Museum History

Yaakov Riz, Founder, Museum History
Yaakov Riz, Founder

The Jewish Identity Center’s Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center, America’s first Holocaust museum, is 60 years young. Yaakov Riz, the museum’s founder, was a Holocaust survivor who lost 83 members of his family in Adolf Hitler’s concentration camps. Riz vowed that if he survived he would dedicate his life to establishing a museum that would memorialize the millions of Jews and Non-Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis. The museum’s genesis, growth and struggle against intolerance are the realization of his dream, courage and commitment. The Museum was initially founded in the basement of Riz’s home in Northeast Philadelphia and since then it has wandered around the Delaware Valley. As a matter of fact the Museum has been in Melrose Park, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, KleinLife in Northeast Philadelphia and in August 2020, the Museum found a new and larger home at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park.

Yaakov Riz, HAMEC Founder
Yaakov Riz, HAMEC Founder

The museum’s educational and community outreach is ecumenical and comprises a population that ranges from elementary school to older adults. Many students come from disadvantaged homes and some are from Syria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Serbia which are countries in conflict.

During the last 59 years, the Museum has educated hundreds of thousands of students and adults in schools, community groups, and organizations. Additionally we provide teacher training opportunities. Our programs emphasize the message that racial, ethnic, and religious hatred are social poisons that weaken the American democracy.


Ilse Lindemeyer, Germantown Friends School
Ilse Lindemeyer speaks with students at the Germantown Friends School

During the last 59 years, more than 200,000 students and adults have participated in museum programs. Our programs primarily take place in public, archdiocesan, and private schools though we certainly welcome home-schooled students and their parents. We have also presented at federal installations and universities throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. During the 2019/2020 school year, our Educational Programs reached 23,750 students and adults in 175 schools, organizations, and businesses.

We Need Your Support

We can’t accomplish our programs without the support of people like you. The Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. Grants, including the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, support our work. Additional support comes from individuals and schools. Please support our Holocaust Education Programs and our vital mission. Donations in any amount are gratefully accepted. Please inquire regarding recommended donations for particular programs.

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