Museum Interior

Iowa Jewish Historical Society

The Iowa Jewish Historical Society Museum is Temporarily Closed but Services and New Online Programs Continue

To keep our visitors and staff safe during the pandemic, the Iowa Jewish Historical Society’s building is closed but new online programs are being developed, research into Iowa’s Jewish history continues, artifacts are being accepted, and staff are answering questions.

You may want to use this unexpected time at home to learn about the history of the Jewish people in Iowa through the resources on these web pages.  You can:

  • Browse through thousands of artifacts in our collection
  • Listen to new virtual programsYom HaShoah and Beyond and a new series Iowa Liberators Witness the Holocaust
  • Watch presentations by Celina Karp Biniaz, one of the last living survivors from Schindler’s list and the only one who graduated from North High School and Grinnell College in Iowa
  • Send us information on how you and your family celebrated Passover in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic

And our staff is available to help with research questions or questions about possible artifacts that you may wish to donate. Stay tuned to this web page for further updates. In the meantime, check out our brochure.

IJHS Trip to Kansas City Auschwitz Exhibit

Union Station in Kansas City is hosting the groundbreaking exhibit Auschwitz  Not Long Ago  Not Far Away from June 14, 2021 through mid-January, 2022.  This exhibit features more than 700 original objects and 400 photographs from more than 20 museums and institutions around the world.  This exhibit is the most comprehensive exhibit on Auschwitz and its role in the Holocaust ever presented in North America.

The Iowa Jewish Historical Society is organizing a special trip to tour the exhibit this fall. Tickets for the exhibit are $16.50/person for the self-guided tour with individual audio guides in English or Spanish, with the tour expected to take 90 – 120 minutes. 

The tentative schedule is to leave Des Moines at 9:00 am in individual cars with a box lunch to eat on the way.  The IJHS group tour would begin at 1:00 pm.  Afterwards, folks can go their separate ways, with some returning to Des Moines and others staying in Kansas City for the weekend. 

Founded in 1996 as part of the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines, the Iowa Jewish Historical Society (IJHS) is an award-winning organization that collects, preserves and educates audiences of all ages and backgrounds about the history of the Jewish people in Iowa. Over the course of the Society’s 20-year history, we’ve shared Iowa’s Jewish heritage with thousands of students, families, community members, and researchers.

Special Project

The Iowa Jewish Historical Society has joined a nationwide effort sponsored by the Council of American Jewish Museums to document and collect stories from around the nation on what it means to be Jewish in the era of Covid-19.  Read more about this critical project.

The Iowa Jewish Historical Society is also collecting videos, pictures, and statements about how Jewish Iowans are conducting Seders during this time of quarantine and self-isolation. Please consider submitting to this historical record.

Classroom at the Museum

Visit the Museum

Our museum in Waukee, Iowa features educational exhibits, programs, and special events that attract local, state, and regional audiences. Exhibits and programs focus on all aspects of Jewish life and history in Iowa. Each is designed to deepen a visitor’s understanding of Jewish history and culture for Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. Learn more about our location, hours and scheduling a visit.

Caspe Gallery

Explore the Collection

The IJHS collection is an important part of the cultural history of Iowa and the key to understanding the contributions Jewish Iowans have made across the centuries. Since the 1830s, Jews have inhabited more than 100 cities and towns across the state, running successful businesses, raising families, and leaving their mark on Iowa history. See what’s in our collection, including Jewish oral histories.

Students at the Gallery

Support the Iowa Jewish Historical Society

As we continue to celebrate our 20th anniversary, the IJHS needs your support more than ever to make our growing collection of artifacts more accessible and to ensure that they are securely preserved. You can help by becoming a member and making a donation today.