One of the Northwestern States of the United States of America; admitted into the Union in 1859.First Congregation.
The first Jewish settlers—in the main immigrants from various parts of southern Germany—came to Oregon from New York and other eastern states by way of Panama and California, in the early part of the fifth decade of the nineteenth century. They settled principally in Portland, and soon their number had increased to such an extent as to lead to the organization of Congregation Beth Israel (May 2, 1858), the founders being Leopold Mayer, M. Mansfield, b. Simon, Abraham Frank, Jacob Mayer, H. F. Bloch, Samuel Levy, D. Simon, L. Cahn, S. M. Lyon, L. Cohn, Simon Blumauer, and J. Micholup. The title of priority properly rests with the Mt. Sinai Cemetery Association, which, as its name implies, was organized in order to make possible the performance of Jewish burial-rites and interments in a Jewish cemetery, the cemetery being taken over by Congregation Beth Israel. The first Hebrew benevolent association Israel was founded less than one year thereafter (April 24, 1859) by the men who had established the congregation, and was reorganized July 6, 1862. The first ladies' Hebrew benevolent society was founded May 2, 1874, and has ever since faithfully supplemented the work of the men's society.
Soon after the admission of the territory of Oregon into the Union the Jews began to take a prominent part in municipal and state politics. Solomon Hirsch was a member of the lower and upper branches of the state legislature, president of the state senate, and United States minister to Turkey (1889-92) by appointment of President Harrison. Joseph Simon was member of the state senate for twenty years and its presiding officer during half that time. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1898, his term expiring in 1903. Oregon is one of the two states in the Union that have been honored by the appointment of one of their Jewish citizens as minister of the United States to a foreign country, and, at the same time, one of the few states in the Union that have been represented in the United States Senate by a Jew. Among those who have held public office or have in other ways helped to build up the commonwealth of Oregon are: D. Solis-Cohen, Phillip Wasserman, member of the state legislature and mayor of Portland, Bernard Goldsmith, mayor of Portland, Louis Fleischner, state treasurer, Edward Hirsch, state senator, state treasurer, and postmaster of Salem, Benjamin Selling, state senator, S. Sichel, state senator, S. H. Friendly, mayor of Eugene and regent of the state university, R. Alexander, mayor of Pendleton, I. Bergman, mayor of Astoria, Henry Blackman, state senator and United States internal revenue collector, Hyman Abraham, collector of the port of Portland, McKinley Mitchell, member of the state legislature, and Jacob Mayer, grand master of masons of the state.
For a number of years Congregation Beth Israel in Portland remained the only congregation in the state. Its first synagogue was erected Aug., 1861, at Fifth and Oak streets. Its present house of worship was erected in 1889, during the ministration of J. Bloch and the presidency of Simon Blumauer, who has been president of the congregation during more than half of the forty-seven years of its existence. It was reconstructed and freed from debt in 1903. The ministers of the congregation have been S. M. Laski, H. Bien, H. Bories, Julius Eckman, Isaac Schwab, M. May, A. Rosenspitz, J. Bloch, David Levine, and the present incumbent, Dr. Stephen S. Wise. (since 1900). Congregation Ahawei Sholom was founded in 1866 by some of the members of Beth Israel, among the founders and earliest members being N. Goodman, H. Harris, H. Mitchell, E. Elkeles, G. Wood, H. Wolf, I. Franklin, L. Cohen, and M. Simon. The following have served as ministers: Julius Eckman, A. Raeger, M. Mellis, I. Kayser, Edelman, A. Danziger, R. Farber, and the present (1904) incumbent, R. Abrahamson, who has been rabbi of the congregation for more than twenty years. In Sept., 1904, the congregation dedicated its new synagogue, erected at a cost of $25,000. Congregation Neveh Zedeck was founded by Russian immigrants in May, 1889, among its ministers being E. Marcus and J. Blaustein. Congregation Talmud Torah was founded in July, 1895, and wasconsolidated with Neveh Zedeck in 1901; ministers: M. Levine, N. Mosesohn, Mechvedovsky, and A. Abbey, the present incumbent.Institutions.
The Jews of Oregon have always associated themselves with Jewish movements of national and international scope. The Independent Order of B'nai B'rith has been represented in Oregon since April, 1866, when Oregon Lodge was organized. Lodges of later formation were North Pacific (April, 1879), Portland (May, 1891), Sabato Morais (Oct., 1897). North Pacific and Sabato Morais were consolidated in 1904 under the name Theodor Herzl Lodge. For a number of years Portland was the seat of an active branch of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, and long gave support to the Jewish Theological Seminary. In recent years Portland has been foremost among American Jewish communities in contributing to the Galveston Fund, Kishinef Fund ($5,000), and "National Tribute to the Children of Dr. Herzl." The Zionist movement is represented by four Zionist societies: Portland Zionist Society, Portland Lovers of Zion, Junior Zion League, and Portland Junior Zionists. The Council of Jewish Women has an active section in Portland, which has been instrumental in founding the Neighborhood Guild House, erected in 1904 at a cost of $10,000, with manual training, sewing, domestic science, and religious classes, and gymnasium. Among the other religious, educational, and charitable societies of the community may be mentioned the following: Ladies' Hebrew Sewing Society, Judith Montefiore Society, Sisters of Israel, Ladies' Jewish Endeavor Society, Young People's Culture Union of Temple Beth Israel, Beth Israel Altar Guild, Children's Guild of Personal Service, Jewish Boys' Endeavor Society, Jewish Free Loan Society, Concordia Club, and the Young Men's Hebrew Association (now defunct); the last-mentioned society led in a notable celebration of the centenary of the birth of Sir Moses Montefiore.
Outside of the Jewish community of Portland, the settlement of Jews in Oregon has been inconsiderable. Of late years services have been held during the high holy days at The Dalles, Astoria, Oregon City, and Baker City. The Jewish population of Oregon is about 6,000, a little more than 1 per cent of the total population of the state (1904). The "American Hebrew News" was published in Portland from 1892 to 1901; and the "Jewish Tribune" was first issued in the same city in 1903.