Identity, Justice, Mishegas, Religion

Woodburn Jewish Commune

This is a guest post by Jacob Rosenblum.
Hey all you yids and ivrim, over the next several months, I will be starting a Jewish Commune (aka kibbutz) around Woodburn, Oregon, just 30 minutes from your mama’s house in Portland (okay, it’s 30 minutes from my mama’s house).
If you’re lookin’ to set up shop in the Pacific Northwest, and want to live in a community that taxes its members heavily in order to provide for common well-being, we might be just the place you’re looking for. We need a few good Jews to join on to the start-up phase. Drop by, and sign up to receive updates on the project, or apply to join.
Myself and David Zenaty, two twenty-something yids of Olympia, Washington State, have decided to throw in together and start a Jewish Commune, using the following “communal mitzvot” as foundational pillars:

  • Supporting Communities Targeted by Racism
  • Discovering Our Connection to Jewishness
  • Connecting to the Land
  • Fostering Economic Interdependence
  • Creating Inter-Generational Community

If you’ve been in a group of young intrepid souls of late, you know of the murmur in the air. Community is the worthwhile thing, the spark of holiness that infuses everyday questioning and mediates every conversation. We’ve simply pulled together one iteration of what that community could look like for any person: a specific place, with specific people, and with specific values.
After living in my college town for seven years, I’m moving geographically closer to where I grew up, but in some ways, in the ways of dividing the world according to urbanism and racism, I’m moving much further away. My new neighbors will be semi-rural, and many of them born in Mexico, neither things that I experienced in the corner of Portland that I grew up in.
I’ve known since I was aging out of compulsory school that at some point, this is a path that I wanted to go down, to commit fully to a place and, most especially, a group of people. I can’t say that this is how I expected it to happen.
One day I woke up and realized how crazy this dream is: moving onto land with a group of people and all their quirks, negotiating the legal and societal notions of what a group of people are doing living together anyway. And as much as I wondered how I could do this, a different reality struck me: this is the only thing worth doing.
When I first envisioned community, I had no inkling of wanting Jews the way I do now, or of how important building relationships with people of color would become for me. And I accept this aspect of a path: I know enough to know the entrance point, but I have no clue where it will lead me. Openness to discovery is a blessing.
I feel that way about the Woodburn Jewish Commune: this is a launch point, I have some ideas about what it could look like in two years, but really there are many different directions it can go in, as it flexes and stretches to accommodate the full lives of many people. Perhaps we will end up with several properties in different areas, perhaps we will establish a non-profit, perhaps language study will be a key focus of our community. Perhaps kosher produce (pickles, grape juice, etc.) will be the key foods we bring forth from the land, perhaps we will develop into a community of firefighters. The key thing (ha-ikar) is that we can think about it together, and build ourselves a community that includes our experience fully as Jews; both in the things we decide to do that we didn’t think Jews were allowed to do (such as farming) and in the things that we decide to do even though it’s scary to be seen doing them as Jews (like banking).
This is a physical manifestation of a deep inquiry of my experience as a Jew, one that will encompass my life and the daily doings of many a good person. I invite you to dig in with us! There is so much goodness!
Thanks for reading, I’d love to hear you thoughts. Wishing you each great joy during this season, chag sameach!

4 thoughts on “Woodburn Jewish Commune

  1. Yay! I am in Portland and have been hoping for something like this to spring up in Oregon. Is there any contact info available?

  2. Great to hear about this – My partner and I have thought about trying to get something like this started in 5 years or so in the Hudson Valley (NY state), with a religious bent. Keep us posted about how things unfold. I know there’s another jewish intentional community forming in Western Mass, too, on a farm – I saw a poster for it at Isabella Freedman, I think the property is in the Berkshires but i can’t seem to find it online or I’d link to it.

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