Jewish history in New Mexico comes alive when you return to the source. Those curious about New Mexico Jewish history can find articles, personal papers, and business records of other New Mexico Jewish pioneer families in the NMJHS collection at the New Mexico State Records Center and Archives in Santa Fe. The NMJHS collection is special to the State Archives because of the large Jewish presence in New Mexico of merchants, artists, and professional people. Currently, the NMJHS collection covers the years 1860 to 2001 and takes up 25.5 linear feet on the shelves of the State Archives.
Bernard Seligman, Zadoc Staab, Lehman Spiegelberg, and  Kiowa Indians, circa 1870. Photo courtesy of the Museum of New  Mexico, negative #7890.

Bernard Seligman, Zadoc Staab, Lehman Spiegelberg, and Kiowa Indians, circa 1870. Photo courtesy of the Museum of New Mexico, negative #7890.

The New Mexico Jewish Historical Society Collection consists primarily of the family papers of Jewish pioneer families in New Mexico and articles pertaining to these families. Included are ledgers for various families and the papers of Charles Gross (Holocaust survivor) and Solomon Bibo (Indian trader). Families included are: the Herzsteins (Clayton); the Gusdorfs (Taos); the Kahns and Spiegelbergs (Santa Fe); the Kohns and Calischs (Tucumcari); the Nahms, Ilfelds, Taicherts, and Shipmans (Las Vegas); and the Kleins, Sparks, and Sterns (Carlsbad and Las Cruces). Subject files include materials pertaining to Congregation Montefiore (Las Vegas). Artists papers include the papers of various contemporary New Mexico Jewish artists.

When NMJHS was established in 1985, the Society began collecting important records of archival importance. The founding members recognized that these valuable documents, some of them old family papers, needed to be saved for posterity. NMJHS officers negotiated an arrangement in 1988 whereby these documents would be on long-term loan to the State Archives at the old building on the corner of Montezuma and Guadalupe Streets.

Shortly after the new State Records Center and Archives Building was built, the State Archivist informed NMJHS that the Society had five years to decide whether to permanently gift the collection to the State or take it back. The Society had to decide on a course of action – whether to donate its collection to the State Archives or to retain ownership and find a secure home for the collection

In 2001 NMJHS made the big decision to gift its collection to the State Archives. The agreement with the State Records Center and Archives states that the NMJHS Accessions Committee and Board of Directors can decide what they want to collect. Everyone on the Accessions Committee maintains a notebook with lists of possible documents to archive.

As a contributing organization to the State Archives, NMJHS has an annual obligation to submit agendas and minutes of meetings, financial statements, fliers, documentation of events, articles that appear in the press, newsletters, membership lists, board members, and other relevant documents

The New Mexcio State Records Center and Archives is located at 1205 Camino Carlos Rey off Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe. The public entrance is on the lower level. At present, if you want to access a document in the NMJHS collection, you look it up in the online catalog of archival holdings and ask for it at the desk. Researchers can also request videotapes of meetings and conferences that NMJHS has held over the years.

The State Archives is in the process of scanning the documents in its collection, including the NMJHS collection, so that researchers can access the digital images from any location. This huge job will be completed sometime in the not-too-distant future. The effort is being coordinated in conjunction with other research institutions such as the University of New Mexico, Congregation Albert, and Temple Beth Shalom. Collections left by families that are held at various New Mexico libraries, museums, and other institutions are already linked into a giant database that provides great help to researchers.