About Us

It’s a remarkable story of courage, foresight and extraordinary lives…

From the arrival of the first Jewish fur trader in 1761 to the valorous role of Jewish soldiers in the Civil War… from the great immigrations of the early 1900s to the Great Depression of the 1930s… from the efforts of Michigan volunteers on behalf of a newly created Jewish State in 1948 to the creation of institutions that serve the entire community. It’s the story of Michigan Jewry’s contributions to the American experience.

Who will pass it on?

The Jewish Historical Society of Michigan (JHSM) was founded in 1959 to preserve and commemorate our past for future generations. The only volunteer organization dedicated exclusively to this purpose, the Society has amassed a storehouse of information about the events, traditions and lives of Jewish people throughout the state. Over the years, the JHSM has documented hundreds of Jewish contributions to the arts, science, politics, business, education and social services.

How does JHSM tell our story?

Throughout the year, JHSM presents docent-led tours of historic Jewish Detroit and Southeast Michigan and hosts various events, lectures, discussions and film viewings. JHSM publishes Michigan Jewish History, an annual journal, and maintains the Jewish Yearbook Collection, the largest collection of yearbooks from Michigan high schools and colleges in which there was and/or is a Jewish presence. In addition, JHSM also helps identify and preserve data on Michigan’s Jewish communities and landmarks, and works with the Michigan Historical Commission to identify, erect and maintain historic markers.  

Michigan Jewish History, published annually each fall, blends academic-level articles with lighter pieces that document Michigan’s Jewish history. Distributed to more than 1,000 JHSM members, libraries and Judaic studies programs, Michigan Jewish History is the longest continuously published journal of local Jewish history in North America. A wide range of subjects are covered each year ranging from the first Jewish settlers to recent events that have impacted Jewish life in our state and beyond. 

“Settlers to Citizens” Tours of Historic Jewish Detroit, trace the footsteps of Detroit’s first Jewish settlers including the early congregations, Jewish residential areas, historic buildings and contemporary Jewish landmarks.  These tours, led by volunteer docents, explore a wide range of topics and locations.  In addition, JHSM also offers:

  •  Settlers to Citizens Youth Tours of Historic Jewish Detroit, provided to area religious schools at no charge.  Working together with the Metro Detroit Board of Jewish Educators, the tours have recently been updated to include actors who play the role of Jewish history-makers and technology to engage students in both pre- and post-tour discussions. 
  • Settlers to Citizens Virtual Tour is a “virtual” version of the Settlers to Citizens tours and is shown at community centers, senior residences and other locations.  The Powerpoint presentation is presented by a JHSM-trained docent who narrates and leads a follow-up discussion.  
  • Private tours of Historic Jewish Detroit are available for organizations, groups and families.  

Jewish Yearbook Collection and Database contains yearbooks dating to 1904 and includes nearly 2,000 yearbooks from high schools where there was (is) a Jewish presence.  

Lectures, exhibits, programs are presented throughout the year. Any JHSM-presented or sponsored event must support the organization’s mission.  JHSM sponsors, often in collaboration with other organizations, author chats, lectures and events that relate to the preservation and celebration of Michigan’s Jewish heritage and history. Our events are crafted to be both educational and entertaining and appeal to a broad range of participants.  JHSM also extends its programming to areas outside of Detroit, to Flint, Lansing, Northern and Southwest Michigan and Windsor, Ontario.

J-Cycle, first presented in 2010, is a community-awareness bicycle tour of Historic Jewish Detroit. The collaborative event, presented together with the Isaac M. Agree Downtown Synagogue, the Reconstructionist Congregation of Detroit and Hillel of Metro Detroit, has enjoyed sell-out attendance each and every year.  Jcycle celebrates the revival of Detroit, and gives participants the opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of the city while learning the area’s Jewish history.   

www.michjewishhistory.org is JHSM’s information portal for the organization’s activities and events. The website is also an electronic repository and index for Michigan Jewish History.  The index was updated and digitized in late 2014.  Back issues are also available on line without fees.   

Michigan Women Who Made a Difference Project was funded in 2012. The original funding allowed for initial research into identifying and documenting the contributions Detroit-area women who were community-builders, who’s contributions made our community a better, richer place. The initial research provided for the development of a bus tour and publication of a book, Michigan Women Who Made a Difference.  Work continues on developing and expanding the project including the creation of a speaker’s bureau.