National Museum of American Jewish History

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Coordinates: 39°57′01″N 75°08′55″W / 39.950288°N 75.148593°W / 39.950288; -75.148593

National Museum of American Jewish History
National Museum of American Jewish History logo.jpg
National Museum of American Jewish History is located in Philadelphia
National Museum of American Jewish History
Location within Philadelphia
Established1976 (1976)
LocationPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania
Coordinates39°57′01″N 75°08′55″W / 39.950288°N 75.148593°W / 39.950288; -75.148593
TypeJewish Museum
Collection size30,000 objects
Visitors82,950 (2019)[1]
DirectorDr. Misha Galperin (Interim CEO)
CuratorJosh Perelman
Public transit accessSEPTA.svg 5th Street: Bus transport SEPTA.svg SEPTA bus: 17, 33, 38, 44, 48
Bus transport Philly PHLASH

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.

In March 2020, The National Museum of American Jewish History filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, seeking relief from debt incurred by the construction of its Independence Mall home. The museum's debts included over $30 million to bondholders, and an additional $500,000 to unsecured creditors; at the time of the bankruptcy filing, the museum was paying 20% of its annual budget in interest payments. The filing followed several years of decreasing attendance, revenue, and fundraising. The museum's operations were not affected by the bankruptcy.[1]

In August 2020, following the signing ceremony for the Great American Outdoors Act in which President Donald Trump mispronounced the name of Yosemite National Park as "yo-semites",[2] the museum's online gift shop experienced a surge in sales for a pre-existing, similarly phrased "Yo Semite" T-shirt. Sales of the shirt, which brought in $30,000 in the three days following Trump's statement and led to continued sales thereafter, provided unexpected international publicity and a financial lifeline to the museum.[3][4][5]


The new building in 2013

With its founding in 1976, the then–15,000-square-foot (1,400 m2) museum shared a building with the Congregation Mikveh Israel.[6]

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 the Independence Mall. The site was originally owned by CBS' KYW radio and KYW-TV. The project broke ground on September 30, 2007.[7] The 100,000-square-foot (9,300 m2) glass and terra-cotta building was designed by James Polshek and includes an atrium, a 25,000-square-foot (2,300 m2) area for exhibits, a Center for Jewish Education, and a theater.[8] The structural engineer was Leslie E. Robertson Associates.

The project, including endowment, cost $150 million.[9] 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.[10] The building opened to the public November 26, 2010.[10]


Exhibits use pieces from the museum's collection which includes over 30,000 objects and ranges from the Colonial period to the present day.[11] Exhibits have focused on the lives and experiences of Jews in America, with past exhibitions centering on Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Leonard Bernstein.[1] 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.[12] 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.[13]

From the Core Exhibition in 2010[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Salisbury, Stephan (March 2, 2020). "National Museum of American Jewish History files for bankruptcy protection". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved March 3, 2020.
  2. ^ Ellefson, Lindsey (August 4, 2020). "Watch Trump Pronounce 'Yosemite' as 'Yo-Semites' (Video)". TheWrap. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  3. ^ Rose, Kennedy (August 7, 2020). "Trump's Yosemite gaffe brings towering sales to National Museum of American Jewish History". Philadelphia Business Journal. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  4. ^ Child, David (August 11, 2020). "Donald Trump's mispronunciation blunder prompts surge in 'Yo Semite' t-shirt sales". Evening Standard. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  5. ^ Vermes, Jason (August 14, 2020). "How Trump's Yosemite slipup turned a Jewish history museum's T-shirt into an 'astronomical' best seller". CBC Radio. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  6. ^ Rothstein, Edward (2010-11-11). "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Identity". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-11-16.
  7. ^ "The Time has Come for a Groundbreaking Event". National Museum of American Jewish History. 2007-08-01. Archived from the original on 2010-11-19. Retrieved 2010-11-16.
  8. ^ Saffron, Inga (2010-11-14). "Building and message at odds". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2010-11-16.
  9. ^ "Spielberg group gives $1M to Jewish history museum". Philadelphia Business Journal. 2008-07-02. Retrieved 2010-11-16.
  10. ^ a b Shapiro, Howard (2010-11-15). "Biden among notables attending opening ceremony of National Museum of American Jewish History". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2010-11-16.
  11. ^ Hurdle, Jon (2008-01-12). "Alongside the History of the Nation, the Story of Jewish Immigrants". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-11-16.
  12. ^ "Bigotry" on the Jewish Virtual Library website
  13. ^ "To Bigotry No Sanction" on the Museum website

External links[edit]