Announcing the AJHS Heritage Campaign

December 15, 2022
by Gemma Birnbaum

A New Initiative to Make Tens of Thousands of Archival Images Available Online 

As we approach Chanukah and the end of the year, I think about light – illumination – and what, conceptually, it means in all facets of life. Here at the American Jewish Historical Society, illumination is at the core of our mission, and light is and will continue to be a powerful symbol of our identity and purpose. We illuminate our history, and maintain its meaning and resonance.

So it is fitting, that now, one year after the launch of our 378 Campaign to digitize and bring into the light 37,800 pages of archived history, we can tell you that you did it! Thanks to you and your support over the last year, we have digitized over 35,000 pages! By the end of 2022, not only will we have exceeded our goal in page numbers, but we have been able to conduct quality control on these digitized materials and update our finding aids.

We have digitized material from dozens of collections, including over 50 of our more fragile collections in their entirety. Included in their number are many of the items donated by famed collector and early AJHS member A.S.W. Rosenbach. Rosenbach’s printed ephemera, such as sermons, declarations, and handbills, are some of the first materials accepted into the collection more than a hundred years ago. Due to the age and fragility of this collection, it can only be viewed onsite with special handling, but now, it can be accessed digitally.

I am thrilled to include below some examples of digitized materials from this collection! Click on the images to view the documents more closely (links will open in new tab). 

The 378 Campaign has also given us the opportunity to evaluate current access to our family history materials. Its success has inspired us to maximize our efforts, and thanks to some beneficial partnerships, we now have tens of thousands pages from our most heavily used genealogical collections–including the Industrial Removal Office, the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, and the National Jewish Welfare Board–digitized and ready for use, free of charge.

But we still need your help. While the materials are digitized, we still need to add them to our Digital Asset Management system, and prep them for access and discovery. So, in 2023, we are launching the Heritage Campaign, to raise money to support the ingest, management, and digital preservation of at least 50,000 images and documents. Our goal is to raise $50,000. If you’d like to help us achieve this goal, visit our Support AJHS page for more information on how to donate.

We hope you will explore the records as we add them to our website. You are all stakeholders in the American Jewish past and future, and, on behalf of all of us here, our board, and all of our users, I can’t overstate our gratitude for your generosity.

With best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year,

Gemma Birnbaum
Executive Director, AJHS

Support the Heritage Campaign

Support our efforts to make tens of thousands of archival pages available to scholars, students, and learners of all ages through our 2023 Heritage Campaign.