What is American Jewish Life?

American Jewish Life is a digital archive that collects and preserves experiences and responses from American Jewish individuals and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Started by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, the project is a partnership with the Breman Museum; the Capital Jewish Museum; the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish LifeHebrew Theological College; the Houston Jewish History Archive at Rice University; and Yeshiva University. American Jewish Life is part of a larger collecting project, Pandemic Religion, documenting the intersection between American religious groups and the pandemic.

Why a digital archive at this time?

American Jewish Life documents the many ways that communities and institutions have been challenged and reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the midst of the crisis, websites are full of this sort of information. Synagogues post updates about closures and reopenings, rabbinical councils issue guidance, and tweets and Facebook posts record responses to illness, injustice, and unemployment. Most of this information, however, will be lost if we don’t retain a record of it. 

When historians study the Black Death or the 1918–1919 Spanish Flu, they rely on materials that generations have preserved, everything from  to newspapers to personal diaries and letters. Only a fraction of materials survive. Today’s digital age poses unique challenges. On the one hand, a Tweet might circulate long after its author has disavowed it. On the other hand, media files and webpages are ephemeral. Please help us to act now to preserve memories and materials—your memories and materials—that will otherwise be lost.

What items can I contribute?

American Jewish Life collects images, videos, audio files, texts, and more. Everything from sermons to screen shots. It is difficult to know what present and future scholars will find most valuable. If you have any questions about what is desirable or permissible to share, please get in touch with us at pandemicreligion@gmail.com.

What happens to an item I have contributed?

Once you have contributed an item, it is stored on RRCHNM’s servers. A staff person will review your contribution. If there is no reason to withhold publication, that item will be made publicly available on the site. Items that are publicized will be generally available. Items which are submitted but not published will nevertheless be available for study by scholars. RRCHNM is currently investigating best practices for how to preserve these items over the long term.  

How can I help?

Contribute items, and help us publicize this project. Share the project website with members of your community. If you have any questions or concerns about the project,  please contact us at pandemicreligion@gmail.com.

Curatorial Partners

  • Zev Eleff, Associate Professor of Jewish History, Hebrew Theological College, Touro College and University System
  • Joshua Furman, Curator, Houston Jewish History Archive, Rice University
  • Jeremy Katz, Director, Cuba Family Archives for Southern Jewish History, The Breman Museum
  • Nora Katz, Director of Heritage and Interpretation, Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life
  • Josh Parshall, Director of History, Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life
  • Deena Schwimmer, Archivist, Yeshiva University Archives
  • Rebekah Sobel, Director of Interpretation, Capital Jewish Museum

Project staff

  • Ken Albers, Software Developer and Designer, RRCHNM
  • Alexis Frambes, Research Associate, RRCHNM
  • Julia Hoffer, Grants Administrator, RRCHNM
  • God's Will Katchoua, Systems Administrator, RRCHNM
  • Mills Kelly, Executive Director, RRCHNM
  • Jessica Mack, Postdoctoral Fellow, RRCHNM
  • Lincoln Mullen, Associate Professor of History, George Mason University
  • Jim Safley, Senior Software Developer and Metadata Specialist, RRCHNM
  • John G. Turner, Professor of Religious Studies, George Mason University