About the Jewish Archives

Archive's History

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 www.wsjhs.org



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.

Donating Items

If you would like to donate personal collections or organizational/business records to the Washington State Jewish Archives, please contact the WSJHS Consulting Archivist at wsjarch@uw.edu or archivist@wsjhs.org

Wondering if your collection is appropriate for the WSJA? These guidelines may help:

Photograph Wishlist

The archives is actively seeking unique photos of Jewish holidays, celebrations, and special events in Washington State or of Washington residents. We are particularly interested in 20th century photos that document the following:

  • Holidays
  • Rosh Hashanah
  • Yom Kippur
  • Sukkos
  • Simchat Torah
  • Hanukkah
  • Purim
  • Pesach/Passover
  • Home
  • Shabbat
  • Baking Challah
  • Building a Jewish home
  • Upsherin Food and cooking
  • Life Cycle
  • Bar Mitzvah
  • Bat Mitvah
  • Jewish weddings (ceremony and celebration)
  • Mikvah (building)
  • Shiva
  • Other
  • Israeli Independence
  • Israeli Air Lifts of Soviet Jews and Ethiopian Jews
  • Jewish arts, dance, music, etc.
  • Jewish camp
  • Jewish education
  • Jewish war veterans
  • Tefellin
  • Tzedaka
  • Buildings
  • All city Jewish chapel at 12th and Spruce, Seattle

Identifying Your Photos for the Archives

Use soft lead pencil (e.g., no. 2) -- pencil lightly on the backside of photos to Number and Date each photo.

On a separate page, write full description of each photo. (Word document format preferred.)

  1. Photo number
  2. Date of photo
  3. First and last names of individuals pictured
  4. Location
  5. Any other useful descriptive information (e.g., 50th anniversary celebration of synagogue)
  6. Current date
  7. Name, address, phone, and email  of person making the transfer
  8. Name, address, phone, and email of donor whose photos are to be transfered. (This may or may not be the same as #7.)

Preserving Your Family's Archive