Ida Loewenberg


Portland-born Ida Loewenberg (1872 - 1949) grew up in a life of privilege as provided by her Bavarian immigrant father Julius, a founder of Merchants National Bank and Northwest Fire and Marine Insurance. She attended private schools both abroad and in New York. She received a degree in social work and developed a passion to serve the immigrant community in her hometown. Loewenberg was among the first Oregon Jewish women of immigrant parents to pursue a professional degree. In 1912, she joined the staff of Neighborhood House and in 1914 became its executive director, a position she held until her retirement in 1945.


The Portland Section of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) built the Neighborhood House in 1910. It followed the ideals of the national Settlement House movement, ideals that included relieving poverty through education and social services as well as through political and economic reform.  At Neighborhood House hundreds of immigrants studied English and American citizenship, learned vocational skills, received medical and dental care and socialized through one of its many athletic, social, music and literary clubs. Distinguished as one of Portland’s most successful and innovative social welfare institutions, Neighborhood House benefited from Loewenberg’s leadership. Her major accomplishments included the establishment of a Penny Bank to help children acquire the habit of thrift, founding a newspaper, The Neighborhood, and also becoming its editor-in-chief. She also added a swimming pool to the building and started Portland's first summer day camp.


Neighborhood House’s original purpose to serve South Portland Jewish immigrants soon expanded to assist other neighborhood immigrants from Italy, Greece, Sweden and other countries. These new arrivals shared the same goal: To achieve American citizenship and economic security. Nonetheless, Loewenberg ran the Neighborhood House as a Jewish institution and strongly believed that Jewish customs, scripture, and teachings should be available to any Jewish immigrant who came there. Over the years, Neighborhood House evolved and changed along with the surrounding community, but under Ida Loewenberg’s stewardship, it always remained a hub of social, political and economic activism.