History of Ahavath Achim
After five years of informal organization, our congregation was officially constituted in 1916 and given its name Ahavath Achim which means "brotherly love".
We were listed with other congregations in the local Jewish press indicating that services in the Sephardic tradition were held in the B'nai B'rith building located at 13th and Mill. The committee for ritual consisted of Isaac B. Hasson and Jacob Piha.
Services were conducted by Joseph Notrica who acted as hazzan and high holiday official. The B'nai B'rith building was a fine venue for us since we would not even acquire a site for our own sanctuary until 1921.
As the years passed, our Sephardic community grew to the extent that it required its own place of worship. The property at SW 3rd and Sherman was purchased in 1921. It would take the next seven years to collect sufficient funds to build our house of worship.
On October 13, 1929, Ben Selling broke ground for the building. The synagogue was dedicated on August 31, 1930 in the presence of our Sephardic members and friends in the Jewish community. During this time, the Congregation enjoyed varied and interesting social, educational and cultural programs. In 1961, the Urban Renewal Committee (URC) of Portland requested that we remove the synagogue building to make way for one of URC's projects. Rather than construct a new building, we decided to move the old one. During the move, however, the building collapsed and was later condemned. Fortunately, the building was insured and with the insurance proceeds, the Congregation began construction in July 1965 of the present synagogue at the Barbur Boulevard location. It was completed and dedicated in 1966.
That same year Rabbi Michel Albagli was hired as our Rabbi, but because of ill health, he only served through October of 1967; then as Rabbi Emeritus until his death in 1988. In 1980, the Sephardic community honored the three surviving founders of the original Portland Sephardic Jewish Congregation: William B. Hasson, Ezra Menashe, and Sam Babani.
From 1933 to 1983, Mr. Jack Maimon of Seattle acted as our hazzan for high holiday and Purim services, in the Sephardic tradition. He was followed by Hazzan Sam Nehemia from 1986 to 1989. Between 1989 and 1994, we had no formal hazzan, and relied upon the able members of our congregation to perform those duties. For the high holidays Hazzan Sam Nehemia would return to lead us in services.
Shabbat services were conducted by Sol Varon, Joe Corcos and others in our congregation. A once-a-month Saturday kiddush was instituted in January of 1995 and had excellent attendance. In the fall of 1995, the board contracted with Hazzan Nehemia to return to Portland as hazzan..
In November of 1996, Ahavath Achim celebrated its 80th anniversary with a gala affair, produced a video chronicling the Portland Sephardic community, and held a concert featuring Ladino "romanzas". Presently our congregation is experiencing a resurgence of both religious and social activity. We at Congregation Ahavath Achim are extremely proud of our Sephardic heritage and look forward to the future with great optimism and anticipation.
We now hold services every Friday evening and Saturday morning officiated by Hazzan Nehemia and Rabbi Michael Kaplan
For more detailed information about the Sephardic community of Portland, please click here.