Center for Michigan Jewish Heritage Goes Social to Spread Word About Archives
(Rebecca Phoenix, March 19. 2022)
Recently Robbie Terman and Laura Gottlieb sat down with Rebecca Phoenix to discuss their work in the respective Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archive and Rabbi Leo M. Franklin Archive. Their work not only involves safeguarding the historical records of the Michigan Jewish community, but also continued community engagement and education through their popular Facebook, YouTube and Tiktok pages.
The separate Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community and Rabbi Leo M. Franklin archives help provide access to genealogical studies and historical research to the community. Jewish peoples have lived in the Detroit area since 1762 and solidified as a community with the opening of Temple Beth El in 1850, currently located in Bloomfield Hills. Many of their visitors are those researching their family history or academic researchers looking to uncover the past. Terman and Gottlieb rely on a core team of volunteers and Wayne State students, to help digitize their archival materials for the public and process materials for use. With other entities in the community, they plan community engagement events centering on history and fun.
Covid-19 kept the archives shut and isolated the archivists from their visitors, but they found creative ways to continue their engagement and education. Their commitment to educating the public has translated into their social media expansion. Social media on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Tiktok reach thousands of users both locally and nationally, garnering attention from individual users and fellow historical institutions alike. Their accidental (according to Gottlieb) TikTok page features advice on how to store your personal collections like, recommending home collectors remove rubber bands and staples from photos and warning of the dangers of sticky back photo albums.
Over on Youtube, the center also features the ‘Out of the Box: a Bisel of History’ series that highlights the unique finds that pop up in their archives and takes viewers on a tour of the metro Detroit area.
This series blossomed through the archives connection with Temple Beth El and early episodes can be found on the Temples Facebook page.
Through their Tiktok and the “Out of the Box” series, the archives are able to explore the historical significance the Jewish community has played in Detroit history in a fun and engaging way.
“The Jewish community has always been, figuratively and literally, helping to build Detroit”, said Gottlieb when commenting on the intertwined nature of the Detroit area Jewish community and local history. “It would be hard to stand many places in downtown Detroit without seeing a building by Albert Khan… He was a member of the Jewish community…and was a member of the youth group at Temple Beth El” said Gottlieb. From business to education, the Jewish community, like so many others, worked together in the creation of our modern-day Detroit area.
The archive also provides essential materials for generational Jewish Detroiters to research their roots in the city and rediscover ancestors of the past. “We are the keepers of our communities’ histories, and so many family legacies”, said Terman. As family research has become more popular over the last decade their archives provide a vital link for family historians.
The archive materials are not only for those seeking information on the Jewish community but anyone who wishes to look more deeply into our rich Detroit history. The pandemic exponentially increased demand for digitally available materials and accelerated both archives’ plan to create a joint database, where users can search through thousands of records and learn more about the history of the local Jewish community.
After the success of their joint online database the archives have exciting plans to combine into one physical space that will also provide community support under the central header, Center for Michigan Jewish Heritage. The ability of the archives to be housed in the same location will allow further communication and a sharing of resources while also eliminating the need to run across the eight laned telegraph to share resources. Gottlieb is excited for season two of their ‘Bisel History’ which will feature a murder mystery, based on findings from the archives. More events are planned for the future and can be found on the Facebook page for the Center and the individual archives as well as upcoming partnerships with the Jewish Federation.
Connecting community to the figures of our past is one central motivation behind historical institutions like the Center for Michigan Jewish Heritage. Through their social media, and continual community engagement, they succeed in helping us reach through time to the legacy of our past.
Visit them online at https://mijewishheritage.catalogaccess.com/ for more information.