PHOTO: Eva Rickles, a refugee from Germany who now lives in Oregon, kept this cartoon letter her brother Peter sent to their parents from Shanghai.
Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education debuts a new exhibit this month (see below) that fits right into the museum’s mission to “challenge our visitors to resist indifference and discrimination and to envision a just and inclusive world.”
OJMCHE Director Judy Margles says people’s diverse stories illuminate the realities of our world. “We must be willing to consider another person’s point of view in order to connect more deeply,” she says.
“To Bear Witness – Extraordinary Lives” features photographs, profiles and short films that capture the stories of individuals who left their homelands for safe haven in Oregon. These brave men and women, born in places as far flung as Austria, Bosnia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Germany, Hungary, Rwanda, Sudan, Syria and Tibet,
witnessed the atrocities of war, genocide and the Holocaust.
Each profile reveals the resilience of the survivor and the generosity of the many who provided assistance along the way.
“To Bear Witness” takes its name from the words of the late Nobel Prize-winning writer, activist and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, who emphatically proclaimed, “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” In this spirit, the exhibition features stories of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust; genocides in Europe, Africa and Asia; and unimaginable atrocities of war. Each profile is a portrait of courage and human resilience.
“In today’s politically charged environment, the subject of immigration can make for a controversial museum exhibition,” says Margles. “The topic brings to mind questions related to nationality, globalization and identity, not to mention that in many parts of the world, exiles, refugees and other migrants find themselves forging new lives due to the delayed effects of colonialism.”
This collaborative exhibit presents a multimedia exploration of the lives of 14 refugees who rebuilt their lives in Oregon.
“The quietly poignant voices in the exhibition ultimately humanize the larger themes of assimilation and acculturation; citizenship and belonging; values and social differences,” says Margles.
The exhibition is a partnership between OJMCHE and The Immigrant Story, in collaboration with Portland photographer Jim Lommasson and NW Documentary.
The Immigrant Story was founded in 2017 by Sankar Raman, who immigrated to the U.S. from India. The volunteer-led nonprofit works to foster empathy and build a more inclusive community by sharing stories of immigrants and refugees – people who often overcame tremendous odds to reach the United States.
Lommasson focuses on objects survivors were able to carry with them on their perilous journeys. From his photographs of the objects, the participants respond with handwritten testimonies.
NW Documentary created five short films of personal stories that focus on the individual humanity of genocide survivors.
TO BEAR WITNESS – EXTRAORDINARY LIVES
WHAT: Multimedia exploration of the lives of 14 refugees who rebuilt their lives in Oregon.
WHERE: Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, 724 NW Davis St., Portland
WHEN: Dec. 12, 2021-May 15, 2022. Currently the museum is open 11 am-4 pm, Wednesday-Saturday
INFORMATION: ojmche.org or 503-226-3600