Comprised of over 100 million documents from the collections of five different partner organizations, the Center for Jewish History boasts the largest Jewish archives in the world outside of Israel. The Center’s collections contain artwork, textiles, ritual objects, recordings, films, and photographs that tell the stories of the migrations, adaptations, culture and life of the Jewish people over the course of the past 1,000 years. The collections are comprised of famous items from well known Jewish figures as well as personal artifacts from everyday donors who wish to add to their stories to the Center’s ever growing archives. We’ve picked out just a few highlights to give you an idea of the amazing artifacts you can find within.
An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the Center brings together five different organizations: The American Jewish Historical Society, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute, New York, Yeshiva University Museum, and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. At the Center, members of the public can explore the archives at the Lillian Goldman Reading Room and David Berg Rare Book Room, research their own genealogy at the Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute, and see how priceless historical items are cared for and preserved by the Center’s archivists, technicians and preservation experts in the Collection Management & Conservation Wing.
1. Albert Einstein’s Childhood Hot Chocolate Cup
One of the most unique items found in the archives of the Center for Jewish History is a pair of hot chocolate cups that belonged to the infamous mathematician Albert Einstein and his sister Maja. The tiny porcelain cups are emblazoned with a portrait of each child in a decorative gold leaf frame. The lip, handle and foot of the cups as well as the rims of the saucers are also ringed with gold leaf. The bases of the cups are stamped with the Wittelsbach coat of arms and the mark of the manufacturer, The Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory. The set of cups was presumably commissioned by the siblings’ parents shortly after the birth of Maja in the early 1880s, while the family was living in Munich. Einstein took the cups with him when he immigrated to the Untied States and kept them in his home in Princeton, New Jersey. Several years after Einstein’s death, his personal assistant Helen Dukas donated the cups to the Leo Baeck Institute.
In addition to the tiny cups, you can also see a collection of Einstein’s personal photographs from throughout his life and travels at the Center. If you are looking for other places to find Einstein in New York, read about how his eyeballs are stored in a safety deposit box!