When the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas uncovered a forgotten storage unit containing decades of papers and files detailing the organization’s history, they reached out to UNLV University Libraries to add the files to the Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project.
“When we learned that a storage unit holding a substantial chunk of Jewish Federation’s history had been located, our archivists were elated,” said Barbara Tabach, Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project coordinator. “Finally, we would be able to fill in gaps of the Federation’s history with meeting minutes, photos, correspondence, and planning documents.”
In addition to the organization’s records, the unit may also contain a complete run of the Jewish Reporter, which served as a source of information and news on the Las Vegas Jewish community for more than three decades.
Launched in 2014, the Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project is collecting and preserving oral histories, organizational records, photographs, and other documents detailing the influence and everyday life of the Jewish community in Las Vegas. Originally conceived as a three-year project, the University Libraries is working to extend the project due to the overwhelming response.
“Many individuals have come forward to share their stories, their organizational, work, or personal papers; the response has been tremendous,” said Patricia Iannuzzi, dean of the UNLV University Libraries. “With the discovery of these additional records, there is a need to extend the project to ensure these documents are organized, preserved, and described.”
Nearly 70 boxes of records were transferred from the storage unit to UNLV University Libraries Special Collections, where library faculty and student workers have started sorting materials and flagging key items for digitization. In addition, planning is underway to digitize Federation’s Jewish Reporter newspaper, which served as a source of information and news on the Las Vegas Jewish community for more than three decades.
Overall, the project has collected more than 150 oral histories—life stories of Jewish pioneers, political and civic leaders, casino workers, philanthropists, business owners, and rabbis, as well as more than 20 new archival collections about the region’s strong Jewish community. The website provides online access to more than 23,000 digital files, including transcriptions and audio highlights of the oral histories, historical photographs, scrapbooks, newsletters, newspapers, and more, so researchers around the world can learn more about Southern Nevada’s unique Jewish history.
“We continue to add new historical documents and interviews to the online portal, but we still have much to do,” said Michelle Light, director of UNLV University Libraries Special Collections. “The addition of these materials will help us create a more complete story of Jewish life in Southern Nevada.”
Currently, the Libraries is seeking external funding to support the digitization of the Jewish Reporter and the Las Vegas Israelite, digitize items from several recently acquired collections, such as from the Holocaust Resource Center, Ner Tamid, Temple Beth Sholom, Nathan Adelson Hospice, and Maury and Muriel Stevens and transcribe and edit 50 more oral histories for publication.
For more information, visit the Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project website. To make a donation to the project, contact Laurel Lamb, assistant director of development for UNLV University Libraries, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-895-2165.