Traveling Programs

A Year in the Life: The Oregon Jewish Immigrant Experience

The OJMCHE is pleased to offer, at no cost, a powerful enrichment program for 3rd-5th grade classrooms. This program satisfies Oregon State Benchmarks for learning in a variety of areas, including social studies, history, English, art, math, and geography.

Students learn that the first Jews came to Oregon in the 1850s. These immigrants chose Oregon for the same reasons other immigrant groups did – they believed that land, resources, opportunities, and freedoms would be abundantly available to them in the lush Northwest. Since that time of immigration and migration, Jews have remained a thriving part of Oregon’s population.

What’s Inside?
A Year in the Life: The Oregon Jewish Immigrant Experience is housed entirely in a replica steamer trunk. We focus on the story of 19-year-old Chaim, a fictional account of his first year in the United States, with all its attendant challenges and new adventures. Set in 1904, we follow Chaim’s adventures through the months, looking to many of the typical experiences of an eastern European immigrant of that era.

An extensive teacher’s guide, suggested student activities, and a dynamic collection of era-specific archive materials support A Year in the Life. These materials, comprising more than 30 objects, 25 images, and 10 historical documents, provide students with a hands-on opportunity to connect with an immigrant’s life. Each month has been designed to highlight a different facet of the historical immigrant experience, and is pared with a collection of 2-D and 3-D objects chosen to bring that theme to life.

The challenges facing our fictional character Chaim mirror the struggles of many immigrants to the United States. Students explore these obstacles – learning English, finding a job, adapting to American culture – and are posed with the difficult universal questions of identity and belonging. How much to acculturate? What do we retain? How to make a new life in a foreign country?

We believe that the real power of the trunk is in its universal appeal. While it does impart a specific story of a Jewish immigrant, Chaim’s story highlights the similarities of our collective stories as Americans.

To schedule a trunk email