Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education
- Oregon Holocaust Resource Center
Jews have lived in Oregon for more than 165 years, but it is only in the last 30 years have we sought to publicly honor and document our contributions. In 1989 Rabbi Joshua Stampfer z”l led a community conversation on the need for a museum focused on Jewish cultural life. The community members that gathered for that conversation became the founding board of the Oregon Jewish Museum (OJM). The museum operated as a “museum without walls”, opening with the Jews of Greece at Multnomah County Library’s Central Library. Over the next decade the museum brought exhibitions of Jewish interest to Portland, hosted at a variety of area venues. A 1995 merger with the inactive Jewish Historical Society of Oregon resulted in OJM taking stewardship of the archival materials, artifacts, photographs, and oral history interviews the organization had collected beginning in 1973. Although the Oregon Historical Society generously provided workspace to house and accession the collection, that merger prompted the museum to refocus its mission and to find appropriate space in which to properly care for and exhibit that collection.
In 1999 the museum moved into its public first space at Montgomery Park, with modest room for exhibitions and collections storage. The inaugural exhibition, Jews Germany Memory, photographs by Edward Serotta, drew 300 people on opening night. As the need for a more permanent space became urgent, in 2000 OJM relocated to a storefront in Old Town, where it launched its first large scale, curated exhibition. A Call to Serve: Oregon Jews in the Armed Services opened on Veterans Day, 2001 two months after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. This was the first time that the museum made a call to the community to come forward with their objects, photographs, and stories of military service. The exhibit was a huge success and did much to increase both the visibility of the museum in the community and the credibility of the museum’s project. It was a model that has been taken forward from that time, always resulting in new research and often in growth for the collection.
In late 2009, as membership and community attendance continued to grow, OJM moved to a much larger building in NW Portland, offering expanded exhibition space and enabling the staff to develop public programing and a small gift shop. Public lectures and films complemented exhibitions as diverse as Transport, featuring the work of Henk Pander and Esther Podemski, Project Mah Jong, Sukkah PDX, That’s All Folks, the story of Mel Blanc, and Auto/Biography: Portraits of People With Cars.
In 2014 OJM merged with the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center, which was founded in 1984, taking on an expanded mission as the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education (OJMCHE). This merger enriched the museum in countless ways: the education staff now includes a full-time Holocaust educator; as stewards of the Oregon Holocaust Memorial in Portland’s Washington Park we bring thousands of school children to both the Memorial and to the Museum; and we continue to be the only community repository for the Jewish experience in Oregon. The merger fundamentally strengthened the museum’s core mission by deepening the focus on Jewish values and traditions. OJMCHE believes the Holocaust provides one of the most effective subjects for examining basic moral concerns. It simultaneously addresses universal issues of intolerance and the dangers of denying diversity. For many young Oregonians, an OJMCHE program has been their first encounter with the history of the Holocaust.
The Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education explores the legacy of the Jewish experience in Oregon, teaches the enduring and universal relevance of the Holocaust, and provides opportunities for intercultural conversations.
The OJMCHE document collection represents families, clubs, synagogues, businesses, and philanthropic organizations. It is the largest collection of the documented and visual history of the Jewish people of Oregon. The document collection encompasses a broad range of formats including books, journals, manuscripts, papers and records, maps, and ephemera. It includes materials dating from the mid 1800s to the present day.
OJMCHE has an outstanding and extensive photograph collection dating from the 1860s through today. These images visually document Jewish experience in Oregon. The ongoing digitization and cataloging of photographs is central to OJMCHE’s mission to make these images available to researchers.
OJMCHE holds the largest collection of Jewish artifacts in the Pacific Northwest. The collection documents Jewish life in Oregon through both everyday and ceremonial objects. With the exception of our impressive Berger Collection of Ceremonial Judaica, all the artifacts were created by or for the Oregon Jewish community. One recent focus of our collecting has been the Jewish Business Collection, with items from nearly 200 businesses throughout the state. Another growing collection highlights items from Oregon synagogues.
OJMCHE’s holdings include painting and sculpture, decorative arts, photography, works on paper, and artist books, as well as graphic arts and mixed media. While the collection focuses on Oregon Jewish artists, the scope also includes Jewish artists from around the world.
In 2016 the OJMCHE Board purchased the building at 724 NW Davis Street, on the North Park Blocks in downtown Portland, doubling the museum’s size. An auditorium, state of the art storage for archives and artifact collections, education lab, museum shop and café allows for robust public programming with numerous collaborative opportunities.
Wednesday – Sunday: 11a.m. – 4 p.m.
Accessible public restrooms are located on the first and second floors.
A gender-neutral restroom is located on the first floor.
There is an elevator to the second-floor exhibitions and administrative offices.
At this time, OJMCHE is not offering in-person research hours. OJMCHE has an agreement with Portland State University to host a selection of its finding aids. They can be found on their University Archives & Special Collections website.
All research is conducted in collaboration with a staff member and must be discussed in advance of the appointment. Due to staffing constraints, OJMCHE may charge a fee for conducting remote research on behalf of its patrons. A fee schedule for remote research will be provided upon request.
Oregon Holocaust Memorial: Free and Open to the Public