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Starting as a young lad, Ari Shapiro helped lead prayer services for residents at the Robison Jewish Home for the Aged.

Shapiro opened the arc of the Torah, read Torah portions, sang Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur, and became a fixture at the senior center, along with his parents and two brothers.

“We would visit with people there because we got to know some of the residents, going month after month,” Shapiro recalls.

Now the National Public Radio news anchor is planning a virtual homecoming — from the same guest bedroom in Washington D.C. where he co-hosts NPR’s All Things Considered during the pandemic.

On March 13, Shapiro will emcee the largest single fundraiser of the year for Cedar Sinai Park (CSP), on Saturday, March 13 at 6:30pm. However, this year’s event will be “virtual.”

The theme is “Heart Is Where the Home Is.” Shapiro fits the theme.

He was eight-years old, when his family moved here from Fargo, North Dakota. Though he left here 25 years ago, he still counts Portland as home. Shapiro and the rest of his family were steeped in Portland’s Jewish community, regularly attending services and doing mitzvahs for others. Dru Rosenthal, CSP’s Development and Communications director, says Shapiro didn’t hesitate when she called to ask him to emcee.

“He’s a compassionate person,” Rosenthal says. “He’s going to be able to convey the heart and soul of our mission and our community, because he grew up in it.”

“He’s a compassionate person,” Rosenthal says. “He’s going to be able to convey the heart and soul of our mission and our community, because he grew up with it.”

Ari’s parents, Leonard and Elayne Shapiro, have been involved with Cedar Sinai Park for three decades. Leonard Barde, the chair of Robison’s religious committee, called Ari’s dad around 1990 and asked him to lead services for the nursing home residents.

Leonard Shapiro did the prayers in Hebrew; Elayne read the English passages, and scurried around with a microphone to get other contributions from residents.

Naturally, the Shapiros brought their three sons along. “It was the family activity,” Ari Shapiro says, and the three brothers were accustomed to reciting prayers. “It’s something we’d been doing since we were little kids in Fargo, North Dakota.”

Most weeks they’d attend services at Portland synagogues Congregation Neveh Shalom, or Havurah Shalom, and sometimes the “beehive temple,” (Ahavath Achim), Shapiro says. But once a month, they’d go lead services at Robison instead.

Thirty years later, Leonard and Elayne Shapiro still help lead Saturday and High Holiday services. Leonard also served for about 12 years on CSP’s Board of Trustees. And Elayne led a current events group for residents for about 10 years. They also help provide meals for people in a homeless shelter along with other Havurah Shalom volunteers. And they both are long-time participants in a Shabbat study group.

“This is what we do,” Elayne says.

Ari vividly recalls how moving to Garden Home, the unincorporated area between Portland and Beaverton, brought him in touch with a much bigger Jewish community than he experienced back in Fargo.

He went off to summer camp at Solomon Schechter, a Jewish summer camp in Washington, and joined the USY—United Synagogue Youth—here. He celebrated his bar mitzvah at Congregation Neveh Shalom.

Ari furthered his study of Hebrew while enrolled at Yale University. He and his husband Michael Gottlieb, often host Shabbat dinners and Passover seders at their D.C. home.

Growing up Jewish helped him in his career as a radio journalist, Ari says. “I think the primary Jewish value that comes to play every day in my life is asking questions,” he says.

“I think the primary Jewish value that comes to play every day in my life is asking questions.”

Cedar Sinai Park has grown tremendously since its 1920 founding in South Portland, then the heart of the Jewish community. The organization now operates not only a nursing home, but an assisted living center, a post-acute rehabilitation center, and Kehillah, housing for people with developmental disabilities, at its campus on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, plus more than 500 units of affordable housing in downtown Portland. CSP also offers adult day services, in-home care, and health care programs.

Proceeds from the benefit will help close the gap between the true cost of care and what CSP is reimbursed by Medicaid. They will also help cover the significant costs to protect residents and staff as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing personal protective equipment such as masks and gowns, testing, and infection control measures.

A key part of the event, not surprisingly, will be a “live appeal” for donations. “We call it the Mitzvah Moment,” Rosenthal says.

People attending remotely from their living rooms will be able to enjoy a drink or two. For those who RSVP in advance, volunteers will deliver the makings for two specialty cocktails/mocktails. At the live event, Daniel Shoemaker, co-owner of The Teardrop Lounge, will offer a mixology lesson.

There will also be musical entertainment and inspirational videos highlighting Cedar Sinai Park’s residents and programs.

And of course, participants will be able to hear one of Portland’s most famous voices. Ari Shapiro is not only the velvet voice of All Things Considered; he also frequently sings with Portland’s famed Pink Martini band. Participants will be able to feel Ari’s warmth, Rosenthal says. “We’re getting not just an emcee but someone who was raised with an awareness of the importance to honor one’s mother and father,” she says.

“Ari cares about the place; what they’ll see is genuine affection.”

Join us for this year’s Annual Benefit to honor the residents at Cedar Sinai Park.

What: “Heart Is Where The Home Is” Annual Benefit

When: Saturday, March 13, 6:30 p.m.

To RSVP: Call Dru Rosenthal at 971-718-6611 or email her at dru.rosenthal@cedarsinaipark.org
Or do it on-line at https://cedarsinaipark.org/giving/benefit/

More about Cedar Sinai: https://cedarsinaipark.org

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