Emma's Sitting Room

Explore this exhibit online through an interactive storybook.

On View: December 4, 2019 to December 31, 2022
Location: Blavatnik Theatre

This exhibit situates the genesis of the New Colossus poem in a brownstone sitting room, where the author, Emma Lazarus, immersed herself in the political & social debates and literature of the day.  A digital interactive storybook will take you though her life, work and activism, and features the work of young poets inspired by her legacy. 

Russ & Daughters: An Appetizing Story

4 Generations, 105 Years: Making, Serving, & Preserving History

On view: September 12, 2019 to July 1, 2020

The American Jewish Historical Society announces a new exhibit “Russ & Daughters: An Appetizing Story”

Russ & Daughters regulars know to take a number immediately upon entering the store. That ticket is the order imposed on what could otherwise become, very quickly, a chaotic mass of hungry and demanding customers. The ticket promises a multi-sensory experience—not just the sight of the fish, bagels, dried fruit, babka, and halvah, but the briny, smoky smells one inhales even before any food hits the tongue. The ticket also opens the door to conversation and community.

Most archives focus on paper as a form of transmission: AJHS alone has 30 million pages of documents. But a store, led by four overlapping generations of a family, is also a vessel of history, capturing century-old practices. The Russ family members relay stories of herring sellers and customers for more than a century. Knowing how to slice lox thin is important; just as important is knowing when to innovate, what to preserve, and staying attuned to customers past, present and future.


When The Golden Door Closed, They Carried The Torch

Advocacy in the Age of Immigration Restriction
An exhibit exploring how Jewish individuals and organizations continued to help immigrants in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.

On View: April 1, 2019 to September 1, 2019

When Emma Lazarus, 5th generation American, wrote the New Colossus in 1883, she knew that not all Americans accepted the idea of Lady Liberty as a “Mother of Exiles” who embraced the “tired…poor… huddled masses.” Yet Lazarus’s belief in a country strengthened by those “yearning to breathe free” motivated her to write on behalf of immigrants and a progressive and welcoming America. For a period of over forty years, when rhetoric exhorting immigration restriction dominated the political discourse, American Jewish individuals and organizations struggled to keep the lamp lifted. And as world events accelerated the urgency of finding a refuge for Jews in particular, they formed new committees and organizations. After the war, efforts shifted to resettlement of refugees and displaced persons, as the general immigration restrictions would not be lifted until the 1960’s. These stories from the AJHS archive show how even in a period where the dominant rhetoric was that of “no immigration,” immigrant rights remained critical to the ambitions of many American Jewish organizations, and to their ultimate sense of American identity. They recognized the bonds of the shared immigrant and refugee experience. They carried the torch.

This exhibition is co-sponsored with the Center for Jewish History.

Rewind: Voices of the Past Advising the Future

An exhibition exploring the United Jewish Appeal-Federation Oral History collection.
Sample Exhibit Recordings

On view: November 13, 2018 to May 31, 2019

In 1981, Nicki Newman Tanner and her team set out to collect the stories of the men and women who had shaped the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies (Federation), and the merger of the two organizations. She quickly realized that those she interviewed had great insight on major changes of the time—women assuming leadership roles, increased Eastern European Jewish and German Jewish collaboration, as well as the city’s general social problems. Within twenty years, Tanner and her team had logged thousands of interview hours, produced hundreds of thousands of pages of transcripts, and left a legacy of more than 250 in-depth interviews.

Follow quotations from the interviews in the exhibit and listen to accompanying audio clips on this Instagram page

The transcripts and audio recordings can be accessed in full here. The finding aid for the collection can be found here.

Our History Is Your History: Treasures From The American Jewish Historical Society

A Rotating Exhibit of the AJHS Permanent Collection

Second Rotation on view: November 8, 2017 to December 31, 2018

This ongoing exhibit provides an opportunity to both see our striking and diverse cross-section of American Jewish archives first-hand and gain a deeper understanding of our cultural heritage and American Jewish history. Theme based, this exhibit rotates several times a year and currently showcases some of our most cherished documents, objects, and photographs focusing on the following subjects: the Arts, Summer Camp, Public Service, Tools of the Trades, and Sports.

1917: How One Year Changed The World

On view: September 8, 2017 to December 29, 2017

For more information, please visit www.ajhs.org/1917.

1917: How One Year Changed the World looks back 100 years to explore how three key events of 1917—America’s entry into World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the issuing of the Balfour Declaration, in which Great Britain indicated support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine—brought about political, cultural, and social changes that dramatically reshaped the United States’ role in the world and provoked its most stringent immigration quotas to date.

The exhibition examines this consequential year through the eyes of American Jews, who experienced these events both as Americans and as part of an international diaspora community.

UJA Federation of New York: The First Century

In Partnership with UJA-Federation of New York

On view: March 8, 2017 to May 31, 2017

UJA Federation of New York: The First Century explores the UJA Federation of New York’s 100 year history (1917 - 2017) of achievement and impact – a period spanning some of the most major events in Jewish history, from the large wave of Jewish immigration to the U.S. in the early 1900s, World War I, the Great Depression, World War II and the Holocaust, to the creation of the State of Israel, the Six Day War and Yom Kippur War, Ethiopian and Soviet Jewry, the fiscal crisis in New York, 9/11, and Hurricane Sandy, among others.

The exhibit features a timeline of significant moments, and needs and crises, along with UJA-Federation of New York’s respective response – created by the AJHS with materials from UJA’s collection that it archived.

Bubby: Kosher Love Advice in Unkosher Times

On view: February 15, 2017 to February 27, 2017

Bubby: Kosher Love Advice in Unkosher Times is a fashion photo series that features real bubbies imparting love and life advice. Shot by Los Angeles-based photographer Jackson Davis, the series celebrates the beauty and wisdom that these fashionable bubbies have gained throughout their Jewish life experience.  So come schmooze, get inspired and find out if old world love and romance still exists during these unkosher times. The photo series is a collaboration between fashion brand Unkosher Market and Bubby, a Jewish-inspired matchmaking app. 

Black Panther Got Loose from the Bronx Zoo

Tapestry and video work by Ido Michaeli

On view: February 2, 2017 to April 1, 2017

In honor of Black History Month, the 50th anniversary of the Black Panthers Movement and the 45th anniversary of the Mizrahi Black Panthers Movement, AJHS is proud to present Ido Michaeli’s new work, “Black Panther Got Loose from the Bronx Zoo.”

Based on an article published in the New York Times in 1902, Black Panther Got Loose tells the story of a panther who escaped from the Bronx Zoo and, after struggling with the police, dived into the Bronx River, seeking to swim to his freedom. Michaeli’s work will consist of an 8ft x 8ft wool handwoven tapestry (gobelin) and a 10-minute-long video reviewing the story behind this project and its process of making.

The scene takes place at noon in the urban space of the Bronx, showing the police trying to hunt down the panther, and the panic of passersbys. The Bronx was commonly called “the Jewish Borough” back then. The Bronx Park is also notorious for caging Ota Benga in 1906. An allegory for joint and separate struggles for justice and a reminder of the legacies of the Black Panthers movement in the US and its influence on the Mizrahi Black Panther movement in Palestine/Israel, the work alludes to issues of police brutality, gentrification, and resistance, and to questions of historical narratives, political identification, flight, displacement, refuge, and home, more broadly.

Opening night will feature poetry performances in English, Hebrew, and Arabic commenting on Michaeli’s work, commemorating the anniversaries of the Black Panther movements, and celebrating the circulation of Black Panther imagery across movements globally.

The Exhibition will be up until April 1st 2017. 

Holy Trash: My Genizah

On view: September 22, 2016 to December 1, 2016

According to Solomon Schechter, Genizah is “the storeroom or depository in a synagogue a cemetery in which worn-out and heretical or disgraced Hebrew books or papers are placed. In medieval times…their sanctity and consequent claim to preservation were held to depend on their containing the "names" of God.” What’s between the Genizah and today’s Jewish archive?

Holy Trash: My Genizah is a new project by fine arts and performance artist Rachel Libeskind created especially for the AJHS exhibition space in the great hall of the Center for Jewish History. My Genizah presents a contemporary interpretation of the traditional Genizah. Crafted with texts and objects formerly belonging to the AJHS collections, My Genizah is a hardedge, personal commentary on the making of the Jewish archive from the documents of the Genizah, and on today’s archival procedures of sorting, cataloguing, and organizing history.

Libeskind will perform her own original piece on opening night.

Our History Is Your History: Treasures From The American Jewish Historical Society

A Rotating Exhibit of the AJHS Permanent Collection

First Rotation on view: August 1, 2016 to February 28, 2017

This newly installed ongoing exhibit provides an opportunity to both see our striking and diverse cross-section of American Jewish archives first-hand and gain a deeper understanding of our cultural heritage and American Jewish history. Theme based, this exhibit will rotate several times a year and currently showcases some of our most cherished documents, objects, and photographs focusing on the following subjects: the Arts, Ethiopian Jewry, Public Service, Sports, and Jewish Women.

Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American

A Pop-Up Exhibition

On view: April 14, 2016 to July 31, 2016

If you love baseball, you won’t want to miss this pop-up exhibit from the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia! Chasing Dreams weaves together America’s favorite pastime and national identity with the story of American Jewish immigration and integration. It features an exciting array of films, including historic game footage and photos, as well as a database of American Jewish ballplayers.

View our Family Guide

View our Educational Guide


Join us for the special event to celebrate the exhibition, A Family Fun Night of Baseball, on June 14th at 5:30!


A unique exhibition comprising of various contemporary Jewish-themed paraphernalia 

On view: December 8, 2015 to April 1, 2016

A new exhibit surveys the numerous ways in which hip, secular, young American Jews wear their Jewishness on their sleeves, literally speaking. With various contemporary, funny, edgy Jewish-themed T-shirts on display, Shmattes will challenge the common ways we think of American Jewishness today. Featuring t-shirts ranging from celebrated brands as LA-based Unkosher Market, politically savvy independent artists selling their work globally, Shmattes has a special tee for everybody! 

“For almost three years, I have been collecting over 100 t-shirts from all over the American Jewish landscape – bat and bar mitzvahs, retail stores, independent visual artists, university Hillels, and more – that represent the multifaceted and hybridized identities of culturally Jewish people in America. This collection attempts to ‘track’ via t-shirts the ways in which American Jews have creatively dealt with what it means to identify as culturally Jewish.  Self-aware, visually striking, and often funny and provocative, these t-shirts are narratives of wildly divergent culturally Jewish identities.  With their cheeky, status-conscious treatments of what is (and what is not) Jewish, these shirts challenge the myth of a united and dominant American Jewish identity” (Anne Grant, shmattes.org).


Watch Rachel Lithgow, executive director of the American Jewish Historical Society, discuss the exhibit on WNBC News 4 New York.


Allied in the Fight: Jews, Blacks and the Struggle for Civil Rights

Presented by the Center for Jewish History, the American Jewish Historical Society, the Leo Baeck Institute and Yeshiva University Museum.

On view: July 9, 2015 to October 9, 2015

A new exhibit on display in The David Berg Rare Book Room at the Center for Jewish History recounts the efforts made by American Jews and African Americans to fight for the fundamental American promise of equality before and during the Civil Rights era. Allied in the Fight: Jews, Blacks and the Struggle for Civil Rights explores shared projects, organizational efforts, and, for a time, how many members of the African American and Jewish communities became allied against injustice. As seen through photos, letters, film and other rare, archival materials from selected collections of American Jewish Historical Society, Leo Baeck Institute, and Yeshiva University Museum Allied in the Fight strives to address Black-Jewish collaboration and the complicated nature of Jewish contributions to the Civil Rights movement in America.

Allied in the Fight: Jews, Blacks and the Struggle for Civil Rights has been supported by a generous grant from The David Berg Foundation.

October 7, 1944

In Cooperation with Yeshiva University Museum.
This exhibition is the American attempt to respond to four women, and the revolt in Auschwitz that they helped make possible.

On view: October 7, 2014 to April 12, 2015

Led by Jonah Bokaer’s artistic vision and interpretation, and supported by research in the primary-source archives of the American Jewish Historical Society and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, we aim to reintroduce the visitor to a largely unknown or forgotten historical event—an event that could not have transpired without Roza, Estera, Regina and Ala. These women were not remarkable in any way that is known to us. They were young women who believed what they were doing was right. Through a non-traditional format that marries music, movement, choreography, archival material and film, we attempt to honor their bravery, and make their names known to you.

—Rachel Lithgow, Curator, Executive Director American Jewish Historical Society

Born to Tunisian and American parents in Ithaca, NY, Jonah Bokaer is an international choreographer, media artist, and art space developer. His work, which integrates choreography with digital media, is often the result of his cross-disciplinary collaborations with artists and architects.

Creating choreography for museum spaces since 2002, Bokaer has performed at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, P.S.1 MoMA, The New Museum, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, as well as in The Asia Society | Texas, Le Carré d’Art à Nîmes, IVAM Valencia, Kunsthalle St. Gallen, and MUDAM Luxembourg, among others. A full list of museum projects is listed below.

The creator of 33 dances, ten videos, three motion capture works, three interactive installations, two mobile applications, and one film, Bokaer’s work has been produced throughout theaters in Belgium, Canada, Cuba, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, India, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Recent performances include two seasons at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (2011-2012), the 2012 Festival d’Avignon in France, Théâtre de la Cité Internationale in Paris, and the BAM Next Wave Festival 2012, for which he was commissioned for the inauguration of BAM Fisher, with artist Anthony McCall.

In 2008-2009 Bokaer became the first dance artist to be appointed a Young Leader of the French American Foundation, in acknowledgment of his efforts to develop Chez Bushwick, and CPR - Center for Performance Research, two independent arts centers which nurture young artists in New York City and internationally. Bokaer has collaborated with artists including Daniel Arsham (2007-present), Anne Carson, Merce Cunningham, Robert Gober, Anthony McCall, Tino Sehgal, and Robert Wilson (2007-present).

As choreographer for Robert Wilson, he has completed many operas including “Faust” (Polish National Opera), “Aïda” (Teatro dell’Opera di Roma), “KOOL” (Japan/USA Guggenheim Works & Process), “Fronteras” (IVAM Valenica), and “On The Beach” (Baryshnikov Arts Center).

Bokaer was recently named one of ten American artists to receive a Doris Duke Charitable Foundation grant award for the development of his third mobile application, in partnership with Georgia Tech.


By Dawn's Early Light

Jewish Contributions to American Culture from the Nation's Founding to the Civil War

On view: March 16, 2014 to August 16, 2014

An exhibition of works from the Princeton University Library's Leonard L. Milberg '53 Jewish American Writers Collection with additional materials from The Library Company of Philadelphia and American Jewish Historical Society.

This exhibition was made possible through the generosity of Leonard L. Milberg with additional support from the Center for Jewish History.

Contributors to the Cause 

A History of Jewish Philanthropy in America

On view: October 2, 2013 to February 28, 2014

Contributors to the Cause, an exhibition at the Center for Jewish History at 15 West 16th Street in New York City, is an overview of the history of Jewish philanthropy in the United States on view from October 2, 2013 - February 28, 2014. The exhibition presents a historical narrative and a compelling collection of more than 200 on-screen images of archival material including letters, documents, photographs, organizational papers, and government records dating from the 1700s through the late 20th century. The archival material comes from the collections of the American Jewish Historical Society and the exhibition is made possible by The David Berg Foundation.

New York Places/Jewish Spaces

Life in the City, 1700-2012

On view: August 1, 2012 to August 31, 2012

Over their centuries-long relationship with New York City, Jews have carved out a multitude of public and private spaces as their own, including neighborhood streets, businesses, synagogues and tenement apartments, as well as the temporarily-Jewish stadiums, squares and concert halls that served as venues for special events.

Come discover the various identities of New York Jews (from the years 1700-2012) by exploring the spaces that they have created for themselves. Learn how Jews have shaped New York, how the largest city in the U.S. has molded the Jews, and what Jewish spaces in the city can teach us about the many varieties of “New York Jews” who have lived here.

This exhibition, presented in partnership with the American Jewish Historical Society, incorporates historical artifacts and interactive media. It is part of the Center's Documenting America Initiative and has been made possible by The David Berg Foundation with additional support from The Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, The Kumble Cultural Fund and The Selz Family Cultural Fund.

Heroes from Abroad

The Machal and/Aliyah Bet Legacy

On view: January 19, 2011 to July 19, 2011

This exhibition tells the little-known story of “Machal,” Hebrew for the “volunteers from abroad” who fought in Israel's War of Independence in 1946-1947. Close to 1500 North American men and women (among volunteers from other countries) participated in this effort. At the time of their participation, many of these individuals had been only recently decommissioned from service in World War II. They chose again to risk their lives, not to mention their citizenship, by piloting the ships that illegally transported thousands of Holocaust survivors to Palestine in the face of a determined British naval blockade. Subsequently, the “Machalniks” joined all branches of the military that fought to make Israel a living reality. It was principally Machalniks who created the future Israeli navy and air force; principally Machalniks who transported vital arms and hardware to the fledgling and embattled state; and principally Machalniks who provided crucial air support to fend off the invading armies engulfing Israel.

Machal's achievements remain largely unheralded even to this day. The Machal veterans themselves long hesitated to tell their stories for fear of endangering their legal status in their home countries, while the government of Israel was more eager to tout the deeds of its own native and adopted sons. Because of the advanced age of most of these veterans, few opportunities still remain to give them a just recognition. This is why AJHS, which recently became the permanent home of the Machal archives (including letters, diaries, official documents, photographs, and objects), has seized this moment to tell their story. This beautiful new exhibition, based on a design created by a Machal veteran, offers a fascinating introduction to this important but neglected topic.

Letters of Conscience

Raphael Lemkin and the Quest to End Genocide

On view: March 18, 2010 to April 18, 2010

Raphael Lemkin devoted most of his life to studying and writing about genocide, a term he coined to draw international attention to a crime that had no name. He also actively campaigned for international laws that would protect ethnic, racial, religious and national groups. His most intensive efforts focused on the drafting, adoption, and ratification of the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention.

When Lemkin died in 1959, he left an extensive trove of correspondence and papers documenting his work, as well as treatises on the meaning and impact of genocide. Today, many of those papers are held in the archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, from which most of the artifacts used in this exhibition are drawn. Additional collections are located at the New York Public Library and the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati.

Together, they provide an important resource and source of inspiration for new generations of scholars, human rights advocates, diplomats, and activists who continue to wrestle with the crime of genocide, which, sadly, continues to occur in the world today.

From Haven to Home

Three Hundred and Fifty Years of Jewish Life in America
Presented by The Jewish Historical Society of Michigan in cooperation with the American Jewish Historical Society

On view: November 1, 2009 to November 30, 2009

Organized by AJHS/Boston, From Haven to Home has traveled to cities across the U.S. since it first appeared in 2004 in celebration of the 350th anniversary of the Jewish presence in America. It is available for travel in 2010 and 2011. 

Pages from a Performing Life

The Scrapbooks of Molly Picon
View Online Exhibit

On view: January 26, 2009 to February 26, 2009

Small in stature but larger than life, Molly Picon commanded a global audience.  Born to immigrant parents in New York, Picon spoke English from childhood, yet she rose to fame performing in Yiddish for audiences from Argentina to Zagreb.  She entertained American troops in Korea and played to Jewish survivors in post-Holocaust Warsaw.  She dressed as a yeshiva boy to play Yidl and an old woman to play Yente and in doing so won the hearts of audiences even if they did not speak Yiddish. 

A combination showstopper and public servant, character actress and superstar, Molly Picon embodied the spirit of Yiddish theater and culture for the 20th century.

The American Jewish Historical Society presents a personal account of Molly Picon's life on and off the Yiddish theater stage in this exhibit of scrapbooks kept by the legendary performer and her husband and collaborator, Jacob Kalich.

Press Release

Voices of Change

Jewish Youth in America

On view: October 28, 2008 to November 28, 2008

Young Jews in America have been prominent in the ranks of Jewish political and social movements from anarchism to the counterculture and feminism. They have played a key role in developing a Jewish press, pioneering new Jewish institutions, and creating alternatives to those institutions. They have also been the object of communal disapproval, anxiety and policy.

The exhibit includes leaflets, newsletters and reviews from World War I into the twenty-first century that contain expressions of their desire to “do something Jewish”  to implement change, oppose oppression and war, assure the survival of Yiddish, find their own Jewish identity and new forms of religious observance.

American Jewish Chaplains and the Survivors, 1945-1953

View Online Exhibit

On view: January 1, 2008 to February 1, 2008

American Jewish Army chaplains were among the first to encounter Jewish survivors of the Nazi's extermination campaign. One thousand American rabbis, half the rabbis in the United States, volunteered to serve in the war. Three hundred and eleven Jewish chaplains served on active duty. Of those, approximately 60 had the opportunity to help the survivors in Europe and elsewhere. AJHS organized this stirring exhibition on these chaplains drawn from its extensive holdings, including the records of the Jewish Welfare Board.