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Our History


The Michiana Jewish Historical Society was founded in the mid-1990s to document and share the story of Jewish life in the Michiana area with current and future generations.  The founders, led by Mendel, Louis, and David Piser, Chuck Simon, and others formed an organization whose purpose is to record that history, make it available to the Jewish and general communities, and promote understanding and appreciation of the Jewish experience in Michiana.

Under the leadership of Roger Birdsell, its first Executive Director, MJHS published several booklets about the Jewish Federation, cemeteries and other institutions in the area.  During our first fifteen years, MJHS also began the archive, with more than 15 collections; interviewed 25 people for an oral history project which is now digitized; placed an Indiana State Historical Marker on the site of the first Jewish cemetery in South Bend; and hosted many exhibits and speakers to educate and inform the community about the history of the Michiana Jewish community.

Today, in addition to MJHS’s original mission (to be a repository for photos, stories, and artifacts that provide a comprehensive record of the Michiana Jewish community), we also focus on Family Education and Programming so that adults and children can learn and appreciate more about their family’s history, wherever that history began!

Highlights include:

  • The Digital Archive, with more than 3,500 photos and documents available online for Phase I

  • The Community Family Tree, including more than 500 families and 10,000 people

  • Hands on History Fair, where adults and children tried on clothes and sampled food from ‘the old days’

  • Pickle Me! Family Programs, where people of all ages learned about pickles and made them to take home

  • Schmoozapalooza, where people talk about the people and institutions of the Michiana Jewish community

  • L’dor v’Dor – From Generation to Generation:  The Michiana Jewish Community photojournal

  • Annual meetings with documentaries related to Jewish culture, as well as  educators and speakers

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