Easter At The Oregon Jewish Center

In Portland, Oregon, deep in the hipster district, there is a small museum for Jewish history that I had not heard of until recently. Although it is only open for a few hours on the first day of the week, it makes for a worthy place to visit that does not require much time. As is often the case when I budget more time than is necessary, I arrived as the second car in the parking lot, and sooner after I came some of the employees came by telling us that the museum didn’t open until noon. As I was hobbling around today [1], I didn’t mind the fact that the museum was small and only on one story. There are days where I would be more interested in running around, but health matters a great deal, and as the museum is quite reasonably priced at only $6 it makes for an easy choice for a good way to spend a couple of hours.

The museum itself is designed with a fair degree of efficiency. Upon entering the museum there is a cash register just to the right, and to the far left, after one passes the bookstore (which has a small library that I avoided buying anything from, lest I spend too much money) there was a small exhibit for European Jewish refugees in Shanghai during World War II, starting with their choice of that Japanese-occupied city as a refuge of last resort in the face of full immigration quotas around the world, and the fact that there was considerable freedom at first, before the Jews were eventually consigned to a ghetto as the war went badly for Japan. Eventually, by the early 1950’s, most of the Jews of Shanghai were gone to the United States or Israel or other places, but the small exhibit included plenty of wonderful artifacts of the life of Shanghai Jewry, including the report card of a young man who was skilled at gynmastics but abominably poor at history and geography and not very good at much else. Poor kid.

Before I finished exploring the main exhibit hall, which featured photos and slides from the photojournalism career of Ruth Gruber, as well as a well-worn copy of her doctoral thesis on the novels of Virginia Woolf and the note that the novelist herself had met Gruber and talked about her and her essay in her diary, it was time to watch the film Ahead of Time, a documentary of Ruth Gruber’s early career, before her marriage [2]. Writers, in general, like to know what other people are saying about their writings, even if what others say isn’t always very good. After seeing the movie, I came back and finished looking at the exhibit, which showed some information about Gruber’s later career, including her work investigating the immigration of Yemeni Jews, her working honeymoon spent touring places where Maghrebi Jews were leaving for Israel, and a late-career trip to Ethiopia in the 1980’s to encourage Ethiopia’s then Communist leadership to let their Jewish population leave from being caught in the midst of a brutal civil war. Those efforts were, thankfully, successful. Besides the movie theater and two exhibit rooms, there were only a few posters on the wall about a group of artistic friends and the experience of World War II among Jews in the Northwestern United States. Parking is free, though, and the exhibits rotate, so this is a museum to return again to.

[1] See, for example:





[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/03/28/movie-review-ahead-of-time/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, History, Military History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Easter At The Oregon Jewish Center

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