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National Museum of American Jewish History

It’s Your Story: National Museum of American Jewish History

The new National Museum of American Jewish History (, opening in November 2010, is dedicated to telling the still-unfolding story of Jews in America, who embraced freedom with its choices and challenges as they shaped and were shaped by our nation. The Museum envisions its new home as a place that welcomes all people, inviting them to discover what they have in common with the Jewish experience in America, as well as to explore the features that make this history distinctive.  Rising five stories above Independence Mall, in the heart of historic Philadelphia, the National Museum of American Jewish History will join Independence Hall, the National Constitution Center, the Liberty Bell and other landmarks at the hallowed site of America’s birth. There could not be a more fitting place for a museum that will explore the promise and challenges of liberty through the lends of the American Jewish experience.

250px-National_Museum_of_American_Jewish_History_logoLocation within Philadelphia

The National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) is a Smithsonian-affiliated museum at 101 South Independence Mall East (S. 5th Street) at Market Street in Center City Philadelphia. It was founded in 1976.


275px-National_Museum_of_American_Jewish_HistoryThe new building in 2013

With its founding in 1976 the 15,000-square-foot (1,400 m2) museum shared a building with the Congregation Mikveh Israel.

In 2005, it was announced that the museum would be moved to a new building to be built at Fifth Street and Market Street on themIndependence Mall. The site was originally owned by CBS’KYW radio and KYW-TV. The project broke ground on September 30, 2007.  The 100,000-square-foot (9,300 m2) glass and terra-cotta building was designed byJames Polshek and includes an atrium, a 25,000 square feet (2,300 m2) area for exhibits, a Center for Jewish Education, and a theater.  The project, including endowment, cost $150 million.  The opening ceremony was held November 14, 2010 and was attended by over 1,000 people including Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Michael Nutter, Governor Ed Rendell, and Rabbi Irving Greenberg  The building opened to the public November 26, 2010.


Exhibits use pieces from the museum’s collection which includes over 20,000 objects and ranges from the Colonial period to the present day.  Exhibits focus on Jews in America. Professor Jonathan Sarna of Brandeis University led the development of the core exhibit for the museum.

To Bigotry No Sanction: George Washington and Religious Freedom

From June 29 through September 30 2012, the NMAJH held a special exhibition that featured one of the most important documents pertaining to religious freedom in the United States. The letter was written in 1790 to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, addressing the new country’s religious freedom.  The letter expressed the new government’s commitment for religious freedom and equality for all faiths. The exhibition included numerous artifacts as well as early printings of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

From the Collection

  • Hanukkah lamp from Lodz, Poland, prior to 1881, silver

  • Hanukkah menorah, Russia, 1890, brass

  • Kiddush cup from Russia, engraved sterling silver

  • Portrait of Joyce Mears Myers by Edward Green Malbone, c. 1803, oil on ivory

  • Silver menorah, William Gale and Sons, c. 1852

  • Torah finials, c. 1850, silver

  • Tzedakah (charity) box or Kupat Tzedakah, Charleston, 1820, silver

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