“A Year in the Life: The Oregon Jewish Immigrant Experience”
The Oregon Jewish Museum (OJM) is pleased to offer, at no cost, a powerful new education enrichment program for 3rd-5th grade classrooms. This program will help children meet Oregon State Benchmarks for learning in a variety of areas, including social studies, history, English, art, math, and geography.
At the OJM, we strive to educate all Oregonians about the rich and long-established history of the Jews who have made the Pacific Northwest their home. We believe that this mission is of the highest importance, not just for the sake of preserving one group’s unique cultural heritage, but also to retain and reinterpret the many ways in which we are all connected. We are committed to educating our visitors, especially young people, about our shared history in order to help foster understanding and acceptance.
In using this trunk, students learn that the first Jews came to Oregon in the 1850s. These immigrants chose Oregon for many of 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. The program, housed in a replica steamer trunk, is titled “A Year in the Life: The Oregon Jewish Immigrant Experience.” The central feature of the program is the story of 19-year-old Chaim's first year in the United States, with all its attendant challenges and new adventures. The fictional story, which takes place in 1904, incorporates many of the typical experiences of an eastern European immigrant of that era.
Chaim’s story is supported by an extensive teacher’s guide, 6 activities (and all of the lesson plans, worksheets, and supplemental materials necessary to teach them), and a dynamic collection of era-specific materials. These materials – more than 30 objects, 25 images, and 10 historical documents – provide students with a hands-on opportunity to connect with an immigrant’s life.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- and 3-dimensional objects chosen to bring that theme to life.
We believe that the real power of the trunk is in its universal appeal. The challenges facing our fictional character Chaim were the universal struggles of most immigrants to the United States. Children explore these obstacles – learning English, finding a job, adapting to American culture. They are posed with the difficult universal questions of identity and belonging – how much to assimilate? What to retain? How to make a new life in a foreign country? And so while the trunk does aim to impart a specific history, it has also been designed to highlight the similarities of all our stories as Americans.