The Oregonian reports on this tragic loss:
The death Tuesday of Aryeh Hirschfield, 65, rabbi of Portland's Congregation P'nai Or, has spurred Oregon's faithful to reach across religious lines to comfort and challenge one another.
"With his passing, the loudest voice for interfaith work and peace between religions has been silenced," said Imam Mamadou Toure of Beaverton's Bilal Mosque. "The greatest tribute that we can give to him is to pick up where his voice left off."
Hirschfield, who was an accomplished composer and musician, was vacationing in Oaxaca, Mexico, when he died. He was snorkeling near the town of Pochutla with his family. His wife, Beth, and his youngest sons had returned to shore but left the boat for him so he could continue to snorkel.
The family was in Mexico to attend the wedding of Hirschfield's son Isaiah. Hirschfield's other survivors include sons Jonathan, Aviel, Dove and Elisha.
Details about Hirschfield's death and his funeral arrangements are uncertain, but the outpouring of grief on his behalf was intense and immediate.
Cassandra Sagan, a member of P'nai Or who has known him for 15 years, said Hirschfield was a brilliant liturgist.
"A service was not just talking about things, it was the thing itself," she said. "It was holiness. It was forgiveness."
Katharine Cahn, who had known Hirschfield for more than three decades -- he sang at her wedding 30 years ago -- said he "brought life back to Judaism. ... He was able to go down into a well and pull up a jewel from the bottom, a jewel that for many people had gotten to be rote, and he could bring it to life."
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