A walk in Southern Portland with Polina Olsen, composer of ‘Stories from Jewish Portland’


A walk in Southern Portland with Polina Olsen, composer of ‘Stories from Jewish Portland’

Polina Olsen appears at a Lair Hill intersection and points towards the web site where a Jewish bride that is mail-order Ukraine once lived together with her spouse, a Jewish farmer from Southern Dakota.

They lived maybe not too much from the barn that housed the horses of the numerous junk that is jewish whom lived and plied their trade when you look at the community. These very early recyclers would pile their wagons high with rags and containers and other things they might find, then offer them into the junk dealers whom lined Front Avenue.

Southern Portland’s populace “was one-third Jewish, one-third Italian and one-third everyone else else,” states Olsen, who’s written four publications concerning the reputation for a nearby. Her latest, “

Before 1900, Olsen describes, there have been few, if any, Jews in Southern Portland. But by 1920, there were about 6,000. Numerous were delivered right right here by the Industrial Removal Organization, a charity that helped Jews leave the slum conditions of Manhattan’s Lower East Side in ny.

When they reached Southern Portland — about 1 1/2 square miles stretching from approximately Southwest Hall Street and ukrainian brides First Avenue within the north to Corbett Avenue between Lowell and Bancroft roads when you look at the south — they put up synagogues, Hebrew schools, clinics, social solution agencies and hundreds of companies.

Olsen is a software that is retired whom relocated to Oregon through the East Coast in 1977. She writes history column, searching straight Back, for the

and in addition leads walking trips of Southwest Portland. She now spends her time as being a researcher and author. “I think all of this has something related to the reality that we never ever asked my four immigrant grandparents such a thing – it never ever happened in my opinion. Later on, after having examined Jewish folklore at the University of Oregon, we felt an awful feeling of loss. It’s a real method when trying to protect memories before it is too late. It is unimportant that i did son’t here grow up. I find out about my grand-parents. whenever I find out about these individuals”

Certainly one of Olsen’s key sources had been Gussie Reinhardt. “I came across her whenever she was just 96. She had been the grande dame of this Jewish community,” says Olsen, incorporating that Reinhardt had a phenomenal memory. “I would personally always check every thing she told me into the town directories and she was always bang on.”

Make the tale of Minnie Berg, as an example. She came to be in Canada in 1911 and lived in the past in a flat building regarding the part of Southwest Meade and 2nd Avenue.

Her dad owned one of several Southern Portland concert halls and she would sing combined with organist who accompanied the films that are silent. Later on she had been spotted with a talent scout at Kelly’s Beer Parlour downtown. He had been a numerologist who suggested that she be changed by her name to one thing luckier. Their recommendation? Mona Paulee, following the board game, that has been highly popular at that time. She proceeded to become a mezzo-soprano in the Metropolitan Opera.

A block from Mona Paulee’s youth house is exactly what is currently the Cedarwood Waldorf class. “This ended up being Neighborhood House,” Olsen claims, started as a sewing school in 1897 by the National Council of Jewish ladies. They relocated into this grand building that is new 3030 S.W. 2nd Ave. in 1910.

“this is one’s heart regarding the community,” Olsen says. It absolutely was where newly appeared immigrants went along to learn English, where moms took children into the center, where junk peddlers held their relationship conferences and where in actuality the community kids that are jewish to kindergarten and soon after, Hebrew college following the college time had been over.

“Tales from Jewish Portland”

and Polina Olsen’s other publications can be obtained at Powells, Broadway Books, Annie Blooms, Everything Jewish as well as the Multnomah County Library.

As families became more affluent, quite a few relocated off to Laurelhurst or Irvington. After which within the late ’50s and very early ’60s, a few highway tasks and Portland’s first metropolitan renewal program slice the community to shreds.

“The Portland Development Commission declared it a neighborhood that is blighted ” Olsen claims, and razed 54 blocks. Various other obstructs in just what happens to be Lair Hill would have been laid also to waste or even for the efforts of Gussie Reinhardt, whom for four years led a committee to cease the destruction.

Olsen points out two victorians that are beautiful First Avenue which can be nevertheless standing. Farther North, Mosler’s Bagel Shop and several other houses and companies are not therefore fortunate.

“Gussie’s daughter told me that their bagels were much better than ny bagels, but his recipe passed away with him. He didn’t wish their kiddies to go fully into the bakery company.”

By the 1960s most families that are jewish relocated far from Southern Portland to communities farther west, Olsen states. The variety of people who was raised within the old community are dwindling, but Olsen is preserving their memories.

“People don’t get,” she says, “how interesting their lives that are own.”

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