- To maintain our Synagogue for the purpose of worship in accordance with the best patterns of both traditional and contemporary Judaism.
- To celebrate as a community Jewish holidays and Life cycle events by encouraging congregational participation.
- To impart to our children and adults, a thorough knowledge of both history and contemporary Jewish life through education and Torah study.
- To look upon and treat the Synagogue as the primary repository of Jewish values and as the basic institution for the enrichment and the enhancement of spiritual and social Jewish values.
- To make effectual in our daily lives, by precept and by example, those principles and aspirations which constitute the substance of our Jewish heritage.
- To apply the social values of the Jewish ethic to the larger areas of communal and national affairs, both here in the United States and the State of Israel.
In early 1905, a small group of Jewish men began meeting in Portland stores and homes to hold minyanim. Eventually, the topic of organizing a synagogue came up. After months of organizing and fundraising, this group founded Shaarie Torah. Under the able leadership of Joseph Nudelman, of blessed memory, the group purchased a Presbyterian Church on SW Third Avenue and moved it to First Avenue, south of Hall Street. The building was refurbished and became the first official home for our congregation.
Shaarie Torah was the first Orthodox synagogue to be established in the Pacific Northwest, predating any such synagogues in Seattle, Vancouver – even San Francisco. The congregation grew in size and activity. Its services were well attended and its members were leaders in the Portland community, scholars from European Yeshivos, and congregants who taught classes in Talmud and Mishnayoth. In the early nineteen thirties, Rabbi Joseph B. Fain, a renowned Lithuanian scholar, was called to the pulpit and served Shaarie Torah as rabbi until his retirement, in 1949. Also in the early thirties, Cantor Yonia Glantz was brought to Portland. A young man, he married and reared a family here, serving the congregation with distinction until his untimely death, in 1962.
Before World War II, the congregation’s desire for a new home was discussed, but the war intervened. Planning and construction for the new building was postponed. But, in 1952, the City of Portland designated our synagogue’s First Avenue location an urban renewal area. Our synagogue was to be razed to the ground. Subsequently, synagogue leadership established a building fund campaign to purchase land and construct a new facility.
It was a glorious day for Shaarie Torah when, on May 15, 1960, our new, modern and beautiful structure on Park Avenue was dedicated. Our Torahs were brought into the new sanctuary with pride and happiness. At the dedication service on Park Avenue, it was announced that Rabbi Yonah H. Geller had been elected as the new spiritual leader for the congregation and would soon move to Portland. Our synagogue thrived.
But, within six months of Rabbi Geller’s arrival, our congregation was faced with a new crisis. Our synagogue was in the path of a planned freeway!
After many meetings with the state highway commission, an agreement for compensation was reached. Land was then purchased, an architect engaged, and plans drawn for a new synagogue. Groundbreaking for our current building took place during the week of the High Holy Days in September, 1963.
On October 1, 1964, we vacated Park Avenue and moved into our new location – our current home on NW 25th and Lovejoy. Dedication of the synagogue (June 13, 1965) represented the labors and love of countless men and women serving with dedication and devotion… characteristics attributed to Shaarie Torah’s membership to this day.
We are proud of our facilities. It continues to serve us well after some renovation (November, 2001 – May, 2002.)
Congregation Shaarie Torah has had only eight Rabbis in the last 102 years. Beloved Rabbi Yonah Geller led our congregation from 1960 until his retirement in July of 2000. Rabbi David Rosenberg served as Rabbi from 2000 until 2006. Rabbi Arthur Zuckerman has been leading the Congregation since 2007, during which time the synagogue has benefitted from several significant changes, including women’s participation in Torah reading and, as of 2011, the counting of women for a minyan.