The University Library and the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies are the joint beneficiaries of a generous gift from Constance and (the late) Theodore Harris of Beverly Hills, California, who in 2003-04 gave an extraordinary collection of some 2,000 items to the University of Michigan. The Jewish Heritage Collection is dedicated to their grandsons, Mark and Dave Harris, who grew up in Birmingham, Michigan. Since that first gift, Connie Harris and others have continued to add hundreds of items each year until in 2014 the collection numbers well over 4,000 items. The collection is housed in the Special Collections Research Center and materials from it can be used upon request in its Reading Room, 8th floor, Hatcher Graduate Library.
The collection was formed to reflect Jewish life, and it does so in an unusual assemblage of artwork, books, printed ephemera such as pamphlets and postcards, and objects of everyday and religious significance ranging from dolls and serving dishes to menorahs and mezuzahs. Constance Harris approached the building of the collection with a clear idea that what was unique about everyday Jewish life is not well known among the younger population, and might even be in danger of being lost. Thus, the collection documents both the mundane and the high ceremonies of Jewish life.
There are currently over 2,100 publications from the Jewish Heritage Collection available in the Library Catalog. From Library Catalog Search, choose "Advanced" search, then "Special Collections" as a location and "Jewish Heritage Collection" as a collection to generate a full list.
One of the strengths of the collection is its number of Haggadot, which currently stands at nearly 300 printed between 1712 and 2013. These illustrated manuals for celebrating the Passover Seder serve as a distinct reflection of the eras and cultures for which they were created.
At the heart of the collection lies artwork that will support both the serious study of Jewish artists and of how Jewish life has been portrayed in images from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries. It encompasses work by fine artists alongside magazine caricatures and political cartoons. They are as disparate as eighteenth century engravings and museum posters from the 1990s, representing artists who are might be fine European silversmiths or Ethiopian refugees in Israel. A full database of photographs and full descriptions of the artwork is planned for the future.
Printed paper ephemera
- Calendars [ca. 175 items]
- Greeting cards [ca. 100 items]
- Postcards [ca. 545 items]
- Sheet music [ca. 50 items]
- Other ephemera (brochures, flyers, etc.) [ca. 150 items]
Nearly 500 objects are in the Jewish Heritage Collection, including ritual items (menorahs, besamim, groggers, cloths to cover Challah and Matzoh), children's toys, household items, and historical objects.