(JTA) — On Sue Fishkoff’s first day as editor of J. The Jewish News of Northern California in 2011, she knew she needed to do something about the archives.
At the time, the newspaper’s archives — which stretch all the way back to 1900 — were still housed in bound volumes stacked carelessly in the office. But after more than 100 years, even the bound volumes were beginning to fall apart, putting the preservation of the newspaper’s archives in jeopardy. Though a few libraries owned microfilm copies of the archive, those were difficult to access. Print copies of the newspaper’s older issues were even rarer.
“This was our history, the lived history of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish community as recorded in the pages of its community newspaper. And those pages were literally crumbling away,” Fishkoff wrote in an essay for J. this week.
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Now those archives are available for free online through a partnership with the University of California, Riverside’s California Digital Newspaper Collection, a project which makes the digitized archives of California-based newspapers available online. The archives are also available through the National Library of Israel.
The project makes available 127 years of history of the Jewish community in the Bay Area, starting in 1895 when Rabbi Jacob Voorsanger of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco founded the paper, then called the Emanu-El.
The archive includes the paper’s coverage of the assassination of Harvey Milk, a gay and Jewish public official who was killed in 1978; a visit from Golda Meir in March 1948; and how the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes affected the local Jewish community. The archive also boasts thousands of wedding announcements and obituaries spanning the paper’s history.
The archives include 6,151 issues, coming to a total of 163,832 pages and 694,656 articles. The entire collection, which includes advertisements, can be browsed by date or searched.