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Review for Oregon Jewish Museum Inc, Portland, OR, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

In 1966 I joined the faculty of Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon - quite a transition for one born, raised, educated, and employed on the east coast. I retired at age 65, following a 5-year reduced load phase out. My family and I affiliated with the Portland Jewish community immediately after arriving in Oregon, and have participated in many Jewish events over the years. Driving time from our home to Congregation Neveh Shalom, our present affiliation, is 45-60 minutes, depending on traffic, which has somewhat limited our involvement. During my retirement phase-out I had more free time and began to do more volunteer work in Portland. Rabbi emeritus Joshua Stampfer of Congregation Neveh Shalom , provided leadership in creating the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center (OHRC), the Institute of Judaic Studies, and the Oregon Jewish Museum (OJM). We joined all three organizations as they were established and have maintained our membership through the years. I donated a desktop computer, which I had built and used in my teaching and research, to OHRC in response to an appeal in their newsletter. Then I began to volunteer there on a weekly basis, initially to set up the computer and install software. Next I became involved with their ongoing Oral History project, making duplicates of their collection of audio and video cassette tapes, then transcribing them. Following retirement and the relocation of OHRC to Pacific University, I was able to volunteer on a daily basis and expand my activities. Before long, I created and managed the OHRC website, edited and published 2 quarterly newsletters, and created and maintained membership and mailing list databases. I continued this full-time volunteering for another 3 years, but following a change in Board of Trustees membership, appointment of a new Executive Director, and a shift of priorities, I was no longer comfortable with working conditions and ended my stint at OHRC. In a few months an ad appeared in Art and Artifacts, newsletter of the Oregon Jewish Museum, seeking a volunteer to assume management of the Museum's website ( The timing was perfect: I applied, was accepted, and served as webmaster for over 10 years. I received instructions from the Museum Director, from the Curator, and from the Office Manager for updates and changes to the website. Given limitations of time and resources (from its inception the Museum has been seriously underfunded), I was limited to one afternoon per week. The Museum lacked suitable computer hardware and software, I carried my instructions home and did the webmastering there, often working well past midnight. In time I began receiving my instructions more and more via email and doing all the work at home. One of the Museum's deficiencies was a working flatbed scanner. Having had some experience with such a tool, I could recommend to the Director a specific make and model that would serve our needs, and she was able to find a donor to purchase that very tool. I was able to "show the ropes" about using the scanner to the three ladies who formed the permanent staff, all of whom quickly learned and became expert. This has proved a godsend to the Museum, which takes pride in its vast photographic archive, which documents the Jewish experience in Oregon from earliest times to the present. With the new scanner, and a great deal of time, this entire archive has been scanned and digitial images stored to hard drive. Over the years I used many of these digital images on our website. By a stroke of luck, the Curator's father is a professional photographer. When he visits his daughter in Portland (from Chicago) he brings along his bag of cameras, lenses, and lights, He generously donates his time to photographing all the items in the Museum's collection. So our photographic collection now includes digital images of all objects in the archive. During my tenure as webmaster, I uploaded the entire collection of archive images to the website. Another ongoing OJM activity in which I play a significant role is an oral history project. Beginning in the early 1970's and extending into the early 1980's, long before the birth of OJM, some perspicacious Jewish women began recording, on audio cassettes, personal memories of elderly Jewish Oregonians. An effort was made to have these tapes transcribed and safeguarded. After OJM was created these old tapes and transcriptions came into its possession, and the oral history project was resumed. Many of the old tapes showed signs of neglect and appeared fragile. I learned of this oral history project when I began at OJM, and how anxious the director was to duplicate as many of these old tapes as possible and to preserve them in a carefully controlled enviornment. When the Director approached me about doing the duplicating, I researched the matter and became convinced that since newly minted cassette tapes deteriorate with each playing and have a limited shelf life, even if unused, a better approach would be to digitize the recordings, do some sound editing, and then burn them to CD's. I was able to pursuade the Director and I obtained (out of pocket) a dubbing audio cassette player, and on eBay (also out of pocket) 200 Kodak gold and silver recordable blank CD's (with a projected shelf life of more than 100 years). During my volunteer days at the Museum, I carefully duplicated old tapes. At the end of my shift I took the duplicate tapes home with me. At home I played the cassettes with my home stereo player coupling the line out jack to the audio in jack of my desktop computer, and digitizing and recording the audio using the open source sound recorder/editor, Audacity. I used Audacity to improve sound quality, then saved the edited file in .WAV format to my hard drive. Next I used the Nero Burning ROM suite to burn the file(s) to the Kodak CD's. On my next trip to the Museum I returned the duplicate cassette tapes and delivered the CD's of the interviews. This first phase of the oral history project generated nearly 200 CD's. I am now involved with phase 2, having learned much about sound recording and editing, and about burning CD's. The current phase involves use of inkjet recordable CD's and my home Epson direct CD printer. Within the past year the Director found the resources to obtain a couple of digital voice recorders, which the Curator and I have been promoting for several years. Now our interviewers can generate high quality digital audio on the recorder's memory, which I can then download onto my computer hard drive, edit, and burn to CD, avoiding the need to make cassette duplicate tapes and try to record from them. I have already made nearly 200 more CD's from this second phase, and there are many more subjects to be interviewed.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

learning much more about the Jewish experiences, good and bad, in Oregon, and I have enjoyed and profited from the numerous exhibits, both traveling and locally produced, about Judaism, art, and poetry.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Find it a larger home, better equipped with computer hardware and software, private offices for professional staff, and I would provide funding adequate to its personnel and missions.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

meeting and interacting with the professional staff, and learning more about Jewish values and culture.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

courteous, intelligent, well-trained, helpful, seeking to learn and teach. Not least, with a good sense of humor.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

Provide its professional staff with compensation commensurate with their expertise, skills, and dedication; relocate to spacious new quarters with adequate work and exhibit space; increase its budget for tools, library holdings, and more staff positions.

Ways to make it better...

the Museum had a larger budget to upgrade its computer hardware and software, to acquire digital voice recorders, and inkjet direct CD printers; and if the Museum had much more space in the work and exhibit areas

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

money and time

One thing I'd also say is that...

OJM does not get the appreciation, publicity, or community support it has earned and deserves.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?


Role:  Volunteer & I managed the website for 10 years, I duplicated audio cassette tapes from an oral history project, then digitized the audio, edited it, and burned files to CD's.