Expanded Jewish Museum illuminates forces of prejudice

New Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education opens Sunday

People walk past an exhibit at the Oregon Jewish Museum & Center for Holocaust Education, June 7, 2017. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — When the doors to the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education’s new facility open on Sunday, Director Judy Margles hopes visitors feel a sense of empowerment and a willingness to stand up to injustice.

OJMCHE’s new 15,000 square-foot location is in the heart of the Pearl District on NW Davis Street. The move doubles the museum’s size and puts it at the center of what Margles described as “one of Portland’s famously bifurcated districts.”

Judy Margles, the director of the Oregon Jewish Museum & Center for Holocaust Education, June 7, 2017. (KOIN)

“We’re surrounded by museums, art galleries, an art college, arts organizations, theaters and more,” Margles said at a press event Wednesday. “But we are also in the middle of an area where the tragedy of homelessness is literally at our front door.”

It’s a locality that Margles said helped curators narrow in on their commitment to civic engagement and social responsibility. The setting also helped shape the museum’s core exhibitions: Discrimination and Resistance, An Oregon Primer; The Holocaust, An Oregon Perspective; and Oregon Jewish Stories.

“OJMCHE will illuminate Jewish contributions to world culture and ideas, issues of Jewish identity, lessons from the Holocaust and the forces of prejudice,” she said.

The Oregon Jewish Museum & Center for Holocaust Education, 724 NW Davis Street in Portland, June 7, 2017. (KOIN)

The facility’s grand opening comes just weeks after a man on a racist tirade stabbed 3 Good Samaritans who stood up for 2 teenage girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab.

Micah Fletcher, who survived the stabbing, told KOIN 6 News he felt it was his duty to stand up for what he saw as a grave injustice. He said the tragedy hasn’t changed his life mission, and that he’s still dedicated to making the world a better place.

Margles said she hopes visitors leave OJMCHE with that same sense of empowerment and a feeling “that they can make a difference in the world.”

An exhibit at the Oregon Jewish Museum & Center for Holocaust Education, June 7, 2017. (KOIN)

“The language our educators use is: Not to be a bystander, but to be an upstander. Not to be a witness to history, but to actually be a participant,” she said. “If you see something that doesn’t make sense, that seems unjust to you, why don’t you try and do something about it?”

OJMCHE’s expanded facility includes galleries for permanent and touring exhibits, a 100-seat auditorium, gift shop and cafe. The museum also organizes tours of the Oregon Holocaust Memorial in Portland’s historic Washington Park.

For more information about OJMCHE’s grand opening, click here.