shaarie torah cemetery
There is a cemetery in Chicago which unites something like 124 Jewish cemeteries. Quite what that means is beyond my imagination, but I do know that Jewish cemeteries in Portland are distinctly different than any other Oregon cemeteries. One has the feeling they follow long tradition and long experience. For example, it’s my understanding that trees are not wanted in Jewish cemeteries for fear of roots invading the corpse. Which may have something to do with plots in our Jewish cemeteries tending to be delineated by concrete curbing. Land is used parsimoniously in the Jewish cemeteries, as well, with older sections being entirely packed before new land is opened up; a stark contrast to the usual more laissez-faire practice (Willamette National notwithstanding).

As noted elsewhere, Portland’s Jewish cemeteries, with the exception of Beth Israel, are hidden from public view (this is where experience counts, I’m sure). Shaarie Torah shares space with Kesser Israel (q.v.), although the two are separated by chain-link fencing. As Catholic cemeteries tend to be associated with churches, so are Jewish cemeteries connected to synagogs; and, like parishes, synagogs are not created equally. Shaarie Torah and Kesser Israel share hidden space, but they each provide their own live-in watch-people. The two cemeteries are a marked contrast in well-being, and that in itself is illuminating. Kesser Israel has a boarded-up, squat building of uncertain usage, whereas Shaarie Torah boasts a brand-new, handsome chapel.

The entrance to this is at 66th and Tenino, in a place where no roads go past; they only dead-end there. You can’t see it from anywhere. I have a friend who calls this part of town East Jesus, probably on account of the vast and intriguing Apostolic Faith Center not far away at 52nd and Duke. It is an unlikely part of town in which to find one, much less two, Jewish cemeteries. Let this be an urban adventure for you.


SE 66th Ave. and Tenino St., Portland.
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