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2009 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Oregon Jewish Museum Inc

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Museums

Mission: The Oregon Jewish Museum is the Pacific Northwest’s only Jewish museum, located in the region’s second largest metropolitan area. The Oregon Jewish Museum’s mission is dedicated to the preservation, research and exhibition of art, archival materials and artifacts of the Jewish people. It is the repository for archival documents, artifacts, and photographs concerning the history of the Jews in Oregon and endeavors to discover and collect all materials that may help to illuminate this history. Furthering its mission, the Museum brings innovative exhibitions about the history, culture and art of the Jewish people to this region—cultural enrichments that would be totally absent without its efforts. We aim to provide educational opportunities to a broad range of audiences, from youth to senior citizens, and those from all backgrounds.

Programs: Third annual sukkah pdx juried design-build exhibit, inviting designers,artist and makers of all backgrounds to propose contemporary responses to the traditional challenges of sukkah design (a sukkah is a temporary dwelling, traditionally erected each fall in observance of sukkot). Awardees of this juried competition create and install their winning sukkahs on the grounds of the oregon jewish museum. The structures are on exhibit for the week of sukkot, where they serve as the focal point for a weeklong series of events that a create contemporary context and connection to the themes of this ancient tradition,such as food and housing security.

three major exhibits launched this year include: ""settling in" ", "bat mitzvah comes of age" and "illuminated letters: threads of connection". "settling in" examined the experience and acculturation of immigrants to oregon through the lens of jewish experience. The exhibit focused on two groups: eastern european and russian jewish immigrants who were "americanized" through the neighborhood house, the settlement house founded in south portland in 1905 and later immigrants served through the immigrant and refugee community organization (irco). The struggles and triumphs of the early 20th century immigrants are compared with challenges and achievements of a contemporary and diverse group of immigrants from burma, cambodia, congo, cuba, eritrea, and somalia. Through their compelling and sometimes astonishing stories, the exhibit highlighted the old and new realities of the immigrant experience. "bat mitzvah comes of age" featuring the remarkable story of how, in less than a century, individual girls, their parents and their rabbis challenged and changed communal values and practice to institute this now widely practiced jewish ritual. "illuminated letters: threads of connection" artist sara harwin's long-time fascination with the intersection between language and art. Her work draws on the ancient tradition of illuminated manuscripts and encompasses large panels and hanging mobiles that use strong jolts of color, sacred imagery, pattern, and movement to achieve an innovative blend of visual and textual commentary on jewish life and thought.

our vibrant public programs include film screenings, concerts, lectures and discussions. Included were a film screening of shalom ireland, which included a theatrical reading from james joyce's ulysses, in partnership with corrib, portland's irish theatre; sunday music concerts, which bring the best of oregon's jewish musical talent, such as nationally recognized artist alicia jo rabins. Our programs and exhibitions reflect a variety of disciplines, including history, visual and bookmaking arts, art history, archival and collection management, music and other performing arts, film, literature, oral history, and the humanities.

other smaller exhibitions, music events, and lectures.

Community Stories

4 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters


Client Served

Rating: 5

I brought my class to an exhibit at Oregon Jewish Museum. It was a super way to get my kids engaged in the issue of tolerance and to examine the Oregon's history of diversity and intolerance. The conversations extended for days after our visit, thanks to the great presentation by the director, Judy Margles, and the thorough exhibit. It was presented in an attractive, accessible manner that the kids could understand and appreciate - and I could too!


Client Served

Rating: 5

When I was doing research on Portland history in the early 1900s, Oregon Jewish Museum provided me with many excellent first-hand accounts and photos - they really rounded out my knowledge of the period.


Client Served

Rating: 5

I am pleased to share my experience with OJM over the past many years and highly recommend it. OJM plays a unique and important role in the Portland/Oregon Jewish and non-Jewish communities. It serves those who are looking to understand the Jewish experience, both locally and nationally; to experience an art museum show in an intimate setting; and to use valuable research resources. Those who work and volunteer at OJM bring a high level of enthusiasm and commitment -- and the upcoming move to a new space will only enhance the many things OJM provides to the community.


Client Served

Rating: 5

I am a writer and I have been blessed to use the human and archival resources of the Oregon Jewish Museum for a range of projects including a book, "The Spark and the Light: The Leo Adler Story" (which led to the Oregon Public Broadcasting Oregon Experience Program "Leo Adler"). I continue to use their resources for a variety of other research projects on Jewish families in Oregon. I could not do my work without them. When I started work on the Leo Adler project, I was unsure about what resources might be available in Portland. Leo Adler (1895-1993) lived all of his 98 years in Baker City in the eastern part of our state. When I went to the Museum and told the Director Judy Margles what I was doing, she smiled and said "Yes, we have a few things" and introduced me to Anne Levant-Prahl. Scrapbooks were pulled out, oral history transcripts were presented to me and boxes and photograph came down from shelves. Broad pieces of the Adler family history could be found from a range of sources, but the resources of the Oregon Jewish Museum allowed me to weave those pieces together. I had the thrill of looking at family letters from Jacob Adler (Leo’s grandfather) to his son and daughters in Oregon (who emigrated from Germany in the 1870s) telling them when they should observe the anniversary of their mother’s death. Many of the letters were written in German and the folks at the Oregon Jewish Museum put me in touch with translation services that allowed me to dig deeper. There are other museums in Oregon with larger archives, bigger facilities, and more staff, but for me the Oregon Jewish Museum has always been the best “connector” museum. It opens up questions for me and helps me blaze a trail toward answering those questions. I always feel welcome when I come to do research and I value the interest of the staff in my work. Since I am not Jewish, I appreciate the staff’s willingness to answer my questions about areas that I am unfamiliar with. I truly value the ways that the Oregon Jewish Museum has helped me to connect with a range of different worlds and I hope your assistance will help them connect with even more.