It looks like any other business park. Then you turn a corner and come upon a different world. The Chabad Jewish Center of Clark County’s new home radiates warmth and light with elegant Northwest materials and architecture. Stop by for a cup of tea in the living room, grab a book from the library or tour the sanctuary, preschool and children’s playground. Everyone is always welcome – from tot to teen, adult to senior.
“We’re celebrating 10 years of Chabad in Clark County,” says Rabbi Shmulik Greenberg. He and his wife, Tzivie, made a splash at their first event, Rosh Hashanah in the Park. They met philanthropists Marty and Kate Rifkin, who were delighted to connect with a local Jewish community. When the group outgrew the Greenberg’s Hazel Dell living room, the Rifkins donated office space. As Chabad’s popularity and added programming brought further space constraints, the Rifkins again stepped forward, this time with 9,000 square feet including a professional kitchen. Many others in the community generously contributed to the new center.
“We worked with a great Portland designer, Webster Wilson (websterwilson.com),” Tzivie says. “I saw his house in Sunset magazine.” Combining tradition with modern architecture, the high-ceilinged warehouse retains a Pearl District feel with exposed pipes, warm-hued wood paneling and thoughtful, fun features like the giant sandbox, wall-to-wall blackboard and life-size wood-carved trains in the children’s play area. The preschool follows the Reggio Emilia Approach with muted colors and walls filled with the children’s own artwork. “We have a top-notch preschool,” Tzivie says. “The way Judaism sees children frames the way we interact with them. In most education systems you hear ‘the future leaders’ and ‘they will grow to be.’
Judaism sees kids right here and now as important. Their actions matter and what they give to society matters.” Rabbi Greenberg agrees: “We are here so that anyone can experience Judaism spiritually, culturally or intellectually,” he says. “Chabad is not membership based. People can belong to a synagogue and come here, too. Some women want a group to cook Jewish food. We do that. If a group wanted to learn Yiddish, I would teach. Chabad provides a Jewish living room and encourages anything that brings Jews together.” As with Chabad centers around the world, the Greenbergs encourage participation from Jews of all stripes. “Our family is observant but nobody in our community is,” Tzivie says. “Our goal is one mitzvah at a time. If people come for Shabbat then that’s our goal. They experience Shabbat with community and give their kids that experience.”
Meanwhile, the Rifkins are delighted with the beautiful building expansion their contribution has enabled. “The warmth and friendship of the rabbi and Tzivie is the reason why the Chabad Jewish Center has grown,” Kate Rifkin says. “They are so inclusive. No matter what your level, they are always open and nonjudgmental. Their acceptance and interest in people is why my husband and I support the center. They do wonderful work here.” The weekly sermon, which includes “A Beginner’s Guide of why we do the things we do inside a synagogue,” begins at 10 am every Saturday. Children’s services begin at 11 am. All are welcome.
Polina Olsen is a freelance writer and author living in Portland.
CHABAD JEWISH CENTER OF CLARK COUNTY 9604 NE 126th Ave., Ste. 2320, Vancouver, WA 98682 | chabadclarkcounty.com | email@example.com | 360-993-5222