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
firstname.lastname@example.org Home Page: http://www.bentley.umich.edu/
Finding aid created by Nichole L. Manlove, December 2017
Access and Use
Donated by Beth Israel Congregation (Ann Arbor, Mich.) records (donor no. 6312) in January 2017.
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/.
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.
[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.
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.
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.
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.
Jews -- History.
Jews -- Religion -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
Nonprofit organizations -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
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.
Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
Container / Location
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
1967-1977 , 1948
Hadassah (tribute to) 1976
Oversize Folder 1
Trees for Israel (in memory of) October 1979
Jolly Jingles for the Jewish Child 1947
(1 volume (Includes illustrations,; 20 cm.))
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.)
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]
Bylaws and Constitution 1956, 1961 , undated
Board 1954-1973 , undated
Correspondence 1954-1973 , undated
Meetings 1956-1963 , 1938
General Membership Board 1956-1963 , undated
Committee Reports 1956-1963
Beth Israel Congregation 1963-1985 [subseries]
Bylaws and Constitutions 1967-1980 (scattered dates) , undated
General Membership Board 1964-1979 , undated
Committee Reports 1964-1985 , undated
Membership 1953-2010 [subseries]
B'nai B'rith Lodge Membership Lists 1965-1966
General Membership 1953-2010
Family Records 1953-1972 , undated
Membership Lists 1959-1992
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.
Cantor Joseph A. Horowitz 1969-1971
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]
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.
Anniversaries 1976 , 1991
Arab-Israeli Conflict May 29, 1967 , undated
Jewish History and Resettlement 1969-1980
Mispocha 1974-1977 , undated
Religious Holidays 1963-1988
Religious School Graduation 1976-1979
Social Activities 1969-1979 , undated
Special Events 1953 , 1978-1979
Special Presentations 1969-1979 , undated
Oversize Folder 2
Tree Fund Certificates 1959-1962
Vandalism of Jewish Institutions January 8, 1960
Beth Israel's 75th Anniversary October 26, 1991
Building Dedication Ceremonies 1978-1997
Oversize Folder 3
Garfunkel-Schteingart Activities Center November 2, 1997
Oversize Folder 3
Latke Supper December 1977
Nursery School undated
Religious Holiday Activities 1948 , 1984-1986 , undated
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.
Jewish Theological Seminary of America 1972-1989 , undated
National Women's League of the United Synagogue of America 1962-1974 , undated
United Jewish Appeal Membership Records 1957 , 1966-1968
Oversize Folder 4
United Jewish Appeal Award of Honor undated
The United Synagogue of America 1984 , undated
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.
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]
Meetings and Directories undated
Orientation Materials 1962-1986
Leadership Training 1985 , 1987 , undated
Committees 1982-1990 [subseries]
Community Service 1985-1990
Cooperation and Community Service and Services for the Visually Handicapped 1984-1985
Israeli Affairs 1982-1984
Jewish Family Living 1986-1987
Music 1975 , 1985-1988 , undated
Services to the Disabled 1987-1990 , undated
Sisterhood School Relations 1983-1985
Social Action United Nations 1982-1984
Torah Fund 1984-1990 , undated
Ways and Means 1984-1990 , undated
Youth Activities 1983-1984 , undated
Youth/School Liaison 1986-1990 , undated
Conferences and Conventions 1985-1988 [subseries]
Biennial Convention 1986-1988
Spring Conference 1985-1987
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.
History of Beth Israel Congregation 1951-2016 (scattered dates)
Women's League for Conservative Judaism 1983-1990
Beth Israel Center Bulletin 1952-1955
Ba' Olam 1983-1990
Beth Israel News 1955-1958
Beth Israel Nursery School/Religious School 1958, 1999
Beth Israel Sisterhood 1956-1989 (scattered dates) , undated
(20 oversize volumes (in 4 boxes))
Newsletter of Beth Israel Congregation 1973-1975
Women's League for Conservative Judaism 1985-1986
Newspaper Clippings 1961-2016
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
Beth Israel Sisterhood 1965-1966 , undated
Women's League for Conservative Judaism 1984-1990 , undated
Press Releases 1965-2013 , undated
Ann Arbor News 1965-1995 , undated
The Detroit Jewish News undated
The Jewish News 1970-1977 , undated
Washtenaw Jewish News 1982-1983 , undated
Miscellaneous Press Releases 1965-2013 , undated
SIMCHA-Magazine of the Beth Israel Sisterhood 1974-1975