Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Center for Jewish History?

The Center for Jewish History (CJH; founded 2000) is an umbrella organization which houses five Jewish cultural organizations, including the American Jewish Historical Society

Does the American Jewish Historical Society have a location in Boston? If so, can Boston collections be accessed in New York or can New York collections be accessed in Boston? 

The Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center (JHC) at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, formerly known as AJHS-Boston, now maintains all AJHS collections related to the history of Jews in the Boston and Greater New England areas. If you wish to view these collections, you must visit the Wyner Center.

How can I contact staff members? 

The AJHS staff list is located here. 

How can I access AJHS publications?

The American Jewish History journal is available online through the following resources: 

The Internet Archive and the Hathi Trust hold various issues through 1961. Project Muse holds issues from, 1996-present.

AJHS publications are also available online at JSTOR. When you register for an account, you will have an allowance of 100 free articles.

What is a Finding Aid? 

Please visit the Archival Collections page for more information about finding aids. 

How do I find out if an archival collection has been digitized and is available to view online?

If a collection has been digitized, a red “View Folder” link will appear at the top of the Finding Aid. This will bring you to our digital asset manager where you can view the files. 

If a collection has not been digitized, then you may create an account to make an appointment to visit the Center’s Lillian Goldman Reading Room and view the collection onsite, or submit a request for material to be digitized. Approval of a digitization request is contingent upon size, format, and physical condition of the originals, and will be processed in the order in which it is received. Please note that reproductions of materials are charged according to a fee schedule and are governed by U.S. Copyright rules. For more information please visit our Rights & Reproductions page.

How and where can I access AJHS’s collections?

AJHS’s archival collections can be accessed at CJH’s Lillian Goldman Reading Room during its hours of operation. While a small number of documents and collections are restricted due to confidentiality or fragility, the majority of our collections are open to the public.

How do I order a collection described as “off-site?” 

Some AJHS collections are housed off-site. Special procedures for requesting boxes from off-site collections will be listed within individual finding aids. Please visit the Archival Collections page for more information about finding aids. 

How should I handle archival material? 

Researchers visiting the Center’sLillian Goldman Reading Roomare asked to adhere to these policies.

Why are some collections closed or restricted? 

Some collections may be restricted due to confidentiality clauses, donor requirements, or conservation/preservation issues. In the case of records restricted due to fragility or conservation issues, we make every effort to photocopy or digitize materials to insure that they are accessible by the public. 

Can I view film and/or video recordings listed in your finding aids? 

Due to the technical limitations of our reading room, access to materials on film and video tape may be restricted. If you wish to view such materials, please contact in advance of your visit.  

I am looking for information on my ancestors. Can you help? 

While AJHS can provide you with basic information regarding our collections and other repositories that may help in your family history search, we cannot provide birth and death records or records from United States, local, or foreign vital records collections. We suggest that your first stop of inquiry be the Ackman and Ziff Family Genealogy Institute located at the Center for Jewish History. Their Research Guides are an excellent place to start your family history research! 

AJHS has several archival collections that may help in uncovering basic information regarding your ancestors, including Manhattan and Brooklyn orphanage records; immigration-related records from the Jewish Immigration Information Bureau (JIIB) and Baron De Hirsch Fund collections; benevolent society (Landsmanschaften) incorporation records; World War I and World War II service records; family trees and self-published family histories; and several marriage and divorce records collections. You may search our collections here using keywords such as family names, locations, and any other potential identifying information.

Do you know where my grandparents’ synagogue was located? 

Previously, AJHS has actively collected histories, newsletters, and collections related to local synagogues and various affiliated organizations. You may search through our online catalog by the name of a particular town or synagogue or organization and its location. You may also take a look at our Subject Files collection.

How can I donate a collection to the American Jewish Historical Society? 

AJHS seeks significant and representative materials which illuminate formative aspects of American Jewish life. Our collecting strategy is designed to document as comprehensively as possible the documentation of the history and impact of Jews in the Americas.

For guidelines on how to donate, please see our Donate a Collection page. 

Please note that we can only accept collections within our collecting scope. If we cannot take your collection, we will be more than happy to suggest other repositories for your materials.  

Funding for the processing of personal papers and institutional records collections donated to AJHS is always welcome. To learn more, please visit ourDonation page. 

Do you accept monetary donations to further your important work? 

We do! Your monetary donations help support our professional staff, process our collections, and make them available to researchers, as well as create exhibits and programs throughout the year for the public. As a non-profit organization we rely fully on the generosity of our Board of Directors, patrons, members, and donors like you. To learn more, please visit ourDonation page.

How do I ask a reference question? 

The easiest and fastest way to ask us a reference question is to send a reference request to Please ask only ONE question per email request and be as specific as possible. Requests are placed into a queue and answered by reference librarians at the Center of Jewish History in the order in which they are received. 

Can you help me with my research? 

We are very happy to help you started on your lay or academic research. However, please note that we have a very small staff answering hundreds of reference questions per month. As such, we can provide you with twenty minutes of reference research to get you started on your project. Should you require more in-depth assistance, please contact

We suggest that your first line of inquiry would be to conduct a search on your topic at our online catalog:

  • Visit the online catalog  
  • Enter your search term(s) in the white search box
  • Filter by partner in the drop-down menu to the right of the search box, by clicking on “American Jewish Historical Society.”  Filter the results by resource type or other terms that appear on the right-hand side of the screen.

How do I cite records located at AJHS?

To cite an archival collection, please follow the rules found under the “Citation” icon at the top of the finding aid. The typical pattern is: Title of Item, Date (if known); Collection Name; Collection Number; Box number; Folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY. To cite books, pamphlets, and articles, please consult your preferred style manual. MLA and APA are two frequently used formats. 

Why do I have to ask for permission to use AJHS items found through an online search or that I photograph myself in the reading room?

AJHS abides by U.S. copyright law. Copyright governs the use of documents, photographs, audio files, and other formats. Libraries and archives are allowed under “Fair Use” to make copies available to researchers for scholarly and educational purposes, whether staff make a photocopy or a researcher takes their own digital photographs.  

Researchers need to be aware that the intellectual content of some materials within the AJHS collections belong legally to a third party, separate from who owns the physical copy. One common example of this complexity are letters, which do not belong to the recipient (in whose collection they often reside), but to the author of the letters, who was most likely not consulted when the collection was turned over to AJHS. 

How do I apply for “Permission to Publish?” 

Please note that “Permission to Publish” and requesting permission to purchase the rights to a visual representation of one of our photographs or archival collections for a film, television, print or web publication are different requests. For purchasing the rights to use a visual representation, please see “How do I request a photograph for use in a film, documentary, newspaper, magazine, or publication (print and websites)?” below. 

If you intend to quote from the archival collections of the American Jewish Historical Society, you must request permission to publish said quotes. The vast majority of requests are granted. We require that you to tell us which materials are being quoted so that we know how our collections are being used and whether your requests must be forwarded to other individuals or organizations to obtain permission. For instance, it is stipulated in the personal papers of Rabbi Tobias Geffen that permission to publish must be obtained from his family prior to publication. You would first write to us to request permission, and we would then be able to inform you that permission needs to be obtained from his estate. We will establish contact between you and the estate in order to begin the process. 

To obtain permission to quote from collections at AJHS, please email Chair of Collections and Engagement Melanie Meyers at that you intend to publish quotes from materials and we will send you the guidelines to request permission. 

AJHS is always pleased to acquire copies of publications relating to the Jewish experience in the Americas, particularly if our primary source materials are quoted.  A donation of one copy of your work would be greatly appreciated. 

Where can I find information about local Jewish historical societies in my town/city/state? 

To locate a local Jewish historical society in your area, click here. You may also wish to consult our list of related research collections held at other institutions, found here.

How do I search for American Jewish Historical Society photographs online? 

If you are interested in searching for AJHS photographs online, follow these steps: 

  • Visit the catalog online 
  • Enter your search term(s) in the white box just above “Welcome to the Center for Jewish History” 
  • Filter by partner in the drop-down menu to the right of the search box, by clicking on “American Jewish Historical Society.”  Filter the results by resource type or other terms that appear on the right-hand side of the screen. 

Are there fees involved for using a photo or archival collection in print, the Internet, or film? 

Please visit ourFee Scheduleto learn more.

Why do I have to pay usage fees?

AJHS charges fees to cover part of the cost of maintaining historic collections in multiple formats in a secure, climate-controlled environment and rendering these records accessible to audiences worldwide. As a non-profit institution, we charge fair licensing image fees, which in turn contribute to care and preservation of photographs and audio visual collections in our archives.

Please note usage fees are separate from copyright. The customer is responsible for securing copyright permissions. For more questions and information about copyright law go to and read .

How do I request a photograph for use in a film, documentary, newspaper, magazine, or publication (print and websites)? 

If you have found an image that you want to use or need help researching potential images for use, please contact the Senior Librarian for Special Collections and Digital Projects, Megan Scauri, at