well baby clinics, entertainment and dances. The South Parkway Club met there. It was a service club formed by ex-newsboys in 1916. The Council of Jewish Women built an organization that became a major force for progressive social reform. [Lowenstein, p. 138-145] Urban development forced the residents to move, so the Neighborhood House also moved to the Hillsdale neighborhood.

The Neighborhood House still exists at 7780 SW Capitol Highway. Its mission: 
 We continue our mission of bringing neighbors together throughout Portland by offering innovative and high-quality education, anti-poverty and senior support services that make a difference in the lives of our clients and the community. Its website is https://nhpdx.org/.

Charity is an important component of Jewish life. In addition to the Neighborhood House there were a large number of organizations:  fraternal organizations, their branches and auxiliaries, religious schools, cemeteries, social and educational clubs. There were Zionist organizations, United Jewish Appeal, Jewish Shelter Home, Jewish Old People's Home, Jewish Service Association, Jewish Relief Society, and more loan and benevolent societies. In 1920, most of the benevolent societies combined to form the Federated Jewish Societies. [Lowenstein, p. 146-7]

                      Today, Federated Jewish Societies is called the Jewish

                        Federation of Greater Portland. Its
                      mission:  The Jewish
                            Federation of Greater Portland is the
                            support system for your Jewish journey.
                            Since 1920, the Jewish Federation has helped
                            nourish your Jewish life, enrich our
                            community, and keep Jewish culture strong in
                            Portland and around the world. We are your
                            direct route to tried and true services that make the
                            most effective and meaningful impact. Explore the
                            ways we can make a difference - together. https://www.jewishportland.org/

In 1900, there were four B'nai B'rith lodges:  two formed in the 1850s and two formed in the 1890s.

1914 a B'nai B'rith Building was completed on 13th, between Mill and Market. It was funded largely by one of the lodges and Congregation Ahavai Sholom. It was fancier than the Neighborhood House.

In 1919, when the various organizations were consolidating into the Federated Jewish Societies, the four B'nai B'rith lodges united into a single lodge, number 65, in honor of the founding lodge in Oregon. Seven hundred members were recruited; Joseph Shemanski was the president. The lodge grew to be the largest B'nai B'rith lodge on the West Coast. The women formed the Daughters of the Covenant. The Ramblers social club was started at the building in 1921. ["Ramblers" stood for Right, Ambition, Merit, Benevolence, Love, Energy, Religion and Service.] Ramblers held dances, organized its own orchestra, had basketball and swimming teams, and held banquets.

In 1923, the B'nai B'rith Building was renamed the B'nai B'rith Center, and in the 1940s, it expanded and became the Jewish Community Center.

B'nai B'rith began summer camp for boys and girls in 1921. In 1928, it was permanently located at Devil's Lake at Neotsu, near Lincoln City, Oregon, on land donated by Julius Meier. July was for boys, and August was for girls. Recently, the camp added events for all ages. [Lowenstein, p. 161] The camp's website:  https://bbcamp.org/summer-camp/

The Jewish Community Center moved to the Hillsdale neighborhood in 1971. The new center was dedicated in 1976 as the Mittleman Jewish Community Center, named for Helen Mittleman, wife of Harry Mittleman, who made a large donation to retire the Center's mortgage. [Lowenstein, p. 156-61] Mittleman Jewish Community Center is located at 6651 SW Capitol Highway, Portland. Its website is https://www.oregonjcc.org/. Its email is mjcc@oregonjcc.org

*Translations of Hebrew names of synagogues were provided by Natan Meir, Professor of Judaic Studies and Academic Director of the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies, Portland State University, www.natanmeir.com.
Lowenstein, Steven, The Jews of Oregon 1850-1950; Portland, Oregon, Jewish Historical Society of Oregon, 1987; with permission from the Oregon Jewish Museum [formerly the Jewish Historical    Society of Oregon]
Google searches
Synagogue and cemetery websites

Linda Kelley
September 2020

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