At different points in history, such as the Russian pogroms (anti-Semitic riots) in the early 1900’s and the Holocaust in the mid-century, Jewish people turned to the Alaskan Government and its people as a place to find refuge from persecution.
During crises, the government considered the possibility of placing Jews in Alaska. In the early 1940s, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes and members of Congress, considered a proposal for Alaska as a settlement for Central European Jewish refugees seeking asylum from the Nazis. Abe Spring, the first mayor of Fairbanks, introduced a more modest proposal in 1906. This Russian-born Jew tried to save some of his countrymen from the violence of the pogroms. In the end, unfortunately, neither act of compassion came to fruition, due in part to anti-Semitism and political maneuvering.
Along with that regrettable chapter in Alaskan history, the Museum tells the story of Alaska's compassion towards Jewish refugees. From 1948-1950, Warren Metzger (Chief pilot and vice-president of Alaska Airlines flight operations) and his wife Marian (a flight attendant with Alaska Airlines) assisted in Operation Magic Carpet, the airlift of more than 47,000 Yemenite Jews to Israel by Alaska Airlines. This is the focus of the first permanent AJM exhibit, "On the Wing's of Eagles: Alaska's Contribution to Operation Magic Carpet."