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Synagogue gift perfect present for couple who has it all
The Jewish Review, June 15, 1998

by: Deborah Seldner

"We really don't need anything," Victor and Violet Ferrera told their family as their 50th anniversary approached.

So at the couple's urging, the family started a fund for an ark cover for Congregation Ahavath Achim, which played a prominent role in the couple's 50 years of marriage. Unfortunately Victor died just three months after the September 1996 anniversary. But after a few months, Violet, her family and Congregation officers began looking for an ark cover.

Initially, they looked in catalogues from New York.

"They were all lions, tigers, tablets -very pretty but just like the rest of the country," Ahavath Achim President Mark Abolofia said.

"We feel our synagogue is unique," said Violet, who was raised in Portland's Sephardic synagogue and spent all but the first year of her marriage there.

So Abolofia said they contacted Portland Judaic artist Sara Harwin and told her what they had in mind.

"Sara had the advantage of seeing where the Ark Cover would be installed. She took her wonderful artistic talent andblended it with the beauty of our Sanctuary to design a masterpiece that looks like it has always belonged in its place. Its motif of the four seasons seems so fitting as a gift enabled by my parents, whose own tree of life is so entwined with Ahavath Achim," according to Renee Ferrera, daughter of Victor and Violet Ferrera.

Violet said she spent her first year of marriage in Seattle, but just three months afterthe couple moved to Portland, Victor was elected secretary of the congregation, a position he held for the next 49 years, until the day of his death when he almost completed his last issue of the newsletter.

During those years Violet served as sisterhood president three or four times and also served in any capacity needed from bottle washer to cook.

Though Victor is gone, Violet said that every time she enters the sanctuary and sees the beautiful ark cover, "It makes me feel like a part of us is going to stay here forever."

Saying that Harwin had done a wonderful job on the cover, Violet said, "Every time I walk into the sanctuary and look at it, I feel like it's been here forever."

Abolofia concurred saying, "It makes the whole place. The congregation is very pleased."

Writing about the meaning of the cover, Harwin explained, "The imagery of the Tree of Life and the complementary phrase from the prayer book "It is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it" speak to the rising spiral of time, season, life and growth ... of how the Torah is ever-present in our lives, yet its meaning and how it speaks to each of us changes and evolves as we travel through our lives."

Harwin said she and her husband Fred also took a lesson from the Ferreras and for their 30th anniversary, they donated a bimah cover to Ahavath Achim. Congregation Ahavath Achim, Portland's only Sephardic congregation, is located at 3225 S.W. Barbur Blvd. The congregation celebrated its 80th anniversary in November 1996. Steeped in Hispanic and Middle Eastern culture, the congregation offers services conducted in the Sephardic and Israeli custom with family and separate seating available.

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