The Washington State Jewish Archives (WSJA) is the premier collection documenting the Jewish experience in Washington State. It reflects this unique Jewish community in the far West, characterized by its large Sephardic population. The WSJA contains 900 collections of organizational records and personal papers, photographs, and oral histories:
- Organizational records include by-laws, minutes, reports, historical summaries, subject files, newsletters and other publications from Synagogues and Jewish organizations throughout the state.
- Personal papers constitute correspondence, memoirs, family histories, diaries, and other materials which document the Jewish community from the perspective of an individual or family.
- Photograph collection includes over 4000 photographs, dating back to 1890, which depict families, businesses, religious and social life within the community.
- Oral Histories have recorded the words, songs, and stories of the Jewish community since 1968.
(Image: When Beth Israel Synagogue was built in 1930 in Aberdeen, it was the only Jewish institution between Portland and Tacoma, UW neg. 1033)
History of Collection
The Washington State Jewish Archives was born in 1968 when Elsa Levinson, chairwoman of the Women's Division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, proposed a project with the Manuscripts and University Archives Division (now Special Collections) of the UW Libraries to collect primary source materials documenting the Jewish community. The collaborative project focused on conducting oral history interviews with pioneer and long-time members of Seattle's Jewish community. It soon expanded to collect manuscript and photographic materials as well. In 1978, Ancestry and Achievement: An Exhibit of the Early Beginnings of the Seattle Jewish Community was held at Suzzallo Library to showcase the first decade of collecting. The exhibit received great response from the Jewish community. Donations to the collection increased, reflecting not only the community in Seattle but Jewish communities throughout Washington State.
As a corollary to the Jewish History Project, the Washington State Jewish Historical Society (WSJHS) was established in 1980 to promote, develop, and support interest in and study of the history of Jewish communities in Washington State. The WSJHS Archives committee has been instrumental in collecting materials and providing a part-time archivist to develop the collection while UW Special Collections assumes the custodianship of the materials, preserving and managing them along with its other collections. Today, the Washington State Jewish Archives stands as a collaboration between the WSJHS and the UW Special Collections. It is the seminal collection documenting the Jewish experience in Washington State.
Washington State Jewish Historical Society
The Washington State Jewish Historical Society promotes interest in and knowledge of the life, history, and culture of the Jewish people and communities of the State of Washington.
The Society is dedicated to discovering, preserving, and disseminating the history of the Jews of Washington State. This unique history is shared through publications, exhibits, displays, speakers, and tours.