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New Walking Tour Aligns with Mission

September 6, 2019

By: Judy Margles, Oregon Jewish Museum & Center for Holocaust Education

Thanks to support from the Oregon Heritage Commission, the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education (OJMCHE) recently evaluated our walking tour of the Jewish neighborhood in South Portland, the area that had been settled at the turn of the twentieth century by Russian and Eastern European immigrants. Our plan was to develop a new tour to align it with a part of our mission – to foster intercultural conversation – adopted in 2014 when the Oregon Jewish Museum merged with the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center. After an extensive interpretive planning process with staff and volunteers, we created a revised walking tour that includes stories and sites exploring the area’s historic, cultural, ethnic and racial dynamics, making links between Jews and other communities affected by urban development over the past century.

Our participants still tour South Portland by walking through streets and listening to stories about the century old neighborhood. But we now include stories of Portland’s broader social justice movements such as women’s rights, civil rights and LGBT rights. We still discuss the social and physical effects of Portland’s first urban renewal project and we also now consider it within the city’s racial context. One of our favorite discoveries was the Psychedelic Supermarket, which opened in 1967. It not only served the hippies of the neighborhood but also functioned as one of the first couch surfing networks in the community

This project is a good example of the fallacy of the adage, “If it ain’t broken, why fix it?” All of us should take time to revisit our successful programs as there is always room to learn and grow. OJMCHE has undergone transformative change in the past three years with the move to our permanent home in Portland’s NW Park Blocks. We now focus on teaching the universal lessons of the Holocaust, challenging our visitors to resist indifference and discrimination and to envision a just and inclusive world. OJMCHE has increasingly evolved into a hub for access to powerful educational resources about social justice. The enhanced walking tour now aligns with our mission and will remain part of the museum’s core programs . . . until such a time where we will once again reassess and revamp to make certain that we remain current with the times and with our mission.

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