Kollel grows space, programs, staff

PHOTO: Portland Kollel's Beit Knesset has expanded space for the library, which Rabbi Akiva O’Connor has been working to organize. “A major goal of the Kollel is to be welcoming,” says Rabbi O’Connor. So he has arranged books so people can come in and study on their own. “They can pull a book off the shelf, study a little Torah and get on with their day.”

Portland Kollel 2.0 is poised to launch more programs and resources for the community as soon as the world reopens.
Last year, Portland Kollel added staff (see page 8 in the Oct. 27, 2021 Jewish Review). Now the outreach and education nonprofit has added space – from 1,400 square feet to nearly 5,000, including about 2,000 square feet of common area it plans to offer at an affordable price for small events, pop-up businesses, and study and work rooms. The common area also includes a barista-style kitchenette and a media room to create podcasts, etc. The common area will be overseen by the Kollel.
Portland Kollel is in the same building on Capitol Highway between Hillsdale and Multnomah Village, but has moved into most of the space formerly occupied by the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. With the help of contractor and developer Jeffrey Weitz, the Kollel is creating a space where people can find meaningful connections to Judaism. 
“Jeff and I are dreaming,” says Kollel CEO Rabbi Chanan Spivak, noting plans for the common areas are still in flux, though the media room is already fully equipped and in use. He hopes the common space also will be used for young adult meeting space.
 “We have a lot of concepts, but noting is solidified,” says Weitz, who has been involved with Kollel since its founding 16 years ago. “We are trying to expand common space (available in the community).”
Weitz is the contractor for the project and is coordinating the design work. He also worked on the Eastside Jewish Commons and Rachel’s Well Community Mikvah with Federation.
He calls the coming year “a new era for the Kollel.”
The Kollel is already using about 2,300 square feet of the new space for Kollel and NCSY offices and classrooms. The books for the Beit Knesset (house of study) are still mainly in boxes. Restrooms and a small lunch area take up another 480 square feet of space that will also be open to the common area.
Director of Communications Rabbi Akiva O’Connor says he became the de facto librarian because he had a vision for how the books should be displayed. 
“Covid has hampered in-person events, but the Kollel is rebooting as Kollel 2.0, so when the world opens up, we will have new offices, classrooms and meeting space ready for enhanced programming for the community,” says Rabbi Spivak. “The point is to be full force as an event space as soon as the world opens up.”
Kollel Director of Administration and Programming Rabbi Boruch Dov Diskind says the Kollel has used Zoom, one-on-one study and small group classes to serve the community during the pandemic. He compares participation in the year before Covid began to the past two years. In 2019 until pandemic closures began in March 2020, the Kollel had 27 adult events with 1,470 participants, nine children’s events with 481 children, 372 classes and 329 private sessions. During Covid, they have had few in-person events, but a lot more one-on-one and Zoom events – they offered 54,353 minutes of programming on Zoom from March 2020 through February 2021.
“People ask for Zoom,” says Rabbi Diskind. “We will offer hybrid programs for the foreseeable future.”
But Rabbi Spivak says the Zoom experience is qualitatively different than in-person interaction on the impact it has, and he hopes to “push Zoom out once everything is open.” 
A grand opening is being planned May 19, including a Lag B’Omer celebration.
For more information, visit portlandkollel.org or call 503-245-5420. 



Add Comment