Ahavath Achim, Cedar Sinai Park host Sephardic exhibit Jan. 25
By Deborah Moon Seldner
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Portlanders can explore the past and future of Sephardic Jewry from 2 to 5 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 25, thanks to a collaboration of Congregation Ahavath Achim and Cedar Sinai Park.
A world-class Rhodes exhibit featuring an 800-year-old Torah will offer a link to the past of many of Portland's Sephardic families who trace their roots to the Greek island of Rhodes. During the exhibit, a reception welcoming Rabbi Shlomo Truzman and his family to Ahavath Achim will provide a preview of the local Sephardic synagogue's future.
"We'll be showing a Sephardic Rhodes Torah and introducing the new Sephardic rabbi to the community," said event chair Ronnie Malka. "I think this is an interesting exhibit for all ages to see a piece of Sephardic culture, a nice opportunity for people to see Ahavath Achim—which many people just know as 'the beehive' (a reference to the synagogue's shape)—and a nice way to introduce Rabbi Truzman to the community."
The Rhodes exhibit will be at Ahavath Achim, 3225 S.W. Barbur Blvd., for three days. On Saturday evening, CSP will host a thank-you dinner for those who have donated $1,000 to Robison Jewish Health Center or who have named RJHC or CSP in their estate planning.
On Sunday, in addition to the public reception from 2-5 p.m., several Sunday schools will bring students to see the exhibit. On Monday, Portland Jewish Academy and Maimonides Jewish Day School will visit.
The public reception on Sunday afternoon will feature tours of the exhibit and a chance to talk to the founder of the Rhodes Jewish Historical Foundation, Aron Hasson, who arranged for the Torah's U.S. tour.
At 3:30 representatives from the Oregon Board of Rabbis will welcome Truzman to the community.
Following formal remarks, a reception will feature Sephardic desserts and coffee, as well as an opportunity to meet the rabbi, his wife Dorit and teenage daughter Simi. Bernice Menashe is organizing a group of the Ahavath Achim women to bake traditional Sephardic desserts for the reception.
The Rhodes Torah, which is owned by Chalom synagogue in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is on loan to the Rhodes Jewish Historical Foundation for one year. When the German military took control of Rhodes in 1943, Jewish community leaders gave their Torahs to the Turkish Muslim community for safekeeping. Most of the Jews of Rhodes were deported to Auschwitz in July 1944.
After the war, the Torahs were returned to the few Rhodes Jews who survived. In 1984 the 800-year-old Torah was given to the Chalom synagogue in Buenos Aires, which consists of many Jews from Rhodes. During a 2002 trip to Argentina, Hasson arranged for the U.S. exhibition.
In addition to the ancient Sefer Torah, the Rhodes exhibit includes 20 panels of photographs and documents, as well as other artifacts from the Jewish community of Rhodes.
"This exhibit is important for the Portland Jewish community because there are many families here who are descendants of the Rhodes Jewish community," said Richard Matza, president of Ahavath Achim. "Our ancestors prayed with this Torah, so it's a real direct connection. It's a direct tie to our roots, our heritage."
The exhibit is coming to Portland through the collaborative efforts of Ahavath Achim and Cedar Sinai Park.
The idea of bringing the exhibit to Portland arose when CSP Development Director Debbi Bodie told Matza, who co-chairs CSP's Special Membership Committee with her, that the committee plans a special event each year to thank donors who contribute $1,000 or more to Robison Jewish Health Center. Matza had recently heard of the success of the Rhodes exhibit in Los Angeles and suggested the exhibit could provide an interesting centerpiece for such an event.
The two groups decided to expand the educational opportunities of the exhibit with the reception and opportunities for day school and Sunday school children to visit.
Funding to bring the exhibit to Portland was provided by a generous grant from the Holzman Foundation, combined with matching funds from Ruben J. and Elizabeth Menashe, Barry and Susan Menashe, Aspen Mitzvah Foundation and Mevko Properties.
For more information about the Jan. 25 reception, call Malka at 503-892-5182. For information about qualifying for the Robison thank-you event through making a $1,000 gift or bequest, call Bodie at 503-535-4303.