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May 10, 2013

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PAGE 16A I By Gil Shefler PORTLAND, Ore. (JTA)-- It's brunch time at Mother's Bistro & Bar and owner-chef Lisa Schroeder has a small crisis on her hands involving the accidental defenestra- tion of a busboy. Moments arlier, a server had tripped nd gone flying through one of the restau- rant's large picture windows. Shattered glass covered the pavement outside, where the hapless staffer was being treated for a nasty gash by an ambulance crew. Mean- while, dozens of undeterred diners were waiting to be seated. "What's a big piece of glass in somebody's back?!" Schroeder bellowed in thick Brooklynese, trying to make light of the situation. "Let me show you to your table," she told a waiting party. A few minutes later, the busboy vas patched up, a heavy curtain was wrapped around the empty space where the window used to be and the steady ebb and flow of customers returned to normal. It's all in a day's work for Portland's unofficial Jewish mother in chief. Since opening Mother's in 2000, Schroeder has won several accolades for her clever take on classic com- fort food, including being named national restaurateur of the year in January by Independent Restaurateur / By Gil Shefler HERITAGE FLORIDA-JEWISH NEWS, MAY 10, 2013 I Meet Portland's mother of Mother's Alicia J. Rose Photography Lisa Sehroeder, the owner and chef of Mother's Bistro & Bar in Portend, Ore., dishes out advice along with her comfort food. magazine. Along with Ken Gordon of Kenny and Zuke's deli and Scott Snyder, who serves up Sephardic cuisine at his restaurant Levant, Schroeder is one of several Jewish chefs to become fix- tures in Portland's acclaimed culinary scene. The Jewishness of Moth- er's is conceptual rather than culinary, revolving around the time-honored Mosaic tradition of mother worship. Yes, she serves chopped liver ("my mother's recipe") and matzah ball soup ("we finally figured out how to make them light after 13 years"), but she also offers biscuits and gravy, crab cake, pork loin and steak frites. Patrons dining at Mother's Bistro & Bar in Portland, Ore. it, we serve it," said Schro- eder, 55. "Our stir fry we got from a Thai mother and we serve that." Each month, the restau- rant selects an M.O.M., 'a mother of the month, who submits several recipes in- cluded on the menu. April's M.O.M. was Laurie Goldrich Wolf, a local food writer and one of a growing community of Jewish transplants to this city. The path to Schroeder's becoming one of Portland's most celebrated chefs was somewhat serendipitous. Born and raised in Phila- delphia, she moved to Is- rael with her ex-husband in the 1970s right after high school. By 1979 she was done, driven home by the challenges of making a living in the Jewish state and the election of right-wing Prime Minister Menachem Begin. cided her true passion lay in cooking, so she enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America campus in upstate New York. "I always knew/wanted to open up a restaurant called Mother's," she said. "Back in '92, when I was working in marketing, I realized the' world needed a place that served mother food. Every- thing I did for eight years was with this in mind." Schroeder honed her kitchen skills at Le Cirque in Manhattan and several eateries in Provence, France. Eventually she met a Port- land man and, after c6miag out for a visit, decided it was the perfect place for her. "They didn't have moth- erly cooking or comfort food restaurants, and it was easy being a big fish in a small pond," Schroeder said. When she isn't running Gil Shefler/JTA A worker atMother's Bistro & Bar in Portland, Ore., deals with a broken window--the aftermath of a busboy who went crashing through moments earlier. found dispensing advice at Burning Man, the annual arts festival and bohemian bacchanal in the. Nevada desert, where she goes by the name Mamaweitz. Many festival goers, or Burners, assume alter egos during the event. Schroeder's wasn't difficult to come up with. "What am.I secretly? I'm a Jewish mother," she said. "Everybody needs a mother, only sometimes not their own. They need someone wise, who's been around. I set up my booth at Burning Man and the kids me with their burning questions." More than a decade after its opening, Mother's has expanded into an adjacent store. Schroeder's family has expanded, too. She's not just a mother anymore but a grandmother to four. Despite her multigenera- tional family and stature as stitution, Schroeder says her peripatetic life has made her feel like a perpetual stranger. "As a Jew in the Diaspora, I really got to be honest with you, I don't feel any place is home," she said. "I used to feel New York was home and I kept on goingto visit after I moved, needing that New York fix. But not anymore." Now it feels like a big mall to her. "I guess home will always be Israel," she said wistfully. Despite the Zionist tug, Schroeder has no plans to move back, even though it's been more than three de- cades since Begin occupied the premier's residence. "Come on guys, it's a mess," she said of the situ- ation in the Middle East, snapping out her contempla- tive reverie and returning to her outspoken self. "We got to get it together." "If a mother would make At 33, Schroeder de- Mother's, Schroeder can be something of a Portland in: Amid Portland's Jewish population surge, community leaders try to lure the young and hip PORTLAND, Ore. (JTA)-- Jessica Bettelheim, a business ethics lecturer at Portland State University and a young Jewish mother, has little time to spare on weekends. Like other professionals her age, she's busy bonding with her husband and 4-year-old daughter, meeting friends at one of Portland's many fine restaurants or gardening, a favorite pastime in this ver- dant metropolis known as the City of Roses. So when Bettelheim re- ceived an email from the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland last month adver- tising Food for Thought, a festival that included a tour of the Portland Art Museum, she putit on her maybe list. "The only event that was appealing was the art walk," she said over coffee during an interview jammed between dropping off her. daughter at day care and delivering a lecture at the university. "I might check it out." Things came up, however, and she didn't. It was a near miss for the local Jewish federation, which has been trying to engage unaffiliated Jews like the Bettelheims ever since a demographic study came out in 2010 showing Portlandwith about 47,000 Jews--twice as many as previously thought. The profile of these myste- rious Jewish arrivals is murky, as the study provided few de- tails about them. It is widely hypothesized, however, that they are young, secular, liberal transplants from the coasts lured by professional opportunities at major mul- tinationals such as Nike and "It's not part of her life," Berris said. "Still, the survey counts her, her non-Jewish husband and all three kids as Jewish." Portland's Jewish estab- lishment is eager to bring these elusive newcomers into the fold with events like Food for Thought, which featured a smorgasbord of cultural events including a tour of a historically Jewish neigh- borhood, a party for Israel's Independence Day nd a latkes-hamentashen debate in which the the merits of sweet and savory Jewish dishes were considered (latkes won). After the survey was re- leased, the federation allo- cated hundreds of thousands of dollars for engagement events, applied for outreach grants and brought in a Jew- ish Agency for Israel youth emissary. "We don't want one-shot deals," Marc Blattner, the federation's president and CEO, told JTA. "We want lifelong involvement in the Jewish community however way they want." Two weeks ago, hundreds Of well-dressed party goers attended Food for Thought's opening ceremony at the Portland'Art Museum. Fed- eration donors noshed on mini salmon burgers, drank champagne and mingled at a reception preceding the main event. Later, Jewish come- dians David Steinberg and David Javerbaum regaled the audience with stories about working with comedic greats such as J on Stewart, Larry David and the late Johnny Carson. Intel, or bY the city's casual lifestyle and famed weirdness. Portland, as the joke has it, is where young people go to retire. The Bettelheims moved frqm New York in 2009, drawn by the promise of a less pressured lifestyle. The couple routinely hold Shabbat dinners and observe the High Holidays, but they haven't taken part in any organized religious activities. "We get home around 5 or 6 on Friday," Bettelheim said. "The last thing I want to do is drive to the west side and go to shul." Jodi Berris, who works at Nike's sprawling headquarters in nearby Beaverton and or- ganizes gatherings for young Jewish adults, says she's been trying to involve an unaf- filiated colleague of hers for years, thus far unsuccessfully. LeeAnn Gauthier Portland, Ore., Jews attending the opening night of Food for Thought, a festival organized by'the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. The event had a solid turnout--but the crowd was predominantly elderly, not the sought-after newcomer demographic. "The Jewish youth and Jew- ish adult communities seem to be two completely separate entities that want nothing to do with each other," said Jus- tin Chilton, 25, one of the few younger people at the event. "Trying to bridge that gap is really weird and seemingly weirdly impossible." One challenge is geograph- ic. Nearly all the community's institutions are west of the Willamette River, while most of the unaffiliated Jews are believed to be on the city's hipper east side. That is beginning to change. Shir Tikvah, a pro- gresive synagogue, was the first Jewish place of worship to open on the east side of Portland. Chabad recently followed suit with a new outreach center in the trendy northeast. Meanwhile, Blattner said the federation is considering opening a Jewish day care center there. "The river becomes a bar- rier to people," Blattner said. "We do not have formalized Jewish institutions on the east side of town, but we're in discussions about that and the No. 1 thing we're looking into is a Jewish preschool." It's unclear whether enough east siders are pre- pared to spend on the funding needed for such an endeavor, but Blattner hopes events like Food for Thought might plant the seeds for change. If not, and the gathering speaks only to the core group of commit- ted Jews in Portland, he's fine with that, too. "I hope that [the Jewish newcomers to Portland] know that when they do decide to come to the Jewish com- munity," Blattner said, "we will b e waiting here with our hands open."