Qabbalat Shabbat: Friday, 6:00 p.m. Torah Study: Saturday, 9:00-11:00 a.m. Weekday Minyan: 6:15 p.m.

Archives

Temple Israel is the second oldest congregation in the Boston area, and the largest Reform congregation in New England. Founded in 1854 in Boston, our long history follows the rise of the local Jewish community. The Temple Israel Archives serves as the repository for records, documents, publications, and images relating to the history and administration of Temple Adath Israel of Boston. These records document the congregational history and provide primary source material to assist the clergy, staff, and members of the synagogue. The Archives also serve as a resource for researchers who are interested in the history of Boston’s Jewish community, or in family research.

1895 confirmation photo

1895 Confirmation Photo

Collection Policy

We actively collect the institutional records from the administration, clergy, religious school, preschool, committees, synagogue members, lay leaders, the Riverway Project, the Frances Jacobson Early Childhood Center, and other auxiliary organizations. We also collect the personal papers of temple members. Records include manuscripts and papers, meeting minutes, bulletins, religious school yearbooks, photographs and digital images, scrapbooks, and memorabilia.

Researching Your Family History

We have 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 century, most life cycle records date from the 1940’s 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.

List of Temple Israel Archival Collections

The majority of the material in the archives documents the administrative history of Temple Israel, its affiliated clubs and committees, and congregational life of its members. Manuscripts, minutes, published and printed material, photographs, scrapbooks, audiovisual recordings, vertical files, memorabilia, and other material illustrate the ways the temple has changed and grown, as well as the traditions it has maintained. While the earliest records come from the 1850s, most date from 1900 to the present.

Administrative records

These records relate specifically to the administration of Temple Israel. They include but are not limited to correspondence, meeting minutes and reports, mailings and notices, brochures, finance reports, and supplemental photographic material. The collection includes:

  • Minutes of the Board of Trustees, December 1861-present
  • Annual and Special Congregational Meetings, 1942-present
  • Membership Committee, 1861-present (with gaps)
  • Temple Committee, 1944-1990
  • Bylaws/Legal Committee, 1923-present
  • Treasurer’s Reports, 1921-present
  • Fundraising/Development records, 1925-present (with gaps)
  • President and Executive Director papers, 1918-1994 (with gaps)
  • Membership files (for inactive members only)

Anniversaries collection

This collection contains material related to important temple anniversaries, including planning records, publicity, programs, photographs, and so forth.

Audio, Audio-visual, and Visual collection

This collection contains audio and video recordings of temple services, rabbinic sermons, special events, and other functions/activities related to the temple, as well as a large amount of physical and digital visual material. Formats include: photographs, lantern slides, glass slides, magnetic tape recordings (cassette, VHS, reel to reel, etc.), vinyl records, and CDs/DVDs.

Biographical and Subject Files

The archives maintains informational files about the temple, American Judaism, Jewish Boston, and select congregants, staff, and clergy. The files include some correspondence, pamphlets, brochures, clippings, and other secondary sources.

Book collection

This collection includes prayer books, books of sermons, books written by Temple Israel clergy and staff, and selected books written by temple members.

Buildings collection

This collection contains records regarding the various buildings Temple Israel has owned and occupied over its 150-year-plus history. Material includes fundraising records, architectural and construction plans, deeds of ownership, maintenance records, and a significant collection of photographs for the following buildings:

  • Pleasant Street (1854-1885) (no plans or images)
  • Columbus Ave. (1885-1902)
  • Commonwealth Ave. (1907-1968)
  • Longwood Ave. (1928-present)

Cemetery records

Temple Israel’s cemetery in Wakefield, Massachusetts, was founded in 1859. The archives contains a variety of records pertaining to this historic cemetery, including burial records, maps and plans, legal deeds, maintenance records, and photographs. It also contains the records of the temple’s cemetery committee and programs for the annual Memorial Day service.

Club and committee records

Temple Israel has always offered a variety of social and cultural activities and community service opportunities for its members, including, among others:

  • Women of Reform Judaism (formerly Sisterhood), 1920s-present
  • Brotherhood, 1949-1986
  • Social Action Committee, 1959-present
  • Israel Committee, 1959-1986
  • Garden Club, 1940s-1990s
  • Art Committee, 1900s-1980s
  • Couples Club, 1958-1984
  • College Club, 1959-1982
  • Music Committee, 1920s-present
  • Archives/Oral History/Museum committees

Educational programs

Temple Israel’s educational programs for both children and adults have been a central focus throughout the synagogue’s history. Documentation is incomplete, but includes material concerning the religious school curriculum; consecration, bar/bat mitzvah, confirmation, and graduation services; youth programs and activities; the PTA; the education committee; and the nursery school. A large amount of material is also available regarding the temple’s continuing/lifelong education programs, lecture series, and library.

  • Education committee, 1948-1963
  • Frances Jacobson Early Childhood Center, 1989-present
  • Religious School, 1870s-present (bulk 1950s-1980s)
  • Parent/Teacher Association, 1950s-1980s
  • Confirmation, 1950s-present
  • Bar/Bat Mitzvah, 1950s-present
  • Continuing Education Committee, 1920s-present
  • Youth programs (youth committee, RYFTI, NEFTY, FASTY), 1930s-present
  • Library and Library Committee, 1940-present
  • Adult Education Committee, 1940-present
  • Temple Israel Lifelong Learning Initiative (TILLI), 2009-present
  • Samuel Nemzoff Papers, 1942-1974

Holidays and Festivals collection

This collection contains material related to various holidays and festivals, including but not limited to Passover, Purim, and High Holidays. Material includes programs; prayer books; pamphlets, brochures, and other printed material; and photographs.

Life cycle records

These include records of births, baby naming, bar/bat mitzvah, marriages, and deaths, all generated by the rabbinic staff.

Oral History collection

This collections includes audio recordings and some transcripts of oral history interviews with various temple clergy, staff, lay leaders, and congregants from the 1970s through the present day. It also includes material from the “Women Whose Lives Spanned the Century” oral history project.

Print collection

The Archives contains a large collection of prints documenting congregational life at Temple Israel from the 1870s. Included are portraits of significant clergy, administrators, and congregants; photographs of special events and holidays in the temple and religious school; and prints of the temple’s various buildings.

Publications collection

The Archives holds numerous publications produced by Temple Israel administrators, clubs and committees, the religious school, and congregants, including:

  • Histories of Temple Israel and affiliated groups
  • Temple Israel Bulletin, 1907-present
  • “Friday Night Handouts,” 1981-present
  • Religious service programs
  • Torchbearer (religious school yearbook), 1947-1972
  • Confirmation, Post-Confirmation, Hebrew School, and Graduation service programs, 1900-present
  • Annual reports, catalogs, and promotional literature (pamphlets, brochures, programs)

Rabbinical collections

The Archives contains records from many members of the clergy generated during their time at Temple Israel. The collection includes biographical sketches in the vertical files, miscellaneous documents, or published books. There are also photographs of rabbis in the portrait files. In certain cases, we hold more extensive material that documents some rabbis’ personal lives and professional careers outside of the temple. Here are some highlights for the senior rabbis:

Joseph Sachs (1854-1856): portraits; biographical file

Joseph Shoninger (1856-1874): portraits; biographical file

Solomon Schindler (1874-1894): portraits; photographs (including family album); some correspondence, sermons, and other documents; Messianic Expectations (1886); biographical file; (also see manuscript collection at American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati)

Charles Fleischer (1894-1911): portraits; correspondence; installation materials; biographical file

Harry Levi (1911-1939): portraits; audio recordings; correspondence; reports to board; sermons and speeches; life cycle records (marriages 1911-1913, deaths 1911-1913, confirmations 1912-1953); clippings, history of TI under his rabbinate, anniversary booklet, A Great Adventure and A Rabbi Speaks (books of sermons); obituary; prayer books; biographical file

Joshua Loth Liebman (1939-1948): portraits; audio recordings; correspondence; sermons; materials related to the book Peace of Mind (1946); memorial tributes; life cycle records (weddings and funerals); 1988 museum exhibit materials; biographical file; (larger manuscript collection at Boston University Archives)

Abraham J. Klausner (1949-1953): portraits; audio recordings; sermons; clippings; correspondence; reports to board; life cycle records; installation materials; biographical file

Roland B. Gittelsohn (1953-1977): portraits; photographs; audio recordings; sermons; memos and reports; life cycle records; biographical file; (also see manuscript collection at American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati)

Bernard H. Mehlman (1977-1999): portraits; photographs; audio and audio-visual recordings; correspondence; sermons; reports; life cycle records; biographical files; (also see manuscript collection at American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati)

Ronne Friedman (1999-2016): Portraits; photographs; audio and audio-visual recordings; correspondence; day files; life cycle records; education director materials; biographical file

Elaine S. Zecher (2016-): portraits; photographs; audio recordings; correspondence; sermons; reports; day files; life cycle records; biographical file

In addition, we have many materials for the following Assistant Rabbis and Cantors:

Assistant Rabbis

Samuel Wolk (1923-1929)

Beryl D. Cohon (1930-1939)

Leo A. Bergman (1940-1942)

Albert A. Goldman (1946-1948)

Irving A. Mandel (1948-1950)

Earl A. Grollman (1950-1951)

Maurice L. Zigmund (1951-1954)

Leon A. Jick (1954-1957)

Robert W. Shapiro (1957-1960

Charles A. Kroloff (1960-1963)

Harvey J. Fields (1963-1968)

Frank M. Waldorf (1968-1971)

Paul J. Menitoff (1970-1973)

Paul J. Citrin (1947-1978)

Jeffrey Perry-Marx (1983-1985)

William L. Berkowitz (1985-1990)

Ruth Alpers (1994-1999)

Jonah D. Pesner (1999-2006)

Jeremy Morrison (2001-2015)

Stephanie D. Kolin (2006-2010)

 

Cantors:

Herbert Fromm (1941-1972)

Murray Simon (1972-1983)

Roy Einhorn (1983-)

 

Beyond the Archives

Interested in finding out more information about Temple Israel, its members, or other aspects of the Boston Jewish community? For a complete list of sources, see the bibliography to Meaghan Dwyer-Ryan, Susan L. Porter, and Lisa Fagin Davis, Becoming American Jews: Temple Israel of Boston (Brandeis University Press, 2009), but here are a few resources to get you started:

Academic Guide to Jewish History

American Jewish Archives
Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives
3101 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45223
Tel: 513/221-1875, Fax: 513/221-7812

American Jewish Historical Society
15 W. 16th Street, New York, NY 10011
Tel: 212/294-6160, Fax: 212/294-6161
101 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02216
Phone: 617-226-1245, Fax: 617-226-1248

Brandeis University Libraries
Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department
415 South Street
Mailstop 045, P.O. Box 549110
Waltham, MA 02454-9110
Tel: 781/736-4686, Fax: 781/736-4719

Boston Public Library, Main Branch and Research Library
700 Boylston Street
Copley Square
Boston, MA 02116
Tel: 617-536-5400

Boston University Special Collections
771 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
Tel: 617/353-3696, Fax: 617/353-2838
Email

Combined Jewish Philanthropies
126 High Street
Boston, MA 02110-2700
Tel: 617/457-8500, Fax: 617/ 988-6262

Harvard University Archival Repositories

Massachusetts State Archives
Secretary of the Commonwealth
Massachusetts Archives
220 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125
Tel: 617/727-2816, Fax: 617/ 288-8429

National Archives and Record Administration (Waltham branch)
Frederick C. Murphy Federal Center
380 Trapelo Road
Waltham, MA 02452-6399
Tel: 866/406-2379
Email: waltham.archives@nara.gov

Temple Ohabei Shalom
1187 Beacon Street, Brookline, MA 02446
Tel: 617/277-6610, Fax: 617/277-7881

Temple Mishkan Tefila
300 Hammond Pond Parkway
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467-1723
Tel: 617-332-7770, Fax: 617-332-2871

Newspapers (available both online and on microfilm at the Boston Public Library and elsewhere)

  • Boston Hebrew Observer, 1883-1886
  • [Boston] Jewish Advocate, 1905-present
  • Jewish Chronicle, 1891-1893
  • Jewish Herald, 1893-1894
  • Boston Globe [digitized from 1874]
  • Boston Herald
  • Boston Traveler
  • Boston Post
  • New York Times

Becoming American Jews

Brandeis University Press, 2009

Book Cover

Description
“From its beginning in 1854 as a traditional German shul to its current status as the largest Reform synagogue in New England, Temple Israel has been an important force in Boston and American Jewish life. The congregation’s ongoing efforts to adapt to changes in American society while preserving balance–between tradition and innovation, between acculturation and distinctiveness–exemplify the transformations in religious worship practices, education, and social justice that mark modern American Reform Judaism. This volume, based on hundreds of archival documents, demographic data, and oral histories, and illustrated with more than 200 images, brings to life the stories of the men, women, and children who have built and maintained this vital Jewish community for more than 150 years.”

Endorsements
“This trio of historians has done more than produce a solid institutional biography, although the tell the story of a single place with aplomb. They offer here instead a microcosm of American Jewish history, narrating the broad sweep of the American Jewish past through the lens of one synagogue in one city. What emerges is both local and national.” –Hasia R. Diner, Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History, New York University
“The authors help round out the picture of Reform Judaism in America. This history of Temple Israel in Boston highlights the significance of strong rabbis that move congregations in important new directions. Temple Israel has attracted some of the best American rabbis–and some of the strongest lay leaders.” –Michael Feldberg, Former Director of Research, American Jewish Historical Society and President, The History Consultancy, LLC.

About the Authors

  • Meaghan Dwyer-Ryan is Assistant Professor of History at the University of South Carolina Aiken and the former archivist at Temple Israel.
  • Susan L. Porter is a historian and scholar at the Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center, a research consultant, and lecturer in Museum Studies at the Harvard University Extension School.
  • Lisa Fagin Davis is an independent scholar and manuscript consultant in the Boston area.

Reviews

Read the Jewish Advocate review.

Read the New England Quarterly review.

Read the Journal of the American Jewish Archives review (pp. 113-115).

Connect with Us

Chris Spraker

Archivist

617-566-3960

archives@tisrael.org