Sunday, December 14, 2014

A visit to Tucson's Jewish History Museum

Jewish History Museum
If you gravitate to off-the-beaten path tourist attractions, like we do, then visiting Tucson’s Jewish History Museum is a must.

The museum is housed in the first synagogue built in Arizona. Uneven hardwood floors attest to the age; the building was dedicated in 1910 when an estimated 3,000 Jews were living in Tucson. The museum tells the history of the Jewish population in southern Arizona. Mostly, they were merchants, bankers and miners, though some became active in local politics. Tucson elected its first Jewish mayor in 1880.

The congregation moved into a new synagogue in 1949, and the old one was sold. over the years, 11 different churches called it home. In 1994, the Jewish community bought it back just as it was about to be sold and torn down to make way for a parking lot.

The museum was ranked by USA Today as one of the best places in the United States to learn about Jewish history. In 2012, True West magazine ranked it as the fifth best western museum in the United States.

Holocaust Museum display
The day we visited, they had rearranged the interior to accommodate a special exhibit on Helene Barr, a young French Jewish woman, who like Anne Frank, kept a diary of life under Nazi rule in World War II.

Quilt made by Holocaust survivors
Next door is the Holocaust Museum dedicated to survivors who settled in southern Arizona. One wall of the hallway-like room has small portraits of these survivors, while a video of survivors talking about the Holocaust runs on a television.

The Jewish History Museum is located at 564 South Sixth Avenue in Tucson. It’s open only a few days a week, so travelers should call the museum at (520) 670-9073 to make sure it’s open. Both museums are handicap accessible.



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