Thursday, June 1, 2023

Bringing Home The Torah

 The events of the last couple of days have shaken my lack of faith 😀😀😀 and I want to share the story of how Shalom Cascadia hopes to bring an ancient scroll back to our urban kibbutz in Portland, Oregon. We have an opening for a residential fellow and one of my jobs as the house imma is to find the right folks to live with us. We have a great crew at present with three Hebrew learners but no fluent Hebrew speakers. Housing demand is high, maybe someone wants to lead our conversation cafes as part of their contribution to our collective. 

To Craigslist I went. My search turned up, shockingly, not a person but a safer Magillah Esther. Listed at MALL 205! This, I thought, had to be a scam or a serial poster pretending to be a dozen different cities or maybe a forlorn antiquities dealer. Somewhere in the back of my brain, I remembered a tradition of giving a scroll of Esther as a wedding present and I never fail to take an opportunity to remind my boyfriend that they haven't proposed yet so I asked them if they wanted to go take a look with me. 

"Of course! Adventure!" Still thinking that there was no way the Magillah was in our neighborhood I messaged the seller and asked if we could come over 'right now' and look at it. The immediacy was weed out the scammers and serial posters I figured. The seller wrote back right away and said he was at the beach but we could stop by tomorrow. Amazing. 

Three of us went from the kibbutz. My best friend who is OTD (shout out to Israeli frumkeit) can be counted on for these sorts of adventures and my religion major boyfriend and me, the most meshuaga mom you'll ever meet. 

At a small house on the shoulder of Mount Tabor we met a retired pastor who rather sheepishly explained that he would try to be respectful but was bound to say the wrong thing and assured us that he had Jewish friends and had studied Hebrew in seminary. He showed us the scroll of Esther which was real and unremarkable. American. Steady pen work. In good shape. 

"Do you want to see the Torah?" he asked. We did. Oh. We did. 

He brought it out apologetically. It was in the box from Israel. Covered with customs declarations and inspection stickers. Wrapped in . . . black plastic bags. We gingerly pulled it from the packaging and unrolled the ancient pages. 


That feeling. That feeling of forever. The feeling of standing at the Kotel. The feeling of making kiddush. The feeling of connecting with ancestors going back as far as time. That feeling. 

The Torah is from Morocco. It dates to 900 CE. It is written on deerskin. It has been inspected by Israeli authorities and determined to be in too good a shape for burial and too worn to be certified kosher. It is beautiful. One aitz chayim has been replaced. The other is . . . shockingly. Original. You can feel the ornamentation. 

We raised almost enough money in 24 hours to buy it. I am confident enough that today I'm going to go make a down payment on behalf of Shalom Cascadia and sign a bill of sale. If most of the pledges come through we will be able to walk the Torah to the Kibbutz library next week. 

The library. That's right. Our library. The Torah is holy and this Torah will be accessible. One hundred years ago, American Jews were bringing out the Torah on Friday night (shocking!!) we'll do things like that. Accessible. Transgressive. This is a queer Torah. This is a Cascadian Torah scribed by someone who never imagined our shores. This will be your Torah. Please help make it our Torah.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Urban Kibbutz Residential Fellow | Community Engager Opening--Spring 2023--Green Room


Urban Kibbutz Community Engagement Fellowship

Yearlong Residential Immersion in Jewish Community Life

Spring Opening: A Sweet Spot for A Special Person | Yearlong Program | Housing Support

Come live, work, make joyful community, and share in Jewish life at an urban kibbutz in southeast Portland, Oregon.

Shalom Cascadia offers community-based programming from our large arts-and-crafts victorian home in southeast Portland, our farm in unincorporated Multnomah County west of the city, and our property with lake and Salish Sea access on an island south of Seattle.

Kibbutz Fellows will be part of an established, thriving family-feeling, cohort of caring communitarians living on-site in southeast Portland. Immersed in the daily, weekly, and seasonal rhythms of Jewish community life, each fellow will commit to ten hours of community participation per month, facilitating two events, with the opportunity to participate in all community events (about ten per month). The Green Room is our most popular room and has a private work area, fridge, storage, bedroom and access to hot tub, sauna, library, reading room etc.

As a Kibbutz Fellow, you will help plan and promote events, lead or co-lead the gatherings, coordinate and execute the physical aspects of making the moments happen from set up to clean up. Examples include Shabbat dinners, Jewish holiday observances such as Pesach, Sukkot, and Hanukkah, Torah study, pride celebrations, concerts, and more. You will have the opportunity to join and support other gatherings. 

Contact us today for this opening. Spring Move in--Flexible. 

Compensation for this community support work is $25 per hour, remitted as a reduction in housing fee each month of $200

For 2023-2024 (5783-5784) each Kibbutz Fellow will pay $850 per month for their furnished room, which includes all utilities, basics like toilet paper, garbage bags, and paper towels, and weekly cleaning of the bathroom and kitchen. Kitchen is fully stocked but fellows much do their own dishes!

Contact us for more information or to request an application.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Announcing Our Kibbutz Residential Fellowship!

Shalom Cascadia, in conjunction with Hakhel, a Jewish communities incubator, is pleased to announce that we are accepting applications for our new community engagement fellowship.  Come live, work, and celebrate community with us in southeast Portland, Oregon! Click here for more information, or contact us for more information or for an application.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Jewish Tarot Readings

We're very proud to again offer a Torah/Tarot connection. Our Community Coordinator has been on a creative streak during the pandemic, and has created a new tarot deck for Jewish readings, among other fantastic endeavors. She is now offering guidance in Portland or on Zoom! Contact her through our facebook page. Many years ago we were introduced to kabbalistic tarot through community member Dovid Krafchow, who gave wonderful readings during his time living at our kibbutz (buy his book on the topic here), and we have been inspired to explore this connection ever since. 

If you're familiar with the classic Rider-Waite-Smith deck, you've noticed Hebrew letters on the cards. This article from Hey Alma lays out some history and context for the Torah/Tarot connection.

Wheel of Fortune is all about the limit of our free will. It’s about riding the waves of life when you have no idea what is to come. Not knowing the future means the possibilities — of greatness or of sorrow — are endless. There’s no way of knowing what is to come, so we just have to hang tight. It’s about how the only thing we can control is ourselves and how we respond to a situation. Around the wheel on the card we can see the word ‘TORA” as well as “יהוה” — the unspoken Hebrew word for God. - Caro Sarkozi for Hey Alma