The Jewish History Museum and Holocaust History Center of Tucson is home to a vast collection of artifacts and photographs. The museum’s mission is to preserve the rich history of Jewish heritage in Arizona through exhibits, collections, education, events and outreach. The Temple of Shadows Collection is a group of photographs spanning 15 years which trace the history of the 1910 synagogue where the museum is located, from it’s rescue as an abandoned building in the 1990’s, to its opening as a museum in 2008.
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The photographs were taken by Abigail Gumbiner, David H. Wells and Annu Palakunnathu Matthew. Gumbiner is the daughter of Rabbi Joseph Gumbiner who lead services at the temple in the 1940’s. The museum’s General Textile Collection includes items from the 1600’s through the year 2000. The collection is most popular for its annual wedding gown exhibit, which includes gowns from as far back at 1864. Other items in the textile collection include a World War II uniform from the 1940’s, women’s button shoes from the 1870’s and a Masonic leather apron from the early 1900’s. The Goldschmidt Photography Collection contains photographs from 1870-1900, donated from the private collection of German-born Leo Goldschmidt (1852 – 1944). Goldschmidt, an amateur photographer and patron of the arts, immigrated to Tucson in 1878 where he founded a Gentleman’s Club called the “Owl’s Nest,” and became a successful businessman and bank director. His photographs tell a story of early Tucson life and the history of the Arizona territory. Exhibits at the Holocaust History Center include oral histories and photographs from some of the 260 holocaust survivors who eventually relocated to Southern Arizona. Oral histories from eight of the survivors are recorded on video and available on the center’s website in addition to the museum. The Suspended Lineage Collection supplements the Holocaust History Center exhibit through a crowd-sourced collection of photographs of those who were killed in the holocaust and have family ties to Southern Arizona. The museum continues to actively seek submissions to the collection from any living relatives of survivors. The center’s mission compels it to highlight current human rights violations and there is an exhibit on today’s refugee crises throughout the world.
History: The Jewish History Museum opened in 2008 as the Jewish Heritage Center of the Southwest. The museum is located in Arizona’s first synagogue, which was built in 1910 at the urging of the Hebrew Benevolent Society, a Jewish women’s organization. The temple was built by the architect Ely Blount in the Rundbogenstil style. Runbogenstil was a rounded-arch style that was popular with German speaking Diaspora in the 19th century. The Congregation Temple Emanu-El held services in the building through 1948. The building was then occupied by various organizations until it was abandoned in the 1980’s. Through the Stone Avenue Temple Project in the 1990’s, the Jewish community raised funds to restore and repair the temple and reopen it as the Jewish History Museum. The building has since been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Holocaust History Center is located at the museum and examines the holocaust through the lives of those who survived the war and now live in Arizona. Over 260 survivors from at least 18 countries survived and later immigrated to Southern Arizona. The museum is dedicated to telling their stories.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Tours of the museum are available by appointment year-round and are available for schools and other groups as well as individuals. Events at the museum include Gallery Talks, opening events for special exhibits, happy hours and live music. The Brandeis Study Group was a four part lecture series by Board President Barry Friedman that discussed the history of Jewish families and business in Southern Arizona. “Adventures in Genealogy” was an ongoing workshop over 6 months which assisted attendees in beginning or continuing with a genealogical search through the non-profit JewishGen. A writer’s series in partnership with the Poetry Center hosted five Jewish authors who spoke about their work and hosted readings at the museum.
Past and Future Exhibits: The museum hosts a variety of temporary exhibits that explore the influence of Jewish immigrants in building the Arizona community. “Growing Up Tucson: Chicago Music Store” told the story of the family operated business and explored how the longevity of small business impacts communities. “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” showcased the museum’s collection of postcards from the early 1900’s through the 1960’s. Visitors to the exhibit were encouraged to send their own postcard to a loved one.
564 South Stone Avenue Tucson, AZ, 85701, Phone: 520-670-9073