Beit Hatfutsot Photo Collections
The photographic collections of The Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot include works of professional photographers who were commissioned by Beit Hatfutsot to document vanishing communities, as well as photographs collected from private family albums. These collections offer both a public and general view of Jewish life and the intimate view of Jewish families and their stories.
The Herbert and Leni Sonnenfeld Collection
In 2005, Beit Hatfutsot acquired the astounding photo archive of Leni and Hebert Sonnenfeld, pioneering photojournalists considered among the world’s most important Jewish photojournalists of the 20th century. The collection was donated to Beit Hatfutsot in recognition of the importance of this collection so that it would be preserved in an institution dedicated to the documentation of Jewish life. The collection consists of over 250,000 negatives, slides, transparencies and prints. Herbert and Leni Sonnenfeld left photographs that are a living memory to historical events in the history of the Jewish people since the 1930s and throughout the 20th century, both tragic and happy. Leni Sonnenfeld continued to take photographs until just before she died at the age of 96.
Leni Sonnenfeld’s photographs have been published in leading newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Life Magazine, Esquire, The Daily News, The Jewish Week and Hadassah Magazine, as well as in many other publications and exhibitions around the world. Her photographs were purchased by several museums, among them the Museum of New York, Jewish Museum in Berlin, The US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, and the Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
The Elias Harrus Collection
In 2005, Just before Rosh Hashana of 5766, Beit Hatfutsot received a special gift for the New Year: Mr. Elias Harrus of Casablanca, Morocco, generously announced the donation of his photographic collection on the Jews of the Atlas Mountains in 1940-1960 to the Bernard Oster Visual Documentation Center.
Mr. Harrus, formerly the Alliance Israelite’s director in Morocco, took these unique photos while working with the Jewish communities in rural Morocco. In 1999 to 2001 a selection from this collection was exhibited at Beit Hatfutsot, which also firstly published it in its catalogue “Jews Among the Berbers: Photographs by Elias Harrus” (1999, co-published with the Museum of Jewish Art and History, Paris).
The Harrus photographic collection is unique in being the only existing comprehensive visual documentation of Jewish life in rural Morocco during the late 1940s to the late 1950s – a crucial decade, in which Morocco gained independence and subsequently all its rural Jews immigrated to Israel. By the mid-1960s all the communities documented in Harrus’ photographs practically vanished.
This collection is, therefore, one of the gem stones among the collections of The Bernard and Miriam Oster Visual Documentation Center.
The Zeev Aleksandrowicz Collection
The Zeev Aleksandrowicz collection is comprised of fifty photographs of unique artistic merit, depicting Jewish life in Cracow, Poland, from 1920 to 1930, taken by Wilhelm-Zeev Aleksandrowicz prior to his immigration to Israel. This unique collection was donated to the archive in 1985.
The Vilkaviskis Community Collection
The Vilkaviskis Community collection consists of some 500 photographs recording the Jewish community of Vilkaviskis, Lithuania, collected on the initiative of Israel Sperling of the Vilkavskis landmanschaften and donated to the archive in 1985-1986.
The Than Wyenn Collection
The Than Wyenn collection contains about 3,500 slides photographed by the famous actor Mr. Than Wyenn, documenting synagogues, streets and other manifestation of Jewish life and culture. Mr. Wyenn donated his collection to Beit Hatfutsot in 2005.
Collection of German Photographers from World War I
This collection of German photographers from World War I (1914-1918) is a very important and unique collection documenting Jewish life in Eastern Europe during World War I, photographed by German soldiers. The collection includes hundreds of photographs copied in 1985-6 from the originals owned by individuals and institutions in Poland.
The Dr. Paul Arnsberg Collection
The Dr. Paul Arnsberg collection contains some 1,400 photographs and negatives dealing with the history of the Jews in Frankfurt-on-Main, Germany, the result of comprehensive research conducted by Dr. Arnsberg on this subject.
The Dr. Theodore Cohen Collection
The Dr. Theodore Cohen Collection consists of approximately 200 color slides of New York synagogues. The photos were taken by Dr. Cohen in 1984 as a gift to the archive.
The Grunstein-Shamir Collection
The Grunstein-Shamir collection is a highly significant photo-documentation collection of work that was done by photographers who were sent to Poland by Beit Hatfutsot, and financed by the Grunstein-Shamir Fund for the Documentation of the Jewish Remnant in Poland Today. These photographs constitute a major addition to the archive in two vital fields:
1. Gravestones and cemeteries in Poland, Documented by Zusia Efron in 1981, 1983 and in 1984 in 600 slides and 4,000 contact prints.
2. The life of the last Jews living in Galicia – their houses and streets, synagogues, cemeteries and gravestones – recorded in 300 slides taken by Koby Weizner in 1983.
The Kadushin Collection
The Kadushin collection is a rare collection of some 2,000 photo negatives, taken by Zvi Kadushin in the Kovno Ghetto from 1942 – 1944, as well as approximately 1,000 photographs from the Displaced Persons Camp at Landsberg, Germany 1945-46. This touching collection was donated to the archive by the photographer in 1982.
The Octav Moscuna Collection
The Octav Moscuna collection contains approximately 2,000 color slides of Jewish synagogues and monuments, including Holocaust monuments, in various countries taken by
Mr. Moscuna during his travels. The collection was donated to Beit Hatfutsot in 2001.
The Zuskin Collection
The Zuskin collection comprises over 250 photographs of the Moscow Yiddish State Theater (GOSET), taken between 1917 and 1949. This wonderful collection was donated to the Photo Archive by Mrs. Ala Perlman-Zuskin, daughter of actor Benjamin Zuskin.
The WIZO-Argentine Collection
The WIZO-Argentine collection consists of approximately 390 photographs and documents dating from the beginning of Jewish agricultural settlement in Argentina. The collection was donated by WIZO-Argentine in 1982.