PHOTO: Mathias Anderson and his dog, Akela, sit with Rabbi Chayim and Simi Mishulovin in the living room of the Jewish Oasis. Sofas, chairs, tables, books and artwork give the space the feel of a Jewish home.
BY DEBORAH MOON
The Jewish Oasis has opened in Portland’s Pearl District to share the resources (both material and informational) to help people experience and create a Jewish home.
Following the August 2020 fire that destroyed the Chabad House and Everything Jewish store near Hillsdale, Chabad purchased a 2,500-square-foot building in Portland’s Pearl District. Rabbi Chayim and Simi Mishulovin have used part of the space to reboot the Everything Jewish store and to create a Jewish space that feels like a Jewish home. The remaining space (formerly Byways Café) will become the home’s Jewish kitchen once the right restaurateur is found to operate it.
“This is a place to feel the soul and act on it,” says Simi, adding they deliberately created the sense of a Jewish home in the space. “When we act, we make a difference.”
The accessibility and visibility of the new urban space has helped the couple connect with all kinds of people.
“Our target audience is Jewish,” says Rabbi Chayim. He adds that “I’ve found a whole different world of non-Jews coming here … asking me to teach them something. People are looking to Torah, to God’s words, for inspiration.”
Some also come to purchase the challah that arrives hot at the Oasis every Friday. Each loaf is $8 and can be picked up between noon and 1 pm on Fridays. Stop by or text 503-246-5437 to reserve a loaf.
The Oasis opened Thanksgiving weekend, and in the first month more than 200 people stopped in to buy Judaica, to find answers or to experience a Jewish connection.
Mathias Anderson found all three when he walked in to buy a menorah for Chanukah. Mathias’ grandmother grew up in a Jewish home in Chicago; when she married a black man and was rejected by her family, the couple moved to California. Mathias’s mother was just a teenager when her mother died. Neither Mathias nor his mother ever connected with their Jewish family.
“Till now, I haven’t been courageous enough to explore,” says Mathias, who lives three blocks from the Oasis. “Last year, I came in and told Rabbi Chayim now is the time to come back. … I was looking to purchase a menorah and invited myself into the traditions of Chanukah. Rabbi Chayim graciously educated me.”
Since that initial visit, Mathias has returned to buy a mezuzah and tzedakah box, to lay tefillin and to learn more about his Jewish birthright.
“You must have heard your soul,” says Simi.
Rabbi Chayim adds, “This is why we are here. … We focus on the spark. People are searching all at their own level.”
For Mathias and many other visitors, the place has met that purpose.
“The way you are presenting Judaism is much more inviting,” says Mathias.
JEWISH OASIS: A Portland Chabad House in the Pearl
EVERYTHING JEWISH: Retail store and resource center