Beth Israel Congregation (Ann Arbor, Mich.) records: 1938-2016 (bulk 1956-2016)
Summary Information
Title: Beth Israel Congregation (Ann Arbor, Mich.) records
Creator: Beth Israel Congregation (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Inclusive dates: 1938-2016
Bulk dates: 1956-2016
Extent: 9.06 linear feet
Extent: 3.9 GB (online)
Extent: 4 oversize folders
Abstract:
Founded in 1916 by Osias Zwerdling, Philip Lansky, and other members of the Jewish Community, Beth Israel was the first formally established conservative Jewish congregation in Ann Arbor, Mich. The record group chronicles the history and activities of the congregation over a period of 78 years, from 1938 to 2016. The collection includes materials pertaining to the congregation's history, its leadership, as well as the social, philanthropic, and civic endeavors surrounding Jewish history and immigration, education, civil rights, and the advancement of Jewish women in society. The collection also contains historical data on the Jewish population of Ann Arbor.
Call number: 2017057 Ba 2
Language: The material is in English
Repository: Bentley Historical Library
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
Phone: 734-764-3482
Fax: 734-936-1333
e-mail: bentley.ref@umich.edu
Home Page: http://www.bentley.umich.edu/
Finding aid created by Nichole L. Manlove, December 2017

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

Donated by Beth Israel Congregation (Ann Arbor, Mich.) records (donor no. 6312) in January 2017.

Access Restrictions:

This collection is open without restriction.

To protect fragile audiovisual recordings (such as audio cassettes, film reels, and VHS tapes), the Bentley Historical Library has a policy of converting them to digital formats by a professional vendor whenever a researcher requests access. For more information, please see: http://bentley.umich.edu/research/duplication/.

Copyright:

Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.

Preferred Citation:

[item], folder, box, Beth Israel Congregation (Ann Arbor, Mich.) records, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.

[item], [URL], Beth Israel Congregation (Ann Arbor, Mich.) records, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.


Arrangement

The collection is arranged into 7 series: 1. History; 2. Administrative Files 3. Leadership; 4. Programs; 5. Affiliate Organizations; 6. Womens League for Conservative Judaism-Michigan Branch; 7. Publications.


History

Prior to the 20th century, the city of Ann Arbor, Mich. had few formal establishments in which Jewish families could worship or study. It was not until 1916, with the leadership and innovation of Philip Lansky, Osias Zwerdling, and other members of the Ann Arbor Jewish community that the first formal Jewish congregation in Ann Arbor was formed. Two years later, in 1918, the Beth Israel Congregation was officially established with the original leadership consisting of Osias Zwerdling (President), Israel Friedman (Vice-President), William Beutler (or Bittker) (Secretary-Treasurer), Philip Lansky (Trustee), David Friedman (Trustee), and David Mordsky (Trustee).

In 1951 the congregation acquired a new constitution and changed its name to the Beth Israel Community Center. But services continued to be held in the homes of congregation members or at locations in and around the Ann Arbor area. Finally, in 1952 Beth Israel signed a 99-year lease with the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation for the purpose of sharing a space at 1429 Hill Street in Ann Arbor.

As the size of the congregation grew, so did the need for more space. In 1962 the Center purchased the 2006 Washtenaw Avenue location and remained there until 1965 when they moved to 2010 Washtenaw Avenue. During that period the administrative board also re-amended the constitution, thus restoring the original name--Beth Israel Congregation.

Throughout the 1970's, as the congregation steadily increased in size and function, there was yet a need for more space. As a result, in 1977 the site at 2000 Washtenaw Avenue was acquired and on March 25, 1979 this location was officially dedicated as the congregation's home.

The Beth Israel Congregation is more than just a religious entity. Within its 100 plus year history Beth Israel has remained an advocate for social change, particularly on issues relating to religious and cultural freedom, racism, and sexism. Also found within the collection are select materials reflecting the congregation's progressive attitude regarding women in leadership positions. The latter is evidenced through the establishment of the Beth Israel Sisterhood and the leadership of Gerda Seligson, the first woman in the United States to be elected president of a conservative Jewish congregation.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The records of the Beth Israel Congregation (Ann Arbor, Mich.) document the history, organizational structure, programs, and outreach activities of the congregation between 1938 and 2016. The bulk of the collection dates between the late 1950s and 2016 and comprises of Beth Israel administrative files, materials relating to the Women's League for Conservative Judaism (WLCJ), the Beth Israel Sisterhood, and various publications. This includes board and membership records, materials on committees and WLCJ conferences, correspondence, Beth Israel's Hashaliach newsletter, newspaper clippings, honors from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and a certificate from the National Women's League of the United Synagogue of America.

The remainder of the collection is dedicated to the history of the congregation, its leaders, civic and philanthropic endeavors, and affiliate organizations. This includes the biography, eulogy, and Last Will and Testament of Osias Zwerdling as well as his digitized audio recording on the congregation's founding. Also included are materials relating to the history of the congregation's locations along Hill Street and Washtenaw Avenue, as well as the first Jewish cemetery in Ann Arbor.

Materials pertaining to the congregation's leadership comprise of but are not limited to the writings and correspondence of the congregation's rabbis. This includes the installation and resignation ceremonies of Rabbi Allan Kensky, and a digitized 1997 video recording of the congregation's first woman president, Gerda Seligson receiving the Jewish Theological Seminary's Second Century Award. Materials regarding civic and philanthropic endeavors cover the reports and background information on the Arab-Israeli conflict, correspondence and programs pertaining to Jewish history and immigration, as well as document acts of vandalism of Jewish institutions.

Materials regarding affiliate organizations highlight Beth Israel's relationships with the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization (BBYO), the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTSA), the United Synagogue of America (USA), the National Women's League of the United Synagogue of America, The University of Judaism (UJ), and the United Jewish Appeal (UJA). This includes UJA membership records, a UJA award of honor, BBYO convention materials, JTS and UJ program materials, and USA and National Women's League administrative records. The remainder of the collection's publications encompass several press releases from the Ann Arbor News, and the Detroit and Washtenaw Jewish News, booklets on the history of the congregation, and pamphlets pertaining to the WLCJ and the Beth Israel Sisterhood. Additional materials within this collection include, color slides, standard and oversize photographs, and oversize newspaper clippings, as well as and accolades.

Subject Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the finding aid database and catalog of The Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan. Researchers desiring additional information about related topics should search the catalog using these headings.


  • Ann Arbor (Mich.) -- History.
  • Civil rights -- Michigan.
  • Conservative Judaism -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Digital file formats.
  • Discrimination in housing -- Michigan.
  • Jewish day schools -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Jewish religious education -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Jewish women -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Jewish-Arab relations.
  • Jews -- History.
  • Jews -- Religion -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Nonprofit organizations -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Photographs.
  • Rabbis -- Michigan.
  • Refugees, Jewish -- United States.
  • Religious communities -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Synagogues -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Women -- Religious life -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Youth -- Religious life -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation (University of Michigan)
  • Beth Israel Community Center (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
  • Beth Israel Community Center (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
  • Beth Israel Congregation (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
  • Beth Israel Sisterhood (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
  • United Jewish Appeal.
  • Women's League for Conservative Judaism.
  • Zwerdling, Osias.
Contents List
Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
Container / Location Title
 
History 1948-2016 [series]

The History series contains data compiled by members of the Beth Israel Congregation from 1948 until 2016. This includes historical data on the congregation, its founders and note-able members including Osias Zwerdling and Thomas Cook. This series also contains data on the congregation's current and previous locations, Building Committee records, certificates, resolutions, social issues, data on the first Jewish cemetery in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Beth Israel Memorial Garden. This series also contains publications highlighting the congregation's membership, programs, and affiliations throughout the years, as well as images of some of the founding members, building locations, and dedication ceremonies, and other events. Located within this series are color slides of the Ten Commandments in Hebrew as well as a digitized audio recording of Osias Zwerdling discusing the founding/history of the congregation.

 
Founders 1967-1979 , undated [subseries]
 
Osias Zwerdling 1967-1979 , 1948
Box   1  
1967-1977 , 1948
Box   1  
Hadassah (tribute to) 1976
Oversize Folder   1  
Trees for Israel (in memory of) October 1979
Box   10  
Jolly Jingles for the Jewish Child 1947 (1 volume (Includes illustrations,; 20 cm.))
  Online  
Beginning of Beth Israel Congregation undated [This recording may be protected by copyright law. Access to this material is restricted to the reading room of the Bentley Historical Library.]

(Digitized audio recording of co-founder Osias Zwerdling discussing the beginning of the Beth Israel Congregation.)

[access item]
Box   1  
Image of Founders undated (1 photocopies (Black and white image; 6" x 8" image copied onto 8.5" x 11" paper))
 
Congregation 1967-1992 , undated [subseries]
Box   1  
1973-1981 , undated
Box   1  
Thomas Cook January 1992 , undated
Oversize Folder   4  
Resolution No. 77 Dedication of Synagogue March 21, 1979
Oversize Folder   1  
United Synagogue of America Certificate June 19, 1967
 
Building Sites 1951-1987 , undated [subseries]
Box   1  
1429 Hill Street 1952-1979
Box   1  
2006 Washtenaw Avenue 1962-1964 , undated
Box   1  
2010 Washtenaw Avenue 1964-1979 , undated
Box   1  
Packard Road 1966-1978
Box   1  
2000 Washtenaw Avenue 1977-1987 , undated
Box   1  
Appraisals and Blueprints 1965-1973 , undated
Box   1  
Building Committee Records 1962-1976 , undated
Box   10  
Color Slides-The Ten Commandments August 1981 (15 slides)
(15 color slides depicting a Hebrew engraving of the Ten Commandments (within the sanctuary interior).)
 
Photographs 1951
Oversize Folder   4  
Building Exterior undated
Box   1  
Building Sites 1951 , 1978 , undated
 
Jewish Cemeteries 1982-1983 [subseries]
Box   1  
Beth Israel Cemetery Notes July 1, 1982
 
First Jewish Cemetery (Ann Arbor, Mich.) 1982-1983
Box   1  
State Register September 23, 1982
Box   5  
Photo Album-Dedication of Michigan's First Jewish Cemetery June 12, 1983 (1 volume)
 
Administrative Files 1938 , 1953-2010, 1956-2010 [series]

The Administrative Files series comprises of bylaws, committee reports, constitutions, correspondence, board and general membership meeting materials, and membership records covering the years 1938-2010 with the bulk of the material dating between 1953 and 2010. This series also comprises of photographs created by the Beth Israel Community Center, the Congregation, and the General Membership boards.

 
Beth Israel Community Center 1938, 1954-1969 [subseries]
Box   1  
Bylaws and Constitution 1956, 1961 , undated
 
Board 1954-1973 , undated
Box   1  
Correspondence 1954-1973 , undated
Box   1  
Meetings 1956-1963 , 1938 (2 folders)
Box   1  
General Membership Board 1956-1963 , undated
Box   1  
Committee Reports 1956-1963
 
Beth Israel Congregation 1963-1985 [subseries]
Box   1  
Bylaws and Constitutions 1967-1980 (scattered dates) , undated
 
Board 1963-1985 , undated
Box   1  
Correspondence 1966-1983 (scattered dates) , undated
Box   1  
Meetings 1963-1985 (5 folders)
Box   1  
General Membership Board 1964-1979 , undated (2 folders)
Box   1  
Committee Reports 1964-1985 , undated
Box   1  
Photographs undated
 
Membership 1953-2010 [subseries]
Box   2  
B'nai B'rith Lodge Membership Lists 1965-1966
 
General Membership 1953-2010
Box   2  
Family Records 1953-1972 , undated (4 folders)
Box   2  
Membership Lists 1959-1992
Box   2  
Sunday School Roster 1960-1961
 
Leadership 1958-1998 [series]

The Leadership series sheds light on some of the history and activities of Beth Israel's most prominent leaders from 1958 to 1998. This includes various correspondence to and from Rabbi's Julius Weinberg (1952-1961), Harold S. White (1962-1968), Mervin B. Tomsky (1969-1970), and Allan D. Kensky (1971-1988). The series also includes installation and service anniversary notices, of the congregation's current Rabbi, Robert Dobrusin (1988- ) and a digitized 1997 video recording of the congregation's first woman president, Gerda seligson (1971-1973), receiving the Jewish Theological Seminary's Second Century award. However, the majority of the records in this series were created by Rabbi Kensky and include his installation ceremony remarks, addresses, messages, sermons, and among other writings, his letter of resignation. The series also contains photo albums highlighting the tenth anniversaries of Rabbi's Kensky and Dobrusin.

Box   2  
Cantor Joseph A. Horowitz 1969-1971
  Online  
Congregation President Gerda Seligson Jewish Theological Seminary Second Century Award Presentation November 16, 1997 (3.7 GB)  [This recording may be protected by copyright law. Access to this material is restricted to the reading room of the Bentley Historical Library.] [access item] [access part 1] [access part 2]
Box   2  
Rabbi Robert Dobrusin 1989-1998
 
Rabbi Allan D. Kensky 1971-1988
Box   2  
Addresses 1977-1987
Box   2  
Installation Ceremony November 7, 1971
Box   2  
Messages 1985-1988
Box   2  
Remarks 1982-1988
Box   2  
Resignation April 4, 1988-July 30, 1988
Box   2  
Sermons and Benedictions 1983-1987
Box   2  
Writings 1977-1988 (scattered dates) , undated
Box   2  
Rabbi Mervin Tomsky 1969-1970
Box   2  
Rabbi Julius Weinberg 1958-1960 , undated
Box   2  
Rabbi Harold S. White 1963-1968
 
Photographs
Box   2  
Cantor Joseph A. Horowitz undated
Box   2  
Rabbi Robert Dobrusin undated
Box   2  
Rabbi Allan D. Kensky undated
Box   5  
Photo Album-Rabbi Dobrusin's 10th Anniversary Celebration November 10, 1998 (1 volume)
Box   5  
Photo Album-Rabbi Kensky's 10th Anniversary Celebration December 4-5, 1981 (1 oversize volume)
 
Programs 1948-2004 [series]

Covering the years 1948 to 2004, the Programs series highlights a multitude of congregation related anniversaries, dedications, religious, social, special events, and presentations. This series also includes a multitude of materials regarding social issues surrounding discrimination, jewish resettlement, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Lastly, this series also contains photographs from the congregation's 75th anniversary, various dedications, and religious school graduating classes.

Box   2  
Anniversaries 1976 , 1991
Box   2  
Arab-Israeli Conflict May 29, 1967 , undated
Box   2  
Dedications 1978-2004
Box   2  
Jewish History and Resettlement 1969-1980
Box   2  
Mispocha 1974-1977 , undated
Box   2  
Religious Holidays 1963-1988
Box   2  
Religious School Graduation 1976-1979
Box   2  
Social Activities 1969-1979 , undated
Box   2  
Special Events 1953 , 1978-1979
Box   2  
Special Presentations 1969-1979 , undated
Oversize Folder   2  
Tree Fund Certificates 1959-1962
Box   2  
Vandalism of Jewish Institutions January 8, 1960
Box   2  
Photographs
Box   2  
Beth Israel's 75th Anniversary October 26, 1991
Box   2  
Building Dedication Ceremonies 1978-1997
Box   2  
1978-1997
Oversize Folder   3  
Garfunkel-Schteingart Activities Center November 2, 1997
Oversize Folder   3  
Latke Supper December 1977
Box   2  
Nursery School undated
Box   2  
Religious Holiday Activities 1948 , 1984-1986 , undated
 
Religious School 1953-2000
Box   2  
Graduating Classes 1953-2000
Oversize Folder   3  
Graduating Classes (scattered dates) 1958 , 1971 , 1977 , 1992
Oversize Folder   4  
Graduating Class 1973
Box   2  
Religious Services undated
Box   2  
Social Activities 2000 , undated
Box   5  
Photo Album-Social Activities 2001-2002 (1 volume)
Box   2  
Special Events 2000 , undated
Box   2  
Special Presentations undated
 
Affiliate Organizations 1957-1989 [series]

The Affiliate Organizations series, which spans from 1957 to 1989 comprises of documents of various Beth Israel partner organizations including the National Women's League of the United Synagogue of America, B'nai B'rith Youth Organization (BBYO), The Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTSA), The United Jewish Appeal (UJA), the University of Judaism (UJ), and the United Synagogue of America (USA). This series specifically contains materials on regional conventions, membership directories, correspondence, and organizational responsibilities.

Box   2  
B'nai B'rith Youth Organization 1968-1973 , undated
Box   2  
Jewish Theological Seminary of America 1972-1989 , undated
Box   2  
National Women's League of the United Synagogue of America 1962-1974 , undated (2 folders)
Box   2  
United Jewish Appeal Membership Records 1957 , 1966-1968
Oversize Folder   4  
United Jewish Appeal Award of Honor undated
Box   2  
The United Synagogue of America 1984 , undated
Box   2  
The University of Judaism 1986 , undated
 
Women's League for Conservative Judaism-Michigan Branch 1940-1992 [series]

The Women's League for Conservative Judaism (WLCJ) is a national organization that serves the educational, social, and leadership needs of the women within the conservative Jewish community. Originally formed on June 21, 1918 by Mathilde Schechter as the National Women's League of the United Synagogue, the league established various sisterhoods throughout the United States. Each Sisterhood conducts educational and social programs in addition to serving as important fundraising arms for their prospective congregations. As such, this series focuses on the relationship between and the activities of the WLCJ and the Beth Israel Sisterhood between the years of 1940 and 1992. The series includes specific data pertaining to annual and biennial conventions, WLCJ and Sisterhood administrative structures, accolades, bylaws, committee reports, constitutions, correspondence, meeting materials, membership directories, programs, and publications.

 
Beth Israel Sisterhood 1940-1992 [subseries]
Box   3  
Administrative Files 1961-1988 , undated
Box   3  
Bylaws and Constitution 1962-1978 , undated
Box   10  
Community Center Board 1940-1955 (1 volume)
Box   3  
Congregation Board 1955-1992 , undated (2 folders)
Box   10  
Congregation Board 1966-1972 (1 volume)
Box   3  
General Membership Board 1956-1984 , undated
Box   10  
President's Notebook--Martha Reiter 1967-1969 (1 volume)
Box   3  
Committee Reports 1956-1964 , 1983
Box   3  
Correspondence 1983-1988
Box   3  
Membership Directories 1966-1990 , undated
Box   3  
Programs 1957-1989 , undated
Oversize Folder   1  
Honors from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America 1969-1991
Oversize Folder   1  
Certificate from the National Women's League of the United Synagogue of America undated
 
Board 1962-1987 , undated [subseries]
Box   2  
Meetings and Directories undated
Box   2  
Orientation Materials 1962-1986
Box   2  
Leadership Training 1985 , 1987 , undated
 
Committees 1982-1990 [subseries]
Box   2  
Community Service 1985-1990
Box   2  
Cooperation and Community Service and Services for the Visually Handicapped 1984-1985
Box   2  
Israeli Affairs 1982-1984
Box   2  
Jewish Family Living 1986-1987
Box   3  
Music 1975 , 1985-1988 , undated
Box   3  
Services to the Disabled 1987-1990 , undated
Box   3  
Sisterhood School Relations 1983-1985
Box   3  
Social Action United Nations 1982-1984
Box   3  
Torah Fund 1984-1990 , undated
Box   3  
Ways and Means 1984-1990 , undated
Box   3  
Youth Activities 1983-1984 , undated
Box   3  
Youth/School Liaison 1986-1990 , undated
 
Conferences and Conventions 1985-1988 [subseries]
Box   3  
Biennial Convention 1986-1988 (3 folders)
Box   3  
Spring Conference 1985-1987 (3 folders)
 
Publications 1951-2016 [series]

The Publications series which spans from 1951 to 2016 covers a range of materials from news bulletins and newsletters published by Beth Israel and its affiliate organizations. This includes Ba'Olam, Hashaliach, the Beth Israel News, and the Newsletter of the Beth Israel Congregation. This series also contains newspaper clippings and press releases from the Ann Arbor News, Washtenaw Jewish News, Detroit Jewish News, and other sources. Also included in this series are booklets, magazines, and pamphlets.

 
Booklets 1951-2016
Box   3  
History of Beth Israel Congregation 1951-2016 (scattered dates)
Box   3  
Women's League for Conservative Judaism 1983-1990
Box   3  
Beth Israel Center Bulletin 1952-1955 (2 folders)
 
Newsletters 1955-2009
Box   4  
Ba' Olam 1983-1990
Box   4  
Beth Israel News 1955-1958
Box   4  
Beth Israel Nursery School/Religious School 1958, 1999
Box   4  
Beth Israel Sisterhood 1956-1989 (scattered dates) , undated
 
Hashaliach (20 oversize volumes (in 4 boxes))
Box   6  
1952-1978
Box   7  
1979-1991
Box   8  
1992-2000
Box   9  
2001-2009
Box   4  
Newsletter of Beth Israel Congregation 1973-1975
Box   4  
Women's League for Conservative Judaism 1985-1986
Box   4  
Newspaper Clippings 1961-2016 (3 folders)
Oversize Folder   4  
Newspaper Clippings 1963-1964 , undated
Oversize Folder   3  
Newspaper Clipping-Beth Israel Celebrates its renovation undated
 
Pamphlets 1965-1966 , 1984-1990 , undated
Box   4  
Beth Israel Sisterhood 1965-1966 , undated
Box   4  
Women's League for Conservative Judaism 1984-1990 , undated
 
Press Releases 1965-2013 , undated
Box   4  
Ann Arbor News 1965-1995 , undated
Box   4  
The Detroit Jewish News undated
Box   4  
The Jewish News 1970-1977 , undated
Box   4  
Washtenaw Jewish News 1982-1983 , undated
Box   4  
Miscellaneous Press Releases 1965-2013 , undated
Box   4  
SIMCHA-Magazine of the Beth Israel Sisterhood 1974-1975
Additional Descriptive Data
Related Materials

The Bentley Historical Library houses the following related collections: Beth Israel Congregation Jewish Life in Ann Arbor Oral History Project records, 2013

The Bentley Historical Library also houses monographs "Beth Israel Community Center, Ann Arbor, Mich. 1952-Dedication" and "Beth Israel Congregation, 1917-1979."