Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education Executive Director Judy Margles and Board Chair Elaine Coughlin last week announced the signing of a purchase agreement for the facilities at 724 NW Davis in Portland—formerly the home of the Museum of Contemporary Craft. Margles wrote the following announcement:
As our closest circle of friends, I am excited to share something very special with you. OJMCHE is purchasing a new home, a 14,500 square foot unit in the De Soto building at 724 NW Davis Street (formerly the Museum of Contemporary Craft). I am also thrilled to tell you that we achieved the purchase of the building with the hard work of the OJMCHE Board and in particular outgoing chair, David Newman. This is the moment where we have finally fulfilled our vision and secured our mission for generations to come.
How did we get to this momentous possibility? July will already mark the two-year anniversary of the merger with Oregon Holocaust Resource Center. The merger enriched our institution in countless ways – we expanded our education staff to include a Holocaust educator, we are proud stewards of the Oregon Holocaust Memorial, we bring thousands of school children to both the Memorial and museum, and, of course, we continue to be the community repository for the Jewish experience in Oregon. Most importantly, we have deepened our focus on Jewish values and traditions, while working even more strenuously to bring our work to the wider community as a vehicle that can unite all people in their common humanity. In short, the merger has greatly expanded and fundamentally strengthened our core mission.
And now we have the opportunity to take the next step in our evolution. In a stroke of great luck, the fortuitous arrival on the market of this building became the perfect space for our museum. While this was an unexpected opportunity, we were ready to receive it because of the long-range feasibility planning that we undertook this last year. This space—purpose-built as a contemporary museum with ample room for exhibits, programs, school groups, collections and archives—perfectly matches the needs detailed in our feasibility report.
I am also thrilled to tell you that we achieved the purchase of the building with the tremendous support of three lead gifts from Renee and Irwin Holzman, Lois and Leonard Schnitzer Family and The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation/Arlene Schnitzer & Jordan Schnitzer. To date we have received a total of 33 gifts to make this phase of the campaign possible. For this generosity and sign of confidence, we are immensely grateful. Our community campaign, to raise funds for operating reserves and move-in costs, will commence shortly and I look forward to engaging each and every one of you in our endeavors.
Now that our dreams are becoming reality, we shall start to focus on the use of the space. I can share with you our basic conception: we will have state-of-the art storage for our archives and collection; a café; a gift shop; a multi-purpose auditorium for public programs and school groups; two floors of exhibit galleries with temporary exhibits on the first floor; and on the second space for core exhibits about the Oregon Jewish experience, discrimination in Oregon and the history of the Holocaust using stories of local survivors.
The coming months may prove to be the most significant in our history. An exciting consensus is emerging among museum professionals. We see successful museums of the future as places where people can hang out and engage in real and diverse social issues to make a genuine difference in their lives: these museums of the future will blur boundaries between the inside of the museum walls and what occurs outside, where programs will address a rich variety of living community concerns, while always recognizing, remembering and honoring the past. These museums will link historical experiences of the past with needs of the living present.
I want our museum to be such a museum: a broker and filter of perspectives and shared wisdom, a repository for traditional learning and historical scholarship, and also a stimulus for creative thinking on the way forward for our community. I want us to represent the full plurality of voices in our community and I want our programs to address a full range of community concerns.
We, this circle of friends, now share a magically rare opportunity: to help each other make our beloved Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education thrive, in all these many and varied ways, for many, many years to come.