On Sunday, Sept. 8, the community can see firsthand one of North America’s largest archive of materials documenting Jewish immigration to the United States.
It is all buried within two giant caverns below a 30-foot layer of 500-year old limestone at the University of Minnesota Elmer L. Andersen Library on the U of M West Bank campus. The caverns are not regularly open to the public.
The upcoming event, Immigrants … “Making A Difference” will be at the Ted Mann Concert Hall, U of M West Bank, and is presented by the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest.
Congressman Dean Phillips is master of ceremonies and NPR’s “All Things Considered” host Ari Shapiro will speak on the topic of immigration, followed by audience Q & A, starting at 7:30 p.m. at Ted Mann Concert Hall.
More event info and tickets are available through the University of Minnesota ticketing service. Tickets can also be purchased using a credit card by calling the U of M Ticket Office at (612) 624-2345. Phones are answered Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Tickets are $18 (Student Reserved Seating); and $50 (Reserved Seating).
VIP Priority Seating ($250 per person) includes a 5 p.m. pre-event reception (hearty appetizers), opportunity to meet and greet Ari Shapiro and Rep. Phillips, and private tour of the Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives located at the Elmer Anderson Library, preferred seating for the discussion at the Ted Mann Concert Hall, and dessert reception. VIP ticket holders will be shuttled round-trip between Ted Mann Concert Hall and Andersen Library.
A dessert reception for all ticket levels concludes the evening at Ted Mann Concert Hall.
“This is a unique opportunity to see, hear, touch and feel the immigrant story located 82-feet below ground,” according to JHSUM Executive Director Robin Doroshow.
“Jewish immigrant and their descendants have been making a difference since they first arrived in the United States. That tradition has continued with the various waves of Jews settling in the Upper Midwest,” said Doroshow. “For 35 years, JHSUM has been preserving this history and the work continues,” she added.
The main event will also honor original society founders Theresa and Nathan Berman ‘zl and Sharron Steinfeldt. Also, event honorees are Linda Mack Schloff, Ph.D., former director of collections, exhibits, and publications, who has served 22 years as the architect of the Society’s archives and director of its programs and was the Society’s first executive director. Katherine Tane, the Society’s second executive director, also served for nine years.
Doroshow shared an example of immigrant history guests will see and experience. The VIP exhibit will include a simply typed letter dated October 31, 1950, and authored by the late Jay Phillips, one of the Twin Cities’ preeminent philanthropists and leaders in Twin Cities Jewish History and great-grandfather of Congressman Phillips. Jay Phillips was the patriarch of the Phillips family and founder of the Ed Phillips and Sons Liquor distributing firm in Minneapolis. Phillips immigrated from Russia at the age of 2. He began his career selling newspapers for a penny apiece and ended up a legend in philanthropy.
Phillips’ one-page letter signaled an alarm and warning to the Jewish community. It is stored underground in the archives and speaks volumes about Minneapolis in the 1930s and 1940s.
Minneapolis was known as one of the most anti-Semitic cities in America. Discrimination was rampant. Jewish doctors were routinely barred from practicing in metro hospitals. Jewish medical students were excluded from residencies. Neighborhoods throughout Minneapolis were redlined “for Gentiles only.” Even the Automobile Club in Minneapolis, (now known as AAA) would not accept Jews as members.
Phillips’ letter underscored an anti-Semitic crisis in Minneapolis. The seed Phillips planted became Mt. Sinai Hospital, formerly located at 2215 Portland Av. So. In its 40-year run, Mount Sinai was Minnesota’s first non-sectarian hospital and it opened long-bolted doors — for thousands of underserved people.
Doroshow notes that the infamous rock star Prince was born at Mount Sinai Hospital in 1958.