The Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies (MMZ) was established in 1992 by its founding director Prof. Julius H. Schoeps. With the support of the Brandenburg state government, the MMZ was established as an affiliated institute of the University of Potsdam, conducting interdisciplinary research on European-Jewish history and its present, while at the same time contributing its own topics to academic teaching. The MMZ was thus instrumental in the conception and development of the course of study "Jüdische Studien/Jewish Studies", which opened at the University of Potsdam in the winter term of 1994/1995.
In 1996, the Moses Mendelssohn Center moved to its new home at Neuer Markt in Potsdam's historic center, thus becoming part of the "Forum Neuer Markt" association of humanities and social science institutions. The steady growth of the library of the MMZ, the establishment of graduate programs and the increasing number of public events led to the MMZ frequently attracting not only scholars, lecturers and students but also educators, journalists, politicians and generally interested citizens of Potsdam. In May 2007, the MMZ was named a "Landmark in the Land of Ideas". The "Library of Burned Books" project was selected as part of the "Land of Ideas" location initiative under the patronage of the then Federal President Horst Köhler.
In recent years, the MMZ has strengthened both the international connections of its own research and has increasingly emphasized the broadest possible dissemination of scholarly findings on Jewish history and the present. In addition to a large number of publications, travelling exhibitions also served this purpose. They dealt with topics such as the trial of Alfred Dreyfus, the work of Theodor Herzl and Israeli society today, the history of the Jewish Hospital in Berlin, the philosopher and publicist Theodor Lessing, the Prussian Emancipation Edict of 1812, and the history of synagogues in what is now the state of Brandenburg.
Since 2010, the MMZ has been an important actor in the establishment of the Selma Stern Center for Jewish Studies Berlin-Brandenburg (ZJS), a network funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and opened in 2012. Institutions involved in this network are the Freie Universität Berlin (Jewish Studies), the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Cultural Studies), the Technische Universität Berlin (Center for Research on Anti-Semitism), the University of Potsdam (Jewish Studies), the Abraham Geiger Kolleg (AGK) and the Hochschule für Musik FRANZ LISZT Weimar. The ZJS promotes joint research and teaching of the above-mentioned institutions and strengthens the Jewish Studie profile of the Berlin-Brandenburg region. A new agreement of institutional cooperation was signed in 2021 after expiration of the federal funding by the BMBF.
Three graduate schools have already been located at the MMZ: Makom - Places in Judaism (DFG) as the first formalized PhD program of the MMZ, followed in 2010 by the Walther Rathenau Kolleg "Liberalism and Democracy" (Friedrich Naumann Foundation). Another graduate program, the Ludwig Rosenberg Kolleg, started in summer 2013 with the support of the Hans Böckler Foundation. In this program, doctoral students conduct research on selected topics in the field of "The Labor Movement and Judaism".
In December 2020, Prof. Dr. Miriam Rürup succeeded founding director Prof. Dr. Julius H. Schoeps as the director of the MMZ.