Me’irah Illinsky, Miriam Cup
The tradition of placing a cup of water on the Seder table beside the cup of wine for the prophet Elijah emerged to honor Miriam, Moses’ sister, who is reported to have led the Hebrews to sources of water during their journey through the desert.
This is one of 20 Miriam Cups commissioned from local women artisits by the Women’s Division of Portland Jewish Federation for its first annual all-women’s Seder in 1999 and subsequently donated to the Oregon Jewish Museum.
Sabbath Lamp, Italy
This oil-burning lamp has three spouts for flames and an adjustable brass reflector that slides up and down the center post to provide the best reflection for the light. The reflector is inscribed with the Hebrew letters “Shin, Dalet, Shin,” an abbreviation for the commandment, “Keep the laws of the Sabbath.”
Gift of Mira and Gustav Berger, 1998.001.002
This porcelain plate was made in London at the end of the 19th century. It has illustrations around the rim describing the six ritual foods used during the Seder ceremony. The center of the plate is reserved for matza, the ritual, cracker-like bread eaten throughout the week-long holiday.
Yahrzeit Lamp, A. Popick Co., Portland Oregon
A. Popick Co. manufactured electric lamps to commemorate the yahrzeit, the anniversary of a loved-one's death. The lamp is plugged in from sundown to sundown at the time of the anniversary. The name of the person being remembered is written on a little card and inserted in the window on the inside of the door.
Nazi Star of David, Germany
In 1941 the Nazi Party ordered Germany's Jews, six years and older to wear a yellow Star of David on their outer clothing. The star has the word “Jude” (Jew) in bold, Hebrew-like letters. By 1942 all Jews in countries under German control were forced to wear the star. The following year all European countries under German control enforced the edict.
Holocaust Collection 2006.000.001
Hebrew Calendars, Germany
These nine calendars printed in both Hebrew and German made their way to Portland where much of the Jewish population at the beginning of the 20th century would have been comfortable with Hebrew, English, and Yiddish.
Gift of Jonah Baker, 2001.016.002-10
Jan Rabinowitch, Matzah Cover
This cutwork matzah cover is made of Hebrew letters cut from ultrasuede and appliquéd on muslin. It is part of a set of 14 cloths commissioned from local women artists by the Women’s Division of Portland Jewish Federation in 2001 for its all-women’s Seder and subsequently donated to the Oregon Jewish Museum collection.Gift of the Women’s Division of the Portland Jewish Federation, 2001.008.009
This lovely example of silverwork was made in Russia in the mid-19th century. There was originally engraving done in the central space that has been rubbed away, possibly to protect its owners from antisemitic attacks.Gift of Mira and Gustav Berger, 2003.003.003
These are the shoes that Matilda “Tillie” Selling wore for her marriage to respected businessman and philanthropist Ben Selling. Tillie came from San Francisco and once here, quickly became an important part of the Jewish community. A founding member of the National Council of Jewish Women, Portland Section, she presided over its Sewing School for 32 years.
Table-Top School Desk
This portable wooden desk opens to reveal a paper roll with school lessons, both secular and Judaic. Lessons in Hebrew language and Jewish history appear at the end of the roll. Russian American artist Saul Raskin drew the last lesson. The desk traveled with the donor’s mother from their home in Brooklyn when they moved to Portland in the 1980s.
Gift of Judy Schwartz Sorrel, 2007.066.001
late 19th century
This rustic, wall-mounted menorah is made of hammered tin. It hangs on a wall and has eight small, glass dishes suspended from holders where the oil for the Hanukkah lights is held.
Al Kader Shriner Fez
Nudelman Brothers were known throughout the Pacific Northwest for providing working clothes and uniforms. They supplied streetcar conductors, police and firefighters, postal workers and, the U.S. Forestry Service. During World War II they stocked replacement uniforms for seamen who would dock in Portland. They also produced these embroidered wool felt fezes for the Shriners, where many early Portland Jews were members.
c. 1790, Poland
This whimsical silver sunflower stands almost 10 inches tall. The head of the flower is detachable for filling with spices and is pierced with holes so that the smell of the spices can be part of the Havdalah ceremony at the end of the Sabbath.
Synagogue Window, Portland
This plaster cast window with wooden framing was discovered by the donor in South Portland not long after Urban Renewal razed five of the city’s synagogues to make way for Portland State University and the building of I-405. It is not known which synagogue this window was rescued from before demolition.
Torah Mantle, Northern Africa
Early 20th Century
This velvet Torah cover is most likely from Morocco, where it was customary to wrap the Torah with a cloth mantle. This differs from other North African communities where the Torah was kept in a rigid case.
Gift of Mira and Gustav Berger, 1996.001.001