PHOTO: An OJMCHE visitor watches an oral history in the museum’s core exhibit, Oregon Jewish Stories, which documents the experience of Oregon’s Jewish community since the 1840s.
Co/Lab: Reimagine Jewish and the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education are working together on an important new project documenting the changes in Jewish life in Portland. The project is called “An Oral History of the Jewish Future.”
The project’s name reflects some of the remarkable undertakings opening up new opportunities in Jewish life today, according to Rabbi Josh Rose, who started Co/Lab: Reimagine Jewish in 2021.
“We’re seeing a renaissance in Jewish life in Portland and across the country,” says Rabbi Rose. “Two things are happening. First, creative new secular Jewish organizations are opening doors to Jewish meaning through arts and culture or social justice. Second, younger Jews are carving out new paths to Jewish identification and community building. They’re doing it independently, often outside legacy Jewish institutions. We’re living through a very creative and historically important period in Jewish life.”
With that in mind, Co/Lab and OJMCHE are coming together to document conversations with some of those in the Portland area whose creativity and initiative are creating new possibilities in Jewish life.
Using the model of OJMCHE’s ongoing Oral History project, Museum Curator of Collections Anne LeVant Prahl will coordinate interviews of these younger Jewish community members. Among those already signed up to be interviewed is someone who manages a “Meetup” group called MOTs (for “members of the tribe”), which stages gatherings for ages 35- to 50-something Jews across the city, and the head of an emerging group committed to “lowering the barriers to Jewish community and education based on identity, politics, class or dis/ability.
“OJMCHE has an oral history collection with over 1,000 interviews,” says LeVant Prahl. “Collectively, they tell the story of Jewish life in Oregon from its beginning in 1848 through today. Traditionally, an oral history project focuses on the oldest members of a community – those with the longest story to tell. What makes this project exciting is that we are catching Jewish lives mid-action, without knowing where how their stories will turn out.”
All stories are welcome whether you are a nonobservant atheist, a traditional, a dabbler, a ritual innovator or some other Jewish identifier. Queer and BIPOC Jews are especially encouraged to sit down for a recorded interview with a trained facilitator.
The interviews are conducted via Zoom and take approximately 60-90 minutes. To schedule an interview, contact Anne LeVant Prahl at email@example.com.
For more information, visit colabpdx.org/jewishfuture/.