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Project to Document Early Jewish Settlers in Minnesota records

Identifier: umja0020

Scope and Content

This collection contains materials for research and includes handwritten notes on paper and index cards, newspaper clippings, correspondence, brochures, photocopies for research, three floppy discs and four magnetic reel to reel tapes. All material dated between 1864 and 2002, with the bulk of materials dating in the 1980s. The collection is broken into two series: Series 1 deals with administrative materials related to the project, as well as subject files related to organizations, synagogues, and cities; Series 2 deals with specific familes for which Marilyn found information, either through oral history interviews or through her research of primary documents.


  • Creation: 1864-2002
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1980-1987


Use of Materials

Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the Upper Midwest Jewish Archives; please contact the archives for more detailed copyright information.

Historical Note

In the fall of 1980 Dr. Marilyn Chiat began research on the material culture of Minnesota's early Jewish settlers: synagogues, cemeteries, and ceremonial and folk art, focusing on the time period 1881-1924. No formal study or effort to record this material had been done before. The National Conference of Christians and Jews provided initial support, and early grants were made by the General Mills Foundation, the Joseph Foundation, the Greater Minneapolis Section of the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Minnesota Historical Society, with the research continuing through 1989. Initially the project focused on rural Jewish settlers because of the precariousness of their data but eventually it broadened to include the entire state of Minnesota. The aims were to write a history of Jews in Minnesota as well as a collection of interdisciplinary essays, create a traveling historical exhibit, and sponsor public forums in which to discuss the project's findings. Field trips were made to towns on the Iron Range and eventually to several areas of the state. Oral history interviews were conducted, both with Jews and with non-Jews who had contact with or were familiar with the Jewish community. Artifacts were photographed and described, as were family photographs. Relevant documents, community histories, and clippings were copied, especially those that dealt with business pioneers.

The project did not succeed in achieving all of its goals, but a collection of oral histories, photographs and documents was created. Interpretive essays written by Marilyn Chiat and her research assistance Chester Proshan gave context to the research findings. This collection was deeded to the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest in 1989.


6.23 Cubic Feet (8 boxes -- 4 Paige boxes, 2 cassette tape boxes, 1 half Hollinger box)

Language of Materials



This collection consists of research materials collected by Marilyn J. Chiat and Chester Proshan on Jews who lived in small communities around Minnesota in an effor to document the lives of the earliest Jewish settlers in the area.


This collection is divided into series:

Series 1: Administrative and Subject files

Series 2: People and Family files

Source of acquisition

Materials donated to the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest by Marilyn J. Chiat.

Project to Document Early Jewish Settlers in Minnesota records, 1864-2002
Finding aid created by Kate Dietrick
September 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Upper Midwest Jewish Archives Collecting Area