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Annual Report 2011-12

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JHSUM pursues our mission in three program areas: collection preservation,interpretation and education.

Our first 27 years have been spent creating one of the finest archives of local Jewish History in the country. We consistently receive accolades from across the country commending our exhibits, programs, research material and web site. The current economic environment has created challenges for many small nonprofit organizations and JHSUM has not been spared. This organization has thrived on the generosity of our members and a small group of very dedicated supporters. JHSUM’s Board is working hard to create a new vision for our next 25 years focusing on what activities we do best and can’t be done by any other organization. This year we have gifted nearly 1000 feet of paper archives to the University of Minnesota Andersen Library Nathan and Theresa Berman upper Midwest Jewish Archives allowing our collections to be permanently housed at the University. Securing a permanent home for our paper archival materials allows JHSUM to focus on interpretation, education and programming along with more public displays of our unique materials. We are working to turn our location at the Kaplan Family Jewish History Center into an interpretive gallery that will be open to the public. Our new space will showcase many of JHSUM’s artifacts and photos that tell the story of Upper Midwest Jewish life.

Collection preservation is the behind-the-scenes foundational piece for all of the Society’s work, encompassing the following activities: adding new materials to the existing collection, maintaining the overall collection using professional practices and standards, and insuring that the systems used to deliver information about our collection holding are accurate, up to date and easy to use. In 2011-2012 JHSUM conducted a thorough Collections inventory as we prepared nearly 1,000 feet of paper archives to be deeded to the University of Minnesota Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives

IMGP9826A major focus of JHSUM preservation activities over the past two years was applying for Minnesota Historical and Cultural Grants, funded by the Arts and Culture Heritage Fund. JHSUM’s track record obtaining these very competitive grants, known as Legacy Grants, was stellar. With nearly $17 million in eligible projects vying for $6 million in funding competition was very stiff. JHSUM beat the odds and secured project funding three times!

The funded projects are crucial toward advancing our ability to successfully carry out our threefold mission of preservation, interpretation, and education about Jewish culture in the Upper Midwest. Legacy Funds are becoming a key source of revenue, allowing JHSUM to continue to collect stories of Upper Midwest Jewish experience. Success in obtaining Legacy Grants is evidence that our efforts are recognized outside the Jewish community by this state-wide initiative. We are very grateful for support received from the Oren and Sharron Steinfeldt Foundation that leveraged our Legacy funding and allowed us to undertake our very complicated database project.

Visitors to JHSUM website can now seamlessly search the entire database inventory of our collection’s holdings. This grant allowed us to work with a database consultant and funded staff needed to create an improved search experience for users. By making content available through a more powerful, nuanced search interface, containing consistent, controlled terms and more searchable fields users can find what is most helpful in our holdings. The collections catalogue was updated for the first time in five years. New accessions data now appears instantly as it is entered. Archival requests skyrocketed and we were able to fill them in record speed, a testament to the world-wide accessibility and improved quality of our database.

24338_368751757142_6205695_nThe genesis of our new St. Louis Park Oral History Project was a request back in 2007 from a production assistant for the Coen brothers’ movie A Serious Man asking for information about Jewish life in 1960s St. Louis Park. While we were able to provide some period photos of Jewish teens in St. Paul, the request made us realize that we had virtually nothing in the collection documenting Jewish life in the 1960s. The information gleaned in the St. Louis Park oral history interviews, conducted by California -based oral historian and St. Louis Park native Jeff Norman, will illuminate the nuances of the move of the largest Jewish community in the Upper Midwest from Minneapolis’ urban North Side to post-war suburbia. Phase one interviews for this project are complete. We received a second grant to complete another batch of oral interviews.

The largest volume of reference requests we receive is for historic photographs that showcase Jewish life in the Upper Midwest. To expand access to the photo collection, this grant allowed JHSUM to partner with the Placeography wiki www.placeography.org. (A wiki is a collaborative web site that anyone can edit.) Some 150 JHSUM photos were selected, researched, and uploaded to the site, along with extensive new descriptions. Using an existing platform like Placeography expands our reach beyond even our own web site. JHSUM has its own portal on the site with seven virtual tours, expanding our tour capacity beyond one Twin Cities-focused “live” tour each year our resources allow for. You don’t have to leave home to tour historic Jewish Duluth, St. Louis Park, St. Paul, Minneapolis’ North Side, West, Central and Southern Minnesota, and the Iron Range, as well as the synagogues of the Upper Midwest.

Our Interpretive Program promotes use of our materials by researchers, students, Jewish organizations and other local and national cultural organizations. JHSUM’s work with the production crew for the Twin Cities Public Television and the University of Minnesota film, Cornerstone: A History of Minneapolis. Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History tells the story of more than 350 years of American Jewish history including our Upper Midwest Jewish experience homesteading in the Dakotas. JHSUM materials are part of their permanent video depicting the diverse backgrounds, expectations, and experiences of Jews who came and made their homes in the United States. Photographs of Rachel Calof’s family’s homestead are featured prominently in the Dreams of Freedom, 1880-1945 exhibition chronicling the migration of millions of immigrants who came to the United States beginning in the late 19th century.

We Built CommunityOur new exhibit at Sholom East spotlights some of the early St. Paul Jewish neighborhoods. Do you remember stories of the West Side? A neighborhood described as Orthodox, Yiddish speaking and working class, with many breadwinners holding down blue collar jobs in the garment, needlework and manufacturing industries in downtown St Paul. Located at a bend in the Mississippi River the area flooded with predictable regularity. It was a source of cheap housing, and quickly became a rich, if worn center of St. Paul Jewish life and culture. Most of the early arrivals were single men and families who found work and saved to bring over other family members remaining in the old country. In short order the community set to work establishing various organizations that more than 100 years later continue to build Jewish St. Paul.

JHSUM-JournalJHSUM publishes a biennial journal called Upper Midwest Jewish History. Our latest journal Who Knew? Stories from the Archives was a runaway bestseller. From the Minnesota Historical Society Minnesota History Magazine:
The Fall 2011 issue of Upper Midwest Jewish History (journal of the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest,volume 6) is, simply put, a gem. Who Knew? Stories Unearthed from the Archives is a riveting and engaging collection of first-person accounts that should serve as a model for how to use archival material. With the power and immediacy that only a personal story can deliver, the many short entries merge to tell a larger story- and show that no community speaks with one voice. Editor Linda Mack Schloff has arranged these highly diverse pieces into seven chapters that allow for a wide range of topics: Privileged and Not So Privileged, Greater Minnesota, The Dakotas, Urban Neighborhoods, Creating Community, Contesting Community, and Community Responses to Outside Forces. Her clear and informative introductions to each entry provide the context that enables readers “with no knowledge of the speaker or topic to follow along.

Through partnerships forged with individuals and organizations, JHSUM extends both the physical life of original materials and their informational and social reach.

In the area of Education, our activities included a talk by Deborah E. Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University. We hit one out of the park during the Minneapolis Jewish Film Festival! JHSUM and the St. Paul JCC partnered to present Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story at the Theatres at Mall of America. The overflow, sold-out screening was so popular that a second showing was quickly scheduled. The documentary features a rare interview with Hall of Famer L A Dodger’s pitcher Sandy Koufax. He talks about the day he contributed to Minnesota Jewish history by sitting out game one of the 1965 World Series against the Twins at the old Met Stadium because it was Yom Kippur.

CRW_7551JHSUM and Minneapolis Federation’s VOICE Community Building Initiative sponsored a unique panel and accompanying exhibit as part of the Minnesota Historical Society’s World War II weekend at Fort Snelling. This is the second year we have been invited to participate. The Soviet Union was America’s ally in World War II and it had its own Greatest Generation. A trio of Jewish Soviet veterans, now residing in the Twin Cities— Vladimir Posse, Yakov Rabinovich, and Maria Borisovna Reznik—told their remarkable, and until recently, largely overlooked stories, adding a new perspective to the American World War II story we are familiar with.

More than 20 million Soviet citizens died in what they called The Great Patriot War— about 50 times the number of American deaths—including well over one million Jews. Soviet soldiers contributed to the defeat of fascism, but did not enjoy the freedoms of democracy; victory was soon followed by horrific Stalinist purges and authoritarian rule. Jews, in particular, experienced significant discrimination after the war, and most were unable to leave for decades.

North Side tourNearly 75 people joined our volunteer tour guides Bob Roscoe and Iric Nathanson along with our partner, Preserve Minneapolis, on walks through the neighborhood. “My parents owned the Homewood Theater.” “I was an usher at the Homewood.” “Ha who wasn’t?” “Your parents owned the theater? I was just telling my friend about how we would sneak in there without paying; I think I might owe you 10-15 cents?” The child of the owners laughed and said, “I am thinking that might be 15 cents with 50 years of interest.” Just a few of the comments from visitors!

Simply put, no other institution plays the role JHSUM plays in collecting, preserving and interpreting the record of Jewish life in the region and making it accessible to the Jewish community and general public.

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