PHOTO: Owen Broder, 32, and Shelly Zeiser, 29, plan to host many events for young adults in their Pearl District apartment (see upcoming events below). The couple are flanked by heirlooms from their grandmothers. The apple ice bucket belonged to Owen’s grandmother. The Shabbat candlesticks came from Russia through Ellis Island with Shelly’s great-grandmother, and Shelly remembers lighting them with her grandmother.
BY DEBORAH MOON
Young adults now have the opportunity to find Jewish connections and community on Portland’s west side thanks to the efforts of a dynamic young couple and the Moishe House Pod concept.
Portland newcomers Shelly Zeiser and her partner Owen Broder launch Moishe Pod-WestPDX in April. The couple will host three events each month, generally one outdoors and two in their apartment or at nearby venues in the Pearl District. Portland has had a Moishe House, now located in Southeast Portland, since 2008.
Moishe House introduced Moishe Pods – a two-person Moishe House – in 2019. There are more than 100 Moishe House and Moishe Pod communities in more than 25 countries. Houses and Pods are designed to help young, innovative Jews create their vision of an ideal Jewish communal space. Residents plan and host events for other young adults to build a grassroots community to connect people with Jewish experiences, friends and even partners.
“The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland is proud to provide seed funding for this new Moishe Pod initiative,” says JFGP President and CEO Marc N. Blattner. “We have seen the incredible impact Moishe House has had on young adults in our community, and we expect similar results with the Pod.”
Shelly and Owen met during high school at a small boarding school focused on the arts at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and have been friends ever since. Shelly has lived in many places since then including a year in Netanya, Israel, where she taught American Jewish culture as part of a JAFI Partnership program. After finishing a master’s program in Iowa, Shelly moved to Portland last August to become an assistant professor of music therapy at Pacific University. Owen, a saxophonist and music educator, joined her in September, moving from New York City.
Owen had never heard of Moishe House before Shelley suggested they apply to lead a Moishe Pod. But Shelly had attended Moishe House events when she lived in Cincinnati and thought it would be a great opportunity for themselves and other young adults.
“This is a fast way to get to know people, and we love hosting,” says Shelly. “We thought we might as well put intentionality behind it and do this (Moishe Pod). … This is a way to connect and feel like a community.”
Owen designed an informative, easy to use website, moishepodwestpdx.com, for the new pod. You can find their upcoming events there (see below).
Owen performs and records with his own ensembles and as a member of others, including the Grammy-nominated Israeli clarinetist Anat Cohen and her “tentet.” In Portland, Owen teaches jazz-related courses at Portland State University and saxophone at Pacific University. A multi-talented “artpreneur,” Owen also founded a nonprofit to offer virtual concerts and music education programs in response to the pandemic. “Live From Our Living Rooms” has raised nearly $140,000 in support of musicians whose performance careers have been impacted by Covid. He recently received a UNCSA artpreneur award that recognizes distinguished alumni for creativity and entrepreneurship.
Owen’s parents are an intermarried couple, and he grew up celebrating Jewish and Christian holidays.
“In high school, I started to explore my Jewish identity,” he says. “A lot of the musicians at UNCSA were Jewish. In college there were almost no Jews at my school, so that faded for a while. Then I went on Birthright – Shelly and others told me to go. That introduced me to the idea you can identify as Jewish without being particularly religious. That sat well with me.”
At Moishe Pod events, the two want to welcome young adults however they connect with their Judaism.
“The fact we are new to Portland is a strength of ours,” says Shelly. “We can connect with others who have not been involved. It is important to me to be connected with a Jewish community.”
Moishe Pod-West Portland Events
April 14, 7 pm: Launch Party & Pre-Passover Carbo Load. Connect with other young adults and enjoy pizza, chocolate cake and Leikam Brewing Kosher beer.
April 16, 1: 30 pm: Tikkun Olam Hike and Clean-Up. Enjoy Portland’s natural beauty and help make it more beautiful by cleaning up during a low-key Shabbat hike through Forest Park.
April 24, 11 am-2 pm: Boker Tov Brunch. Come say “Boker Tov” (good morning) and eat brunch (featuring Shelly’s shakshuka) while we learn a little Hebrew and play games.
May 1, 7:30 pm: Cowboys & Frenchmen(sches). Live concert (featuring Owen’s jazz quintet) at The 1905.
Other May/June events: Shabbat potluck, Lag b’Omer bonfire, Shavuot Cheesecake competition, “Jewtopia” movie screening and Timbers game with Jewmaican pirate trivia.
Covid Policy: Proof of vaccination required for in-person indoor events; virtual options available for unvaccinated.
For event registration or more information: Visit moishepodwestpdx.com or email