The Jewish Historical Museum Foundation was established on 23 May 1930 for the purpose of 'collecting and exhibiting that which presents a picture of Jewish life in general and Dutch Jewish life in particular, in the broadest sense of these terms; discussing in meetings everything related to this; and making use of all such means to promote Jewish art and learning'.

This mission statement still applies today, although with slight changes in emphasis. For instance, over the years the JHM has decided to devote more energy to collecting the work of Dutch Jewish artists and non-Jewish artists who dealt with Jewish themes. The donation of Charlotte Salomon's Life? or Theatre? to the museum greatly enhanced this part of the collection. Another shift in emphasis took place with the successful exhibition Pedlar, Middleman, Manufacturer: Jewish Enterprises and Entrepreneurs in Holland, 1796-1940.

Since the museum was founded, some 11,000 objects have been added to the collection. A small selection is on display in the permanent exhibitions ReligionHistory of the Jews in the Netherlands 1600-1900, and History of the Jews in the Netherlands 1900-The Present Day. In addition, the Resource Centre holds approximately 43,000 books, brochures, documents, photographs, and audiovisual titles. The JHM Children's Museum features the permanent exhibition The Hollander family home.