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Jewish Historical Society completes transfer of archives to U of M Libraries

March 13, 2013

The Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest (JHSUM) has completed the transfer of all of its historical documents and media collections to the University of Minnesota Libraries.

In 2002, JHSUM founders Nathan and Theresa Berman created a $500,000 endowment for the collections at the University’s Andersen Library, and the archives were named for them as a permanent memorial to their vision. At the time, about half of the collection was moved to the University. Recently, the remaining half was transferred, putting in one place a major research collection on Jewish history, communities, religion, and culture in the Upper Midwest.

The U of M Libraries has hired archivist Katherine Dietrick to oversee the JHSUM collection. Dietrick most recently was an assistant archivist at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and an archivist at the Samuel H. Kress Foundation in New York City.

Moving the rest of the collection to the U represents a "measure of our maturity as a historical society and the next step in our evolution," said Katherine Tane, Executive Director of the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest. "Our first 28 years have been spent creating one of the finest archives of local Jewish History in the country. Securing a permanent home for our archival materials allows JHSUM to focus on interpretation, education and programming, along with more public displays of our unique materials."

"The JHSUM archives form a rich collection documenting the history and culture of the Jewish community in the Upper Midwest region," said Linnea Anderson, Interim Archivist of the Social Welfare History Archives at the University of Minnesota Libraries. She said that the archives chronicle the activities of Jews creating and building ethnic/religious communities, defending Israel and Soviet Jewry, and advocating for social welfare and social justice issues in the larger community.

The reunited collections will now comprise more than 1,000 cubic feet of material and will form a valuable resource for historical research, exhibitions, and public programming. The combined collections included the records of the St. Paul and Minneapolis Jewish Federations, Community Centers, Talmud Torahs, the Jewish Vocational Service, Jewish Community Relations Council, Hillel, as well as various synagogue records, and records of the Minnesota Rabbinical Association and women's organizations such as Hadassah, National Council of Jewish Women, and Mount Sinai Hospital Women's Auxiliary.

In addition, they contain a wealth of material collected by individuals about early Jewish settlement and life in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Duluth; out-state Minnesota and North and South Dakota. The collections also include family papers, club and association materials and ephemera, personal narratives of Jewish life in the Upper Midwest, materials documenting family owned businesses in the Jewish community, as well as books and publications.

"Jews make up less than one percent of Minnesota’s population, yet the Jewish community has made a much greater impact in the region than our numbers would lead one to believe," said Jamie Heilicher, President of the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest. "To have our story housed shoulder-to-shoulder with other holdings of such a great Minnesota institution as the University is a phenomenal testament to the work of our founders."

The Society’s collections are available for personal and scholarly research as well as educational use and are an invaluable resource for anyone interested in understanding the American Jewish experience from a Midwestern perspective.

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