Foundational moment: Seattle Jewish community members gather in 1907 to establish Temple De Hirsch. Image courtesy of the Washington State Jewish Historical Society and UW Special Collections.

Seattle’s First Reform Temple

In 1907, Seattle Jewish leaders gathered for a cornerstone laying ceremony for a new synagogue, Temple De Hirsch. The picture of this ceremony is one of thousands of images, and associated historical documents, housed in the Washington State Jewish Historical Society collections at the University of Washington. During the spring quarter, students in Digital American Jewish History (JSIS C 336A/HSTAA 336A) will be digging through these archives to understand American Jewish history through the lens of very local archival material. In small groups, students will create digital exhibits of their projects in order to share their discoveries and interpretations of Jewish history.

This Digital American Jewish History course represents a laboratory for the innovative use of new technology in the teaching and presentation of history. Throughout the quarter students will use maps, timelines, and videos to build exhibits that tell the story of local Jewish life. In this way, students in the course will be empowered to “make history” in their own right.

The initiative for this course grows out of a collaboration between the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies, the digital storytelling nonprofit Citizen Film, and the New Media in Jewish Studies Collaborative launched by Citizen Film and Columbia University’s Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies. Prof. Pianko also received support for the UW  Center for Teaching and Learning Technology Teaching Fellowship. Course development was generously funded by the Jewish Federation of Seattle in cooperation with the Washington State Jewish Historical Society. 

Above and below are media examples that Prof. Pianko put together with the help of Citizen Film explaining the story behind the founding of Temple De Hirsch. The short video and timeline will serve as models for students to emulate as they work toward their online, multi-media exhibits this spring:

Check back with throughout the spring for more digital projects featuring UW students’ archival finds from Seattle’s fascinating Jewish past!


Want to see more articles like this?  Sign up for our newsletter!
⇒ Learn more about the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Washington, our Sephardic Studies Program, or our Israel Studies Program.
Note: The opinions expressed by faculty and students in our publications reflect the views of the individual writer only and not those of the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies.