The Temple Israel Archives serves as the final repository for the historical records of Temple Israel of Boston. Its primary purpose is to document congregational history and provide source material for administrators, clergy, religious school faculty and students, and other members of the temple community. The archives also serves as a resource for those in the public who seek to understand the ways in which the temple has changed and grown from 1854 to the present and evaluate the congregation's impact on the history of American social, religious, and cultural development.
The Temple Israel Archives collects the institutional records of temple staff, clergy, lay leaders, and committees; the organizational records of the Sisterhood, Brotherhood, Riverway Project, Frances Jacobson Early Childhood Center, and other auxiliary organizations; and the personal papers of temple members. Records include manuscripts and papers, meeting minutes, bulletins, religious school yearbooks, photographs, scrapbooks, media, and memorabilia. A detailed list is available to the left.
Conducting Research and Making an Appointment
The Archives is open to the temple community and the general public Monday through Friday by appointment only. Researchers are required to register before using the materials and to observe established policies and procedures that ensure the security and preservation of the collections. Materials are non-circulating and must remain in the reading room. Finding aids and inventories are available for many of the collections. For more information, please contact the archivist, who will work with you to determine what materials might be helpful for your research.
Researching Your Family History
The archives has various records that are useful for genealogists and others interested in their family history. While some membership and cemetery records exist from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most lifecycle records date from the 1940s onward and are organized according to the clergy member who performed the ceremony. When making inquiries, please include as much information as possible to help expedite your search.
- Baby namings: 1980s-present (material organized by clergy member)
- Bar/bat mitzvah: 1941 -present (dates only)
- Confirmation: 1874-present
- Conversion: 1960s-present (material organized by clergy member; records are scattered)
- Death/burial: 1859-present (some eulogy information available for 1953-1999)
- Hebrew names: mainly 1980s-present (material organized by clergy member)
Please note: Temple Israel was a Classical Reform congregation for much of its history; therefore, Hebrew names were rarely recorded for members unless they came from a more traditional background and chose to include the information on membership applications, burial records, marriage forms or other documents. The temple clergy only began the practice of systematically recording Hebrew names in the 1980s. Therefore, if your ancestor was a member at Temple Israel before this period, their Hebrew name (if they had one) was not necessarily included in temple records.
- Marriage: 1911-present (material organized by clergy member; no ketubehs are kept by the temple)
- Membership: 1863-present (records are scattered before 1911)
Donating Material to the Archives
We are always looking for material to help make our archival collections even more useful for researchers. Records of interest include material from the temple’s various committees and clubs, the clergy, the religious school, and special events. We are particularly interested in the papers, photographs, and memorabilia of temple members.
Funding for the Archives
The Temple Israel Archives is funded through a generous endowment by Justin and Genevieve Wyner, along with other funds provided by Susan L. Porter and Myron Miller, and a legacy by Betsy Abrams. If you would like to donate to the Temple Israel Archives Fund, please contact the Temple Israel Development Office at 617-566-3960.