Between brewery tours, shopping, and museums, take time to visit these sites of particular Jewish — and general — interest.
With the largest collection of Jewish artifacts in the Pacific Northwest and an impressive archive of historical photos, documents, and sound recordings, the museum anchors the city’s Jewish community. The permanent collection features a mix of the sacred and secular — Kiddush cups, menorahs, vintage photos, and household items spanning the 1860s to the present. An exhibit on photojournalist Ruth Graber opens March 13th. 1953 NW Kearney St., 503-226-3600
A few blocks south of the museum, a Byzantine-inspired dome soars over the magnificent sanctuary of Congregation Beth Israel, Oregon’s oldest and most prominent congregation. Rabbi Stephen S. Wise presided here briefly at the turn of the 20th century — but the original synagogue, built in 1859, burned down in 1923. The splendid circa-1928 brick-and-sandstone structure is on the National Register of Historic Places. 1972 NW Flanders St.
For a change of cultural pace, visit Lan Su Chinese Garden, an acre of tranquility in Old Town Chinatown. What at first sight appears to be a series of sparsely planted, indoor-outdoor “rooms” unfolds into a richly symbolic tapestry of plants, water, and architecture. Lan Su is patterned on a Ming dynasty scholar’s garden, and with the fragrance of jasmine, gardenia, and mock orange wafting through the courtyards, it’s easy to imagine a wizened scribe inking a scroll at his lacquered desk. 239 NW Everett St.
Amid the many attractions of Washington Park’s 160 hilly acres overlooking downtown (gardens, zoo, children’s museum, trails, and woodlands), it’s easy to miss the hauntingly beautiful Oregon Holocaust Memorial. Bronze sculptures of a suitcase and pair of children’s shoes arrest the eye; a cobbled walkway leads to a wall engraved with names of people murdered in the camps, along with the names of relatives who survived and made their homes in Oregon. SW Washington Way and Wright Ave. NE
It says a lot about Portland that one of its prime attractions is an independent bookstore. Powell’s City of Books has sprouted four offshoots spread around the city — but the flagship store at the edge of downtown is the biggest (over a million new and used volumes) and most atmospheric. Grab a store map and navigate your way to the immense Judaica and Holocaust section on the second floor. 1005 W Burnside St.
Head south to satisfy your cravings for everything from matzoh ball soup to sabich at these Rose City standouts.
From humble beginnings in pastrami, this sprawling, bright downtown deli now covers just about any craving for New York–style Jewish food you could dream of, including platters of chopped liver, matzoh ball soup, and noodle kugel. 1038 SW Stark St., 503-222-3354
Described by the New York Times in 2011 as “one of the truly great New York delis outside the five boroughs,” it offers a standard deli menu but with the local additions of vegetarian pastrami and microbrews on tap. 628 NW 23rd Ave., 503-242-0055
Portland’s only certified kosher dairy restaurant is this café located inside the Mittleman JCC. Baked goods, seasonal soups, salads, sandwiches, and even pizza populate the daily menu. 6651 SW Capitol Hwy., 503-535-3630
Opened by an Israeli and an American, this mini-chain of food carts serves a variety of Middle Eastern sandwiches and salads, the highlight being sabich (eggplant and egg pita) that will make anyone who has traveled in Israel tingle with nostalgia. SW 10th between Alder and Washington, 503-810-0671
Those in search of a unique, higher-end Middle Eastern food experience should stop here for a feast of mezzes featuring s’hug, dukkah, feta, and tahini, and mains like chreime, a Jewish fish stew from Tripoli. 333 NW 13th Ave., 503-222-0906
In a panel put on by the local paper Willamette Week, five local rabbis chose these as the best bagels in town — and declared Bowery’s the only real version. While the shop is not certified kosher, the bagels themselves are — and it even offers a “parvesean” bagel. 310 NW Broadway, 503-227-6674
From Pastrami to Tacos
The man who helped revive Jewish deli in Portland now focuses on bringing authentic Mexican to the Northwest.
Nick Zukin was at the forefront of the Jewish deli revival trend when he opened Kenny & Zuke’s Delicatessen in downtown Portland. But he has since made an about-face and opened a taco shop called Mi Mero Mole. “Mexican food was as much my food as pizza is for a New Yorker, even one who’s not Italian,” Zukin says. Zukin’s heritage is Jewish and he’s the author of The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home.
Even in his transition from pastrami and rye to tortillas and salsa, there is continuity in Zukin’s approach to food: an intense commitment to research, testing, and perfection. (Perhaps it’s a holdover from his previous career as a computer programmer.) But his motivations were different with each restaurant. “With Kenny & Zuke’s, I felt less bound by tradition.” Jewish deli had become stale, so the goal was to reinvigorate it. With Mi Mero Mole, the goal changed to re-creating the flavors of a place he loved and introducing them to diners.
Zukin’s love for Mexican food came from a childhood eating combo platters and cheese enchiladas in California and Oregon, but a trip to Mexico City introduced him to guisados, the stews that he made the backbone of the Mi Mero Mole menu, chosen to give people a taste of Mexican home cooking at an affordable price. The niche dishes bring accusations of a lack of authenticity from Americans and Mexicans from other parts of Mexico — a change from Kenny & Zuke’s, where customers didn’t care if it tasted like what they remembered, as long as it tasted good. “But with guisados,” he says, “every cook has their own variation.”
In town for Shabbat? Need a place to say Kaddish? Meet prayerful Portlanders at one of the many synagogues in town.
The huge Conservative congregation holds Kabbalat Shabbat and Shabbat morning services every week as well as daily morning minyans. 2900 SW Peaceful Ln., 503-246-8831
The Reform congregation holds Kabbalat Shabbat and Shabbat morning services. 1972 NW Flanders St., 503-222-1069
Portland’s Sephardic synagogue, with Turkish and Rhodesli customs, will feel like home to Seattle Sephardic visitors. 3225 SW Barbur Blvd, 503-227-0010
The Ashkenazi Orthodox shul is located within the eruv and welcomes all Jews to daily minyans and Shabbat services. 6698 SW Capitol Hwy., 503-222-1239