Jewish Museum Milwaukee archives has been actively collecting documents, photographs, objects, oral histories and ephemera that record Jewish life in Wisconsin since 1986. Since that time, the archives has grown to house extensive collections and artifacts that document the past and shed light on events of today.
Search the Collections
Learn about Jewish life in Wisconsin going back to the first wave of Jewish migrants by searching our digital collections. Explore filmed oral history interviews from important community members, view unique artifacts, and see old and new photographs taken by the community.
Archival Indices are compiled of information from many sources, including data gathered from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, the Wisconsin Jewish Genealogical Society, individual volunteers and more.
Donating materials to the Jewish Museum Milwaukee Archive ensures that research and discoveries about Wisconsin’s Jewish individuals, families and organizations will continue for generations to come. Donate your materials to help us document the diversity of Jewish life in Wisconsin.
Does your family have Jewish roots in Wisconsin? Looking for obituaries or other information on your ancestors? Submit a Research Request and our Archivist will scour our resources to find evidence of your Wisconsin Jewish connections.
About Jewish Museum Milwaukee Archives
Before the Jewish Museum Milwaukee existed, the Milwaukee Jewish Archives was founded in 1986 to assemble documentary evidence of the history of Jewish people in Milwaukee and had already been collecting for two years.
In 1998, reflecting the expanding functions of the organization, the Archives were renamed the Milwaukee Jewish Historical Society. Although its function remains the same today, the Milwaukee Jewish Historical Society officially became the Jewish Museum Milwaukee Archives with the opening of the Museum in 2008.
For a more in-depth history on the activities of the Jewish Museum Milwaukee Archives from 1984 through 2008, check out this timeline.
The Milwaukee Jewish Archives grew out of the “Roots Committee” of the Women’s Division of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. In 1986, the Archives were founded to assemble documentary evidence of the history of Jewish people in Milwaukee.
In a 1986 brochure, the Milwaukee Jewish Archives were described as “a chain that unites the Milwaukee Jewish community with the historic past – a link that will create the vital connection to the Jewish community of the future.” In November 1988, the Archives mounted a first public exhibit: A Century of Jewish Life in Milwaukee, 1850-1950.
In addition to active collecting, the Milwaukee Jewish Archives promoted tours of the “old neighborhood,” and presented an exhibit on Yiddish theater in Milwaukee. By 1992 its resources included 128 family collections and over 1500 photographs from the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.
In 1995, the Milwaukee Jewish Archives celebrated the men and women who served in World War II with a major exhibit entitled We Were There…World War II: The Milwaukee Jewish Experience, which was later published as a book. In 1998, reflecting the expanding functions of the organization, the Archives were renamed the Milwaukee Jewish Historical Society (MJHS), and Marianne Lubar became its first president.
As the new millennium began, serious work was undertaken on a plan to create a museum to hold the collections, which now included over 300 oral histories, films, and artifacts. In 2001, Patrick Gallagher of Gallagher & Associates led focus groups throughout the community. Collecting and exhibiting continued. Together with several local organizations, a community-wide program “Remembering Golda” was presented in 2003. The MJHS launched its website in 2004, attracting researchers from all over the world who were able to interact with its resources without leaving their homes.
During this special year, the MJHS won the Wisconsin Governor’s Award for its creative website; its “Food of Memories” series linking recipes and personal histories drew wide audiences; and oral history interviewing continued.
Museum development moved from theoretical to practical with the renovation of the Helfaer Community Service Building, development of contracts with Gallagher and Associates, and the assembling of the Jewish Museum Milwaukee Board of Directors. With the support of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation, space for Jewish Museum Milwaukee was renovated and made available on the first floor of the Helfaer Community Service Building.
A docent program was inaugurated with intensive training sessions; the Milwaukee Jewish Federation announced a $1 million endowment gift from the estate of Jacob Bernheim to ensure the continuity of the Jewish Museum Milwaukee.
On April 28, 2008, the Jewish Museum Milwaukee opened to the public. Collections continue to grow and research into Wisconsin’s Jewish communities continues.