The Jewish Archives document the fascinating history of Jews and Jewish communities in Washington State, beginning with the first settlers in 1853.
The early pioneers were German-speaking Jews from Central Europe who were followed in the 1880s by a second wave of immigrants, Ashkenazic Jews from Eastern Europe. Starting in 1902, yet a third wave of immigrants to the area, Sephardic Jews from Turkey and the Isle of Rhodes brought with them their own distinct culture and language. Since World War I Seattle has had the largest percentage of Sephardim compared to the total Jewish population of any U.S. city.
The volume, richness, and rarity of materials make the Jewish Archives a resource of regional and national significance. Comprising approximately 900 named collections, the Archives include organizational records and personal papers, memoirs, correspondence, 4,000 photographs, films, and over 400 taped and transcribed oral interviews with members of Jewish communities throughout the state. They reflect the unique nature of the Jewish experience in this region, characterized by its large Sephardic component, and cover a broad range of subjects.
Established in 1968 as a joint project of the Women's Division of the Jewish Federation and the University of Washington (UW) Libraries, the archives are preserved in a safe climate–controlled, closed-access setting in Special Collections at the Allen Library, where the WSJHS Archivist, and the UW Special Collections staff jointly administer and maintain this vast and invaluable archive.
The Jewish Archives are constantly growing in breadth and volume. We invite you to explore the vast collection – or, if you have materials of historic interest that you wish to preserve, to donate them to the Archives. Ongoing efforts to create finding aids, digitize photographs and develop databases allow increasing access to this invaluable collection of primary source material. Follow the links below to view items currently available online or make an appointment to do research on site at the Archives.