Synagogues, Kollel share space while Maayan repairs damage

PHOTO: A Maayan Torah Day School class holds a discussion session in the hallway outside the main sanctuary at Congregation Kesser Israel Friday, Feb. 2. The school has relocated classes to Kesser Israel, Congregation Ahavath Achim and The Portland Kollel while damage from a burst pipe at the school's Lake Oswego campus is repaired. (Courtesy Maayan Torah Day School) 

The Jewish Review
Through the recent ice storm, there were numerous stories of members of Portland’s Jewish community supporting one another. Many of these were on an individual level – friends and family staying over to cope with a loss of power or a damaged home. But few were as big an effort as hosting an entire school for weeks.
Following a pair of burst pipes flooding parts of the school’s Lake Oswego campus., Maayan Torah Day School has been, to put it glibly, staying over at friends’ houses as the Portland Kollel and Congregations Ahavath Achim and Kesser Israel have hosted classes for the school’s students while repairs are undertaken. 
It all started with icicles – where they shouldn’t have been. Rabbi Daniel Borsuk, Maayan Torah’s development director, said a parent driving by the campus on the Monday of the ice storm saw icicles on the front of the building that led back to the discovery of a burst pipe in the staff kitchen. That was repaired by Wednesday; by then, though, another section of plumbing has ruptured in a restroom, soaking the floors and lower walls in three classrooms. 
“When we hit the second leak on Wednesday, we realized that this was going to take not just a day or two, but a week or two,” Rabbi Borsuk said. “That’s when we started discussing if we had a serious alternative.”
The Portland Kollel was a natural choice – set up for adult education with numerous rooms, tables, and chairs, the Kollel easily converted to serve younger learners. It’s also within easy walking distance for many of Maayan’s families – including Rabbi Chanan Spivak, the Rosh Kollel, and Meira Spivak, who manages NCSY’s programs from an office at the Kollel. 
Another natural location was Congregation Kesser Israel. Rabbi Sholom Skolnik serves as Rabbinical Dean of the school.
“We have a packed house,” he said. “Every nook and cranny is being used.”
A classroom is set up in the main sanctuary, another in the hallway, with kindergarten operating out of the congregation’s modular building and their large tent functioning as a lunchroom. Of course, the playground is seeing a significant uptick in usage. Even Rabbi Skolnik’s office is taking on extra duties, hosting counseling sessions.
Rabbi Skolnik doesn’t mind sharing; he explained that sharing space with Maayan has brought a lively energy to the shul.
“It’s so nice to just have the kids running around and playing,” he said. “It’s great.”
The last piece of the puzzle turned out to be right next door to the first. The building that houses the Kollel also hosts Congregation Ahavath Achim, and the building’s owner, Richard Matza, is an active member of the Sephardic synagogue. 
“One of the tenants of Sephardic Judaism is that we have a big tent. We welcome everyone,” Matza explained. “So whenever there’s an opportunity to help the community, we do so without question.”
Matza made the connection with Mark Berkovich, the congregation’s president, and Ahavath Achim’s social hall was added to the list of temporary classrooms. 
“Between those three campuses, we have enough space to have classes for each of our groups,” Rabbi Borsuk said.
To complete the puzzle, the ’bubble’ field across the street at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center is serving as a physical education space twice a week.  
Maayan Torah’s early childhood programs are still working out of the Lake Oswego campus, as their space was not impacted by the leaks. But Rabbi Borsuk knew that if part of the day school program was going to need to move, the whole show would need to relocate.
“It gets very difficult,” he said of the hypothetical split campus for the day school. “We’d have parents doing a variety of drop offs, we’d have teachers and staff back and forth and where would the principals go?”
And while the adaptation is a challenge, students and staff alike are taking it in stride. 
“The students are like, ‘Okay. It’s kind of fun being able to walk to school,’” Rabbi Borsuk said.
Meanwhile, repairs to the Lake Oswego campus are making good progress. Rabbi Borsuk is optimistic that Maayan Torah will be able to return home in a couple of weeks. 
Until then, the adventure of a temporary campus continues.
“We’ve been very impressed with the way our staff has rolled with the punches and adapted this situation,” Rabbi Borsuk said.


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