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Berman Jewish Archives

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History

The history of the Upper Midwest Jewish Archives began in 1984 with the establishment of the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest (JHSUM). A group of Jewish community members, concerned about preserving the stories of the earliest Jewish settlers in the Midwest, began collecting materials from individuals and local Jewish organizations who donated their materials. Located at the Sabes Jewish Community Center in St. Louis Park, JHSUM hosted events, mounted exhibits, published journals, as well as collected archival materials. In 2001, former Governor Elmer L. Andersen extended an invitation to JHSUM to place parts of its collections with the University of Minnesota Libraries.

In 2002, JHSUM founders Nathan and Theresa Berman created an endowment for portions of the collections to reside at the University of Minnesota Libraries, and the archives were named the Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives as a permanent memorial to their vision. From 2002 to 2012, only a portion of JHSUM’s collections resided at the University. Finally, in 2012 the remaining portions of the collections were donated by JHSUM in perpetuity to the University. The materials that make up the Upper Midwest Jewish Archives serve as a valuable resource for historical research, exhibitions, and public programming.

The Upper Midwest Jewish Archives continues to work together with the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest in programming, outreach, and research with local Jewish communities.

Collection Highlights

Collections in the Upper Midwest Jewish Archives are open to the public and are accessible at Elmer L. Andersen Library as part of the Archives and Special Collections at the University of Minnesota Libraries. The unique collections in the Upper Midwest Jewish Archives are a valuable resource for anyone interested in understanding the American Jewish experience from a midwestern perspective.

The collections document the lives of Upper Midwest Jewish communities from the mid-19th century to the present. This includes the everyday lives of families, Jewish-run businesses, religious communities, and advocacy organizations. Materials include books, institutional administrative records, synagogue records, rabbi papers, family papers, correspondence, personal publications, scrapbooks, photographs, moving images, and more.

Mount Zion Temple

Founded in 1856 by eight German Jewish families, Mount Zion Temple was the very first Jewish congregation in Minnesota. Located in St. Paul along Summit Avenue, the reform congregation continues to be a leader in the local Jewish community. The collection includes materials related to the synagogue building, completed in 1954 by internationally recognized architect Erich Mendelsohn. Details

Jewish Community Relations Council

The collection for the Jewish Community Relations Council, numbering over 100 boxes, documents the long history of the organization’s fight against antisemitism in Minnesota and the Dakotas. The JCRC serves as the public affairs voice for the local Jewish community, fighting prejudice, providing Holocaust education, and promoting social justice while building bridges across communities. Details

Minnesota’s Synagogues Map Project

In 1856, a group of German Jews established the first synagogue in Saint Paul, two years before Minnesota would receive statehood. As the population of Minnesota grew, more Jewish families immigrated to the Upper Midwest and established places of worship. These synagogues changed locations often, opened and closed, merged and broke away. This project aims to map the locations of synagogues and their corresponding cemeteries throughout Minnesota from 1856 to the present. View the map

American Jewish World Newspaper

Digitizing the American Jewish World newspaper. The American Jewish World is a weekly Minnesota newspaper dating back to 1915 that has covered decades of local, national, and international events as they related to the local Jewish communities.  The volumes have been digitized and can be viewed and searched on UMedia.

Jewish Historical Project of North Dakota

The Jewish Historical Project of North Dakota, headed by Toba Geller in the 1970s, collected the histories of various Jewish families throughout North Dakota, with the aim to eventually publish a book. While that publication was never realized, this collection houses many first-hand accounts of Jewish family homesteading in North Dakota. Details

Photo Collection

Our extensive photograph collection captures families, synagogues, organizations, businesses, buildings, Jewish rituals, and everyday life of Jews throughout Minnesota, North and South Dakota. A selection of the collection has also been digitized and can be found online.

Dr. Linda Mack Schloff Research Award Fund

Funds of up to $1,400 are available for researchers looking to use the materials of the Upper Midwest Jewish Archives. This scholarship, provided via the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest (JHSUM), allows visiting scholars assistance in funding for research at the Elmer L. Andersen Library. Funds may be used for transportation, lodging, meals, research costs, and other incidental expenses. The fellowship is available for a single, continuous research trip. To be eligible, scholars will reside outside the Twin Cities metropolitan region. Award recipients are chosen and funds are distributed by JHSUM. The Dr. Linda Mack Schloff Research Award Fund is named for JHSUM’s former long-time director who was instrumental in organizing and managing the archives.

For more information on how to apply, visit the Fund Your Research page

Programming

Each academic year, Archives and Special Collections at the University of Minnesota hosts a First Fridays lecture series, showcasing materials that we have in the collection. Below are recorded presentations of lectures featuring the Upper Midwest Jewish Archives.

The Flying Jewish Chaplain, First Fridays May 2021

Just A Dogs, First Fridays December 2019

The Miracle of McKinley, First Fridays November 2018

Our Partnership with AJL

The Upper Midwest Jewish Archives first connected with AJL for the 2020 Annual Conference, as archivist Kate Dietrick spoke about “Archives Old and New.” Being a Jewish archival collection within a University setting provides unique challenges as the collection grows, and during the AJL conference panel, for the first time, UMJA made connections with similar institutions. AJL provided that space to make those connections.

Serving Our Community

Since its beginning, this collection has been built by and supported by the local Jewish community. When the archives moved to the University of Minnesota, it allowed for greater audience on a larger stage. While we maintain connections within the local Jewish community, the archives are for everyone. We are free and open to the public, and anyone is invited to come and use our unique materials.

Plans for the Future

The Upper Midwest Jewish Archives is supported by an endowment from Nathan and Theresa Berman, but the funds only cover part-time staff. As we look to fundraise to support a full-time position, we look to expand the outreach, research capabilities, and educational

Kate Dietrick, Archivist

Kate Dietrick, Archivist
Upper Midwest Jewish Archives at the University of Minnesota

Kate Dietrick has been the Archivist for the Upper Midwest Jewish Archives at the University of Minnesota since March 2013. Prior to her time in Minnesota she lived in New York and worked in the archives at the Whitney Museum of American Arts and with the Kress Foundation. She has her Masters of Information and Library Science from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, with certificates in archives and museum libraries, and a Bachelor of Arts in History and Women’s Studies from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.

Contact Us

Tours & Appointments

Support Our Work

Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries
222 21st Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55455
umja@umn.edu
612-625-0192
lib.umn.edu/umja

Kate Dietrick, Archivist
diet0134@umn.edu

 

Rotating exhibits showcasing materials from all of Archives and Special Collections are open to the public during our operating hours. Exhibit schedules can be found here. Tours of the building and storage space are periodically scheduled. Appointments are required for the reading room to view materials from the collections. To set an appointment or discuss a potential tour, please email umja@umn.edu.

While the Upper Midwest Jewish Archives has grown in size, use, and visibility in the past decade since the collection came to the University of Minnesota Libraries, there is still so much more that could be done. Currently, the Berman Fund only supports an archivist at 40% time, limiting their ability to fully support the growth of the collection and realize the vision of the collection’s founders. Annual distribution of a $2.5 million Berman Fund endowment will support salary and benefits of a full-time archivist for the Upper Midwest Jewish Archives collection in perpetuity.

To learn more about supporting the Upper Midwest Jewish Archives, visit our Berman Fund page.

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