Exhibition presents a vibrant portrait of the history and culture of Oregon Jews
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Exhibition presents a vibrant portrait of the history and culture of Oregon Jews
Abraham Freedman’s Declaration of Intent to Naturalize. Baker City, Oregon. 1910. gift of Stephanie Waterman 2003.29.1

PORTLAND, OR.- Oregon Jews, A to Z highlights the most significant, poignant, whimsical, beautiful, and funniest objects in OJMCHE’s care. Taken together, these objects offer a vibrant portrait of the history and culture of Oregon Jews. The exhibition explores the breadth and splendor of the museum collection through more than 100 objects, selected from OJMCHE’s bountiful archival materials and artifacts. These pieces were chosen not only for their storytelling power but for what they can teach us about the history of Oregon’s Jewish community.

A is for Apron *

Rose Naftalin, who came to the US as a baby from Ukraine, opened Rose’s Restaurant in Portland in 1956. It quickly became a Rose city favorite. “Grandma Rose” offered delights such as knishes, pastrami sandwiches, and huge cinnamon buns.

* Naftalin's apron is one of the more than 100 objects on display.

“I can't think of a more suitable exhibition to begin my tenure here at the museum," said OJMCHE Director Rebekah Sobel. "While there have been many, many powerful exhibitions here over the years, the museum's Archives and Collections remain the heart and soul of the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education. I was immediately impressed with the breadth and depth of the museum's collections and how the pieces so uniquely capture the history and stories of the Jews of Oregon. This is an exhibition that truly celebrates our community."

The artifact and archives collections at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education document the experiences of Oregon Jews from their earliest history through today. This is the community repository for family, business, and institutional history, documenting Jewish life in Oregon through photographs, oral history interviews, artifacts, music, and written records.

OJMCHE stewards a collection that is far older than the Museum itself thanks to its mergers with two other collecting institutions during the past 30 years.
The holdings of the Jewish Historical Society of Oregon, including 150 oral history interviews of some of Oregon’s first Jews, became a part of the Museum’s collection in 1995. In 2014, the Oregon Jewish Museum merged with the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center, taking on the care of those records, artifacts, and oral history interviews of Holocaust survivors and liberators. The OJMCHE collection continues to grow as Jewish agencies, institutions, and individuals throughout the state choose to deposit items here.

OJMCHE is uniquely positioned to tell the rich story of the shared history and ongoing experiences of the Jews of Oregon.

J is for Junk*

Sam Schnitzer fled the Russian Army for the US in 1903. In Oregon, he entered the junk business. He traded anything he could carry in a sack on his back until he could afford a cart. The products he peddled included scrap iron and usable steel. In Portland, he formed the Alaska Junk Company and built it up until he could buy whole sawmills and shipyards and ship materials worldwide. Schnitzer’s one-man operation eventually became a public company with facilities on both coasts.

* A receipt from the Alaska Junk Company is one of the more than 100 objects on display.

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 the impressive Berger Collection of Ceremonial Judaica, all the artifacts were created by or for the Oregon Jewish community. One recent focus of OJMCHE's collection is the Jewish Business Collection, which includes items from nearly 200 businesses throughout the state. Another growing collection highlights items from Oregon synagogues.

The museum's collection includes ceremonial Judaica both historic and contemporary; objects and documents that relate directly to the experiences of Jewish Oregonians; household and business items; decorative arts, such as paintings, textiles, jewelry, and woodworking; correspondence –personal, family, communal, and business; photographs; diaries, journals, scrapbooks, photo albums, business ledgers, school records; and publications–including single copies of articles, books, reviews, speeches, and artwork.

Oregon A to Z was curated by Judy Margles, who just retired as the museum's director, Director of Collections and Exhibitions Alisha Babbstein and Anne LeVant Prahl, who also just retired from her position as curator of collections.

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