IJHS History Collage

History of the IJHS

The idea for establishing an Iowa Jewish Historical Society (IJHS) was first discussed in 1989 after the 75th Anniversary of the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines. Now, after more than 20 years of serving the community, we are grateful for the leadership and ongoing community support that has made our mission possible.

A History of Accomplishment

IJHS has made outstanding progress in the pursuit of preserving our Jewish heritage. Take a look at our contributions and the generous awards and grants we’ve received over the last twenty years. To help us continue this important work and support our growing collection of artifacts and our expanded programming, please consider making a donation to the 20th Anniversary Fund Drive.



  • IJHS officially established
  • Opening of The Caspe Jewish Heritage Gallery in the Harmon Fine Arts Building on the Drake University campus
  • Start of the the 10-year Blumenthal Visual History Project documenting oral history interviews with Des Moines’ pioneers


Unpacking on the Prairie: Jewish Women in the Midwest Since 1885 and Unpacking on the Prairie: The Iowa Story exhibits presented in conjunction with the State Historical Society of Iowa



Connie and David Belin Memorial Fund established


The Caspe Heritage Gallery opens in the Martin Bucksbaum Arts Wing of The Caspe Terrace with an event honoring Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan for her generous donation to build and endow the Arts Wing bearing her father’s name


Far From Hitler: The Scattergood Hostel for European Refugees 1939-1943 exhibit


The Gradwohl Family Endowment for Public Programming in Iowa Jewish History established.


World premiere of The Sparks Fly Upward opera


Jews Love Baseball special event



History Writ Large and Small – Alexander Levi exhibit and program


Honoring Iowa’s Jewish Veterans event 2012 – Established a database of Iowa’s Jewish veterans, with more than 1,350 veterans currently listed


The IJHS is awarded a Certificate of Recognition by the State Historical Society of Iowa for Outstanding Contribution to Community History through Research or Publication for our Honoring Iowa’s Jewish Veterans project



The Iowa Jewish Historical Society celebrated its 20th Anniversary with an evening event featuring Rabbi Barry Cytron speaking on “… how beautiful is our heritage” and kicked off a $1.5 million 20th Anniversary Fund Drive with a gift of $1 million from Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan in memory of her mother, Melva Bucksbaum


Celina Karp Biniaz, one of the last living survivors from Schindler’s List, returned to Iowa to present a series of programs for students and the general public detailing how she and her parents survived the Holocaust by their inclusion on Schindler’s List and their immigration to Iowa


IJHS Awarded a Certificate of Recognition by the State Historical Society of Iowa for Outstanding Contribution to Community History for the series of six programs presented by Auschwitz Survivor and Schindler Juden, Celina Karp Biniaz.