About Reb Aryeh

Born in 1943 and raised in the Orthodox tradition in the Bronx, New York, Rabbi Aryeh Hirshfield began his rabbinical studies in 1977 with his beloved mentor, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, the main founder of the Jewish Renewal movement. Rabbi Aryeh received rabbinical ordination from Reb Zalman in 1985.

A noted musician, Reb Aryeh performed and recorded original and traditional Jewish music for the past thirty years, offering concerts and workshops on Jewish spirituality throughout North America and Europe, and producing four albums: Let the Healing Begin, As the Deer Yearns, Wings of Peace, and Batee L'ganee ('I've Entered My Garden'). His music was inspired by the Psalms, the Prophets, the Song of Songs, the Jewish mystical tradition and his own daily prayer practice, and focused on themes of peace, reconciliation and healing.

Reb Zalman said of Rabbi Aryeh, "He makes the kind of music that lifts the soul in prayer and turns the spirit to prophecy. In the tradition of cantor and visionary musician, he entertains the spirit as well as the mind."

Of his own music, Reb Aryeh once wrote, "My performances are usually a blend of songs and Hassidic tales, as well as stories which arise out of my own personal life experiences. Many of these songs are a weave of sacred Hebrew texts and my own poetry and poetic translations. I seek to create an experience of joy, aliveness and connectedness to Judaism and ultimately, God willing, to the Sacred beyond any label or description."

Reb Aryeh founded Ashland's Jewish Renewal congregation, Havurah Shir Hadash, in 1985, and served as rabbi there for ten years. He ordained the current rabbi of Havurah Shir Hadash, Rabbi David Zaslow, in 1995, and then moved with his family to Portland to help establish P'nai Or of Portland, a welcoming Jewish Renewal community, where he served as rabbi until his death in 2009.

In December 2005, Reb Aryeh celebrated Havurah Shir Hadash's 20th anniversary with a concert there. Quoted in a newspaper story at the time, he said, "My intention is, basically, to raise the roof and get us all singing and even dancing. Into the mix, I will weave stories and Jewish and universal spiritual teachings."

Reb Aryeh's intention was manifest that night; those fortunate enough to be in attendance did indeed 'raise the roof' in song and dance. In truth, each and every time he lifted his voice with music and with prayer-- whether davvening in a synagogue or hiking a mountain trail-- he continued to inspire us all.

Reb Aryeh's Portland work began with a workshop there in 1991, progressed to services held in private homes, and was followed by the founding of P'nai Or of Portland in 1996. P'nai Or's stated purpose is "to make Jewish spirituality accessible." Rabbi Aryeh was guide, teacher, and friend in P'nai Or's unfolding process. His insights, knowledge and humor guided the community's path. Reb Aryeh's teachings, his music and his blessings continue to provide deep spiritual inspiration as the P'nai Or community evolves.

Happy Birth-Day Aryeh,

Happy Birth-Day to the twinkle in your eye,
the soar of your music,
the depth of your soul,
the breadth of your love,
your infinite patience
and your impatience,
your warmth 
and your anger,
your courage
and your humility,
your craziness 
and your wisdom,
your risk taking 
and your loyalty,
your stories,
your humor--

All of you
  who gave the world so much.

We celebrate you,
we miss you
and love you.

Karen Irwin
March 19, 2009