Eugene Scene: New leaders arrive at Ahavas Torah

You could say that Jewish Eugene’s newest spiritual leaders, Rabbi Ozer Moszkowski and Rebbitzen Leah, were fated to come to Oregon together.

As infants in South Africa, their mothers were close friends living one apartment building apart. When Ozer was just 3, his family announced they were moving to England, causing a tearful goodbye between the moms, who thought they’d never meet again. Hashem, however, had other plans.

Three years later (when Leah was 3), her family moved to England as well, and they all ended up in close-proximity neighborhoods in Manchester. The Jewish enclaves of Broughton Park and Prestwich were just 15 minutes apart by walking. The parents reunited with great delight, and although Ozer and Leah were not close play friends as children (a three-year age difference is a wide gap in our early years), both grew up in this welcoming British environment.

Ozer left home in 2010 studying in top rabbinic training academies in Israel. During that time, Leah went on vacation to Israel, and as a matter of course contacted Ozer. Now young adults, this contact led to their first dates. Eventually, when Ozer returned to the UK during a break in his studies, the couple got engaged and with their parents’ blessings were married four months later.

Back again in Israel, Ozer completed his studies and received his smicha (rabbinical ordination) from Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits at The Jerusalem Kollel. Although only men are ordained there, Rabbi Berkovits believes that rabbinical couples are a solid team unit, and so he gives the same lessons to women as he does to men.

Ozer and Leah have a daughter, Tehillah. This charming girl is 4 years old and attends the Montessori school. They came to Oregon when the position of spiritual leader at Ahavas Torah became vacant.

Like others before him, Rabbi Ozer’s principal job is to work with University of Oregon students at Akiva on Campus, similar to Hillel House and Chabad in Eugene. All three Jewish entities offer students Shabbat prayers and four-course dinners every Friday night, and they sometimes coordinate major events together, such as the Purim celebration. There’s a plan afoot to jointly hold community campus Kiddush evenings once each month, with prayer, wine and challah baked by the rebbitzen. The first such meeting took place in January.

I asked Rabbi Ozer if this atmosphere fosters a sense of friendly competition, and he replied, “Trust me, there’s enough Jewish students at UO to go around! There are over 30 religious organizations on campus, and the three Jewish ones each attract a different type of core group. You could say we each present a slightly differently flavored atmosphere. Leah and I see our part as being less of an organization, and more like an extended family, with very personalized, individual attention given to each student.”

That said, many of the students take turns showing up at each off-campus “home,” varying their rounds of all three Jewish groups.

Rabbi Ozer divides his time as well. In addition to UO outreach with Akiva, he serves as rabbi of Congregation Ahavas Torah, where he leads Shabbat services and delivers a d’var torah Saturday mornings. It’s a whirlwind of interdependent activities that are sure to have a lasting and positive effect on the ever-growing Jewish community of Eugene.

 503-261-3850 | ozer@akivaoncampus.com

 

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Eugene resident Joseph Lieberman was raised in a kosher home in Boston, Mass. He's visited 55 countries on 6 continents, written 8 books, and published over 700 articles. Contact: gone2oregon@yahoo.com


'Eugene Scene: New leaders arrive at Ahavas Torah' have 2 comments

  1. June 6, 2020 @ 10:17 am Paul C Meeker

    Hello!

    My father lived in Eugene as a youngster from 1938-1941. He lived off of Willamette, close to Blanton Rd & Watkins St. Their rented acre or so bordered the Rest Haven Cemetery.

    Anyhow, his family had little money and an infant, so a neighbor family – the Rose family, Jewish as he remembers them – had a cow which they lent to my dad’s family for the three years they lived there.

    My dad is 87 now and would like to thank a descendent of that Rose family for keeping his family alive and healthy.

    Please help … thanks!

    V/R

    Paul Meeker

    985-630-8920

    pmeeker77@gmail.com

    Reply

  2. June 21, 2020 @ 3:04 pm Gershon Pressman

    I was born and raised in the River Road neighborhood of Eugene during the 1950s to late 1960s. I lived an assimilated lifestyle practicing Jewishness on rare Shabbasom.
    Enjoyed Pesach and Chanukah as well. I felt isolated and abused by the naive gentile population. My family reached out to what is said to be the primary heart of Jewish Eugene of those days through Temple Beth Israel. Studied and received my Bar Mitzvah through Rabbi Neimand. Enjoyed the few Jewish students at the University of Oregon. Moved away to the larger Jewish communites of Seattle, San Francisco and Brooklyn where I blossomed in Yiddishkeit. Now living in Portland enjoying watching each community grow. Especially Eugene.

    Reply


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