Embracing a Western Identity + The Jewish Oregon Story

Go West, Young Mensch

In popular memory, the Portland Jewish community of the early to mid twentieth century was divided by ethnicity. On the one hand, Reform Temple Beth Israel was where “all Jews established at that time” affiliated, according to Adelaide Lowenson Selling. In her account, that “established” group was defined as much by national origin as by class: “As far as I can recall there were no Russian, Lithuanians, they were all German Jews.” Likewise, Fannie Kenin Friedman, daughter of East European immigrants, remembered that, although she attended the temple’s Sunday school, she was definitely regarded as coming “from the wrong side of the tracks,” due to her ethnic and class background.” Miriam Aiken, Who came of age in the Beth Israel community in the 1910s, noted that potential suitors “were not supposed to be any other than a German background,” and that when East Europeans did begin to join Beth Israel, they were welcomed “maybe with one arm, but not with both.” - Ellen Eisenberg

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