About Rabbi Laurie Rutenberg
Rabbi Laurie Rutenberg's rabbinic life has been devoted to working with unaffiliated Jews. She held one of the first Jewish outreach positions ever on a college at the University of Michigan. She became the first rabbi ever to serve in the position of Associate University Chaplain at Yale University and she was a director of Jewish Outreach for Hillel at California State University at Northridge. In 1990, with her husband and colleague, Gary Schoenberg, she founded Gesher—A Bridge Home in Portland, Oregon, as a new model of outreach and welcome to unaffiliated Jews and intermarried families. They and their children Avital and Michael have built their lives around the mitzva of bringing in guests 8000 of them, mostly families and younger adults, modeling joyous and supportive Jewish home life, and building relationships with strangers – become friends - whose lives have been transformed by that experience.
Gesher is a village that finds Laurie and her family walking into any synagogue or Jewish event in Portland and connecting with friends who entered Jewish Portland through Gesher. Rabbi Laurie was the first woman to serve as president of the Oregon Board of Rabbis, and in 2000, she was named to the Forward Fifty.
About Rabbi Gary Schoenberg
Through the force of family history, Rabbi Gary Schoenberg entered rabbinical school wanting to reach unaffiliated Jews. Most of his brothers and cousins became affiliated with other religions.
As a rabbi of a small synagogue in Livermore, California, a Rabbinic Fellow at CLAL and as a rabbi of a large congregation in Hollywood, California, he found himself wanting to reach Jews who lacked a meaningful connection to Jewish learning and living. He also felt a deep conflict between being a congregational rabbi and having a Jewish home life. So when children arrived, he was inspired to search for a different model: one that integrated Jewish home life with his life's work.
Therefore, in 1990, with his wife and colleague, Laurie Rutenberg, he founded Gesher in Portland, Oregon, as a model of outreach and welcome to unaffiliated Jews and intermarried families.In 2000, he was named to the Forward Fifty.Gary Schoenberg is also the author of numerous short stories for children. He has worked on a play entitled, “Mark Twain Meets Sholem Aleichem.” He is a rabid sports fan, a competitive tennis player, a passionate teacher, with a life's work that finds him cooking over seventy different home-made soups, mentoring numerous teenagers, and helping many young adults find their life’s work and life’s partner.
Gary and Laurie are the proud parents of two children: Avital Shira, a graduate of Yale University, a director of theater in many cities around the country, and an MFA student at Boston University. Michael, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, received his PhD from Yale University in bio-chemistry. Both are passionate Jews, who helped welcome over 8000 different guests into their home, with the core self esteem that flows from this experience. They each, in their own ways, make Jewish living and welcoming guests a core part of their own lives.