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Jewish Research and Education - Cuba Family Archives, Finding Aids

Date Span: 1910-1990

Creator:  Congregation Shearith Israel

Summary/Abstract:  Congregation Shearith Israel was founded in 1904 by a segment of Atlanta’s East European Jewish community. Under Rabbi Geffen’s leadership, the congregation grew as an orthodox congregation that upheld traditional Old World values and rites. The largest piece of the collection consists of congregational minutes from 1947-1974.  Many of these are in great detail, and they highlight congregational business, as well as discussion and dispute for that period.  The collection also contains synagogue bulletins from 1959-1990, correspondence beginning in 1956 and various membership rosters from throughout the period.  Other sections of the collection include Sisterhood minutes, Religious School publications, Passover manuals, and High Holy Day materials.

Quantity/Physical Description: 4.1 linear feet

Language(s):  English

Repository:  The Cuba Family Archives for Southern Jewish History, The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, 1440 Spring Street NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30309.

Restrictions on Access:  There are no restrictions on accessing material in this collection.

Restrictions on Use:  Copyright restrictions may apply.  Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright.  Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation:  Box #, Folder #, MSS-75, Congregation Shearith Israel Records, The Cuba Family Archives for Southern Jewish History, The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, 1440 Spring Street NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30309.

Separated Material:  Photographs removed to visual arts collection and oversized material removed to oversized collection.

Processed by:  Michael Safra (June 1996)

Arrangement:  All material is arranged in alphabetical order by subject and chronologically within each folder.

Biographical/Historical Note:  Congregation Shearith Israel was founded in 1904 by a segment of Atlanta’s East European Jewish community.  When Jews first came to Atlanta from Eastern Europe, in the 1880s, they established Ahavath Achim Congregation for their Orthodox worship.  However, as a second generation of immigrants arrived at the turn of the century, they became uncomfortable at Ahavath Achim, because it had become a congregation for second generation East Europeans who wished to Americanize.  These new immigrants founded “Shearith Israel,” which literally means “the remnant of Israel;” this is what these founders considered themselves, the only true Jews left in Atlanta. Congregation Shearith Israel’s first rabbi, Rabbi Zvi Elchanan Gutterman, stayed with the congregation from 1904 to 1906.  In 1907, the members invited Rabbi Tobias Geffen to serve the congregation as its spiritual leader.  Rabbi Geffen was educated and ordained in Kovno, Lithuania, and he came to Atlanta by way of New York and Ohio.  He would remain as the congregation’s rabbi, and later rabbi emeritus, until his death in 1970. Under Rabbi Geffen’s leadership, the congregation grew as an orthodox congregation that upheld traditional Old World values and rites. At various times, it was affiliated and unaffiliated with the Union of Orthodox Congregations of America.  As the members of this congregation became Americanized over time, they began to develop their own Americanized Judaism that would eventually challenge the orthodox stance.  As early as 1952, the congregation rejected one rabbinical applicant, Rabbi Maurice Lamm, because he was “too orthodox.” From the late 1940s, when the collection begins, the congregation was served by an assistant rabbi who controlled the daily life in the synagogue.  Eventually, Rabbi Geffen became the rabbi emeritus as the congregation appointed a Rabbi Heisler to be its “Rabbi.”  In 1956, the congregation elected Rabbi Sydney Mossman, who led the congregation towards a more modern orthodoxy.  He soon authorized the use of a microphone during services on the Sabbath, and he authorized the congregation to introduce family seating if the desired.  This decision regarding seating continued to divide the congregation throughout the 1960s, as certain services were conducted with family seating, while others were conducted with separate seating and a mechitza (divider).  In 1969, the Religious Committee recommended that the congregation join the United Synagogue of America (Conservative), but that decision was tabled and eventually dropped. Since Rabbi Mossman, the congregation was served by four different rabbis. The Synagogue has been housed in three different buildings.  The first, on Hunter Street, was destroyed by the great fire of 1917.  The congregation was housed in its second home, on Washington Street, until 1958.  When the population of the synagogue shifted to the north side of town, the congregation again moved to its present location, on University Drive in DeKalb County.  In 1969, the congregation purchased a tract of land off Highpoint Road in north Fulton County, but the tract was sold in 1981 as the decision was made to stay on University Drive.

Scope and Content:  Researchers studying the records of Congregation Shearith Israel will gain insight into orthodox Judaism in Atlanta during the 20th century. All material is arranged in alphabetical order by subject and chronologically within each folder.

Collection Inventory

Box File Description Date
1 1 Building-1180 University Drive Undated
2 Building Drafts 1971, Undated
3 Bulletins 1959-1960
4 Bulletins 1961-1962
5 Bulletins 1963-1964
6 Bulletins 1965
7 Bulletins 1966
2 1 Bulletins 1967
2 Bulletins (not complete volumes) 1968-1971, Undated
3 Bulletins 1975-1980, 1990
4 Cemetery Bill 1966-1991
5 Congregational minutes and addenda August 3, 1947-April 29, 1954
6 Congregational minutes subject index 1947-1955
7 Congregational minutes and addenda November 20, 1953-December 26, 1960
3 1 Congregational minutes and addenda July 25, 1955 - June 6, 1966
2 Congregational minutes and addenda July 10, 1966 - October 11, 1968
3 Congregational minutes and addenda December 1, 1968 – May 21, 1970
4 Congregational minutes and addenda May 25, 1970 – August 7, 1972
5 Congregational minutes and addenda May 1, 1972 – June 25, 1973
6 Congregational minutes and addenda July 2, 1973 – August 5, 1974
4 1 Congregational minutes and addenda June 3, 1974 – May 20, 1975
2 Congregational minutes and addenda May 5, 1975 – January 5, 1976
3 Congregational minutes and addenda January 3, 1977 – December 5, 1977
4 Constitutions Undated
5 Correspondence – Announcement flyers 1940-1976, undated
6 Correspondence, Rabbi Donald Friedman Undated
7 Correspondence – from Congregation 1956-1977
8 Correspondence – to Synagogue 1956-1978
5 1 Financial records 1937-1941
2 Financial records (Note:  Additional financial records in oversize containers 10 and 11) 1947-1953
3 Fundraising agencies Undated
4 Highpoint Road Property Undated
5 Holidays – Hanukkah 1974-1976
6 Holidays – Passover 1970s, undated
7 Holidays – Purim Ball 1938
6 1 Holidays –  Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succoth, Shemini Atzereth 1956-1977, undated
2 Holidays – Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succoth, Shemini Atzereth 1958-1972
3 Holidays – Ushers and Tickets 1958-1974
4 Lists – Bar Mitzvah, Marriage, ‘Children’ 1942-1974
5 Lists – Births and Deaths 1960-1961
6 Lists – Membership rosters 1956-1977
7 Lists – Membership rosters Undated
8 Membership 1957-1960, undated
9 Membership information 1974
10 Newsletter 1975-1981
7 1 Newspaper articles 1940-1981, Undated
2 Other institutions, bulletins and letters Undated
3 Prayer books – Purchasing of Silverman Prayer books, Torah repair 1968
4 Receipts, miscellaneous Undated
5 Religious school and Hebrew Institute 1958--1981
6 Roster from Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Undated
7 Sisterhood announcements and flyers 1956-1975
8 Sisterhood announcements and flyers Undated
9 Sisterhood – Community/Shearith Israel Calendars 1958-1977
10 Sisterhood – Correspondence to Sisterhood Undated
11 Sisterhood – gift shop Undated
12 Sisterhood – job descriptions and organizational text Undated
13 Sisterhood minutes and addenda June 28, 1949-February 20, 1961
14 Sisterhood minutes and addenda May 28, 1974-April 26, 1976
8 1 Sisterhood minutes and addenda May 16, 1976-January 22, 1979
2 Sisterhood minutes and budget 1976-1977, Undated
3 Sisterhood pamphlets Undated
4 Sisterhood programming materials Undated
5 Sisterhood rosters 1965-1979, Undated
6 Sisterhood roster 1975-1976
7 Sisterhood scrapbook 1978
8 Sisterhood Women’s League President’s Report 1974
9 Sisterhood Special Programs 1953-1978, Undated
10 Special events 1950-1975, Undated
11 Yizkor, memorial books Undated
9 1 Financial ledger (oversize) 1919-1923
10 1 Financial ledger (oversize) 1947-1949
2 Chevra Kaddish records book (oversize) Ca. 1910

 

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