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The Washington State Jewish Archives

Mendel Baronsky greeting brother Rabbi Joseph Baronsky, Seattle, 1940
Mendel Baronsky and Rabbi Joseph Baronsky, 1940

The Washington State Jewish Archives (WSJA) tell the fascinating stories of early Jewish families who settled this region and the unique Jewish experience in Washington State in subsequent years. The invaluable holdings include personal papers, correspondence, organizational and business records, diaries, oral histories, photographs and films. The archives serve as a major resource for scholars, students and the public at large.

Funding for the Jewish Digital Collections


The original digital collection of Jewish Archives photographs was produced partially by funding by contributions from the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, the Rachel and Nissim Altabet Memorial Fund, and the 4Culture organization. The information for the collection was researched and prepared by the UW Libraries Special Collections and Cataloging staff in 2005-2009. Since 2009, Special Collections has continued to digitize photographs in the Jewish Archives to add to this online collection.

Oral Histories

The Jewish Archives Committee of the WSJHS has recorded interviews with Jewish community members across Washington State since 1968. For several years, with funding from individuals in the community, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and others, Special Collections staff have digitally transferred these recordings from the original audio cassette tapes. Consequently, many of the oral histories recorded since 1968 are available online. The Archives Committee continues to interview individuals for this project, and these born digital recordings are also added to this digital collection.

History of the Washington State Jewish Archives

Men in front of Northern Pacific Ticket office and Cooper and Levy Pioneer Outfitters store at 104-106 First Avenue S., Seattle, 1897
Men in front of Cooper & Levy store, Seattle, 1897

The WSJA grew out of the Seattle Jewish History Project, a collaborative effort begun in 1968, between the Women's Division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and the Manuscripts and University Archives Division (now Special Collections) of the UW Libraries to collect and preserve primary source materials on local Jewish history.

In 1980 the scope was broadened with establishment of the Washington State Jewish Historical Society (WSJHS) as an independent non-profit statewide organization; its mission is to promote interest in and knowledge of the life, history, and culture of the Jewish people and communities of the State of Washington. WSJHS preserves and makes known this unique history through an array of programs that include special events and exhibits, publications including a prize-winning history, Family of Strangers, ongoing interviews with members of the Jewish community to obtain oral histories; tours of historic Jewish Seattle; development of a curriculum and a growing collection of artifacts. The Jewish Archives remain at the core of its activities. In 2016, the WSJHS launched a new digital museum: the Washington Jewish Museum.

For further details on WSJHS please visit the website at

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