The Archives of the Jewish Historical Society of Delaware (JHSD) is housed in the Research Library Building of the Historical Society of Delaware. Since its founding in 1974 and incorporation in 1975 the Jewish Historical Society has strived to fulfill its purpose of acquiring, preserving, and publishing material pertaining to the history of Jewish settlement and Jewish life in the State of Delaware.
The Delaware Jewish community traces its beginnings to the landing of Dutch Jewish traders in the year 1655 at what is now New Castle. Jewish life did not flourish in the state, however, until the second half of the 19th Century. With the establishment in 1879 of the first Jewish organization in the state: the Moses Montefiore Mutual Benefit Society, Jewish life began to take on a more permanent and established nature and evolved into the present day community of 13,000 people.
Materials housed within the archives include photographs, documents, oral histories, audio-visual materials, private papers, newspapers, memorabilia, and artifacts that record and document the organizational, cultural, religious, educational, business and family activities of the Jewish Community in Delaware. All collections are housed in state-of-the-art climate controlled surroundings and are processed according to strict archival principles. A number of large collections documenting the lives of prominent Jewish Delawareans are features of the archives. Among them are the Harry Bluestone Collection (prominent Social Worker and Community leader); the David Geffen Collection (noted Rabbi and Historian); and the Mollye Sklut Collection (noted World War II personality). An extensive biographical collection contains information about many other Delaware Jews and Jewish Families.
In addition the holdings of the archives include records from the Jewish Community Center of Wilmington; the Jewish Federation of Delaware; and the Adas Kodesch Shel Emeth Congregation, the oldest enduring congregation in the state. New acquisitions include the papers of William Penn Frank, a nationally known Delaware journalist, an extensive photograph & correspondence collection of the Greenbaum family; Montefiore Mutual Benefit Society records; Vaad Hakashruth records; Holocaust related materials; and Minute and Membership books from the Adas Kodesch Shel Emeth Congregation. Many of these books date to the 1890’s and are among the oldest surviving records of the Jewish Community. In addition, our family and genealogical collections are continually growing.
At the present time our total collections represent approximately 80 topics and cover 350 linear feet of archival space. The Society publishes a Newsletter two times per year. We also have a finding aid, Guide to the Archives, which is available for purchase.
The Jewish Historical Society sponsors lectures, forums, and produces exhibits and publications relating to Delaware Jewish history. The Society continues to strive to provide a wide range of services to the Jewish community as well as the general community. The Society welcomes and encourages researchers, volunteers. Anyone interested in further information should contact the Society at our address above.
What We Collect
The Jewish Historical Society of Delaware (JHSD) collects and preserves items that tell the story of the Delaware Jewish Community and Jewish life in Delaware.
The Society actively encourages members of the entire Jewish community to consider donating items documenting the diversity of life of Jewish individuals, families, organizations and businesses in Delaware to the Archives of the JHSD.
The following are examples of materials found in a community archives:
- Membership Ledgers
- Motion Pictures
- Event Programs
- Meeting Minutes
- Annual Reports
- Life Cycle Invitations
- Audio tapes
Items donated to the Archives are processed, cataloged, and stored in acid-free folders and boxes. These steps help ensure that the documents and records are easily available to researchers, genealogists, and other interested users of the archives. The proper storage of the items also ensures that the deterioration of fragile or acidic papers will be curbed.
The JHSD is currently seeking a number of specific items for inclusion into the archives:
- Synagogue Newsletters
- Organization Newsletters
- Meeting Minutes
- Annual Reports
- Family Genealogies
- Life Cycle Items