Beth-El Congregation


Beth-El Congregation Archives Index

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Summary of Collection: 51 linear feet, 140 archival boxes

The Beth-El Congregation Archives collects, identifies, arranges, and preserves documents that reconstruct the history of congregation and its associated organizations, committees, and members and their interaction with the Fort Worth community.

The collection, which consists of 140 acid-free document boxes, occupies a small room at the back of the library. The oldest document in the archives is a copy of an 1882 deed to Emanuel Hebrew Rest cemetery. The oldest photograph is an 1898 photo of the pioneer Hebrew cemetery. The oldest blueprints are dated 1946 and show the rebuilding of the synagogue following a fire. 

The collection includes:

  • Congregation board minutes from 1902 (Sept – Oct); 1915-1937; 1961-1987 (incomplete); 1989-present.
  • Sisterhood/Women of Reform Judaism Minutes:  1946-1985; 2005-present
  • Congregation Annual Meeting minutes, 1923, 1931, 1960-present
  • Temple Bulletins:  Sept 1920; 1924 (incomplete); 1952-1955 (incomplete sets); 1956-present
  • Scrapbooks from Sisterhood/Women of Reform Judaism
  • Scrapbooks from Fort Worth Federation of Temple Youth and Texas Oklahoma Federation of Temple Youth.

Individual and family files are in ten boxes arranged alphabetically from Adelberg to  Zodin. 

Photographs are filed separately, in 15 boxes arranged by:

  • Subjects, from buildings to rabbis (including group pictures of the Kallah of Texas Rabbis).
  • Congregants, filed alphabetically, from Altman to Yentis
  • Loose-leaf notebook of archival photos of previous Temple (negatives and contact prints).
  • Consecration classes
  • Confirmation classes, 1905-present
  • Presidents of congregation

Rabbinical papers about of each of Beth-El's 13 rabbis, include:

  • Rabbi Harry Merfeld's Depression-era receipts and correspondence, 1930s
  • Rabbi Robert Schur's "prayers and poems," 1959 – 1986, indexed by date and subject; digitized CDs of films from the rabbi’s 1954 visit to Israel.
  • Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger, eulogies, 1978 to present

Additional Collections:

  • Regina Gernsbacher papers: WWII letters from soldiers, 1942-1947
  • Brandeis University Women, Fort Worth Chapter, 1990-1994
  • Yiddish minutes (photocopies), Ahavath Sholom, 1892-1906, translated by Esther Winesanker, typed by Audrey Sloter. 
  • Vertical Files, which fill half a drawer in a standard file cabinet, contain folders on subjects indirectly related to the congregation.

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The Archives collects and identifies documents that reconstruct the congregation’s history. To make this task easier for future generations, the Temple Board and the Archives have established collecting policies. These require that

  1. The Temple administrative staff will routinely give the Archives a copy of the monthly Temple Bulletin, the weekly Sabbath service program, and printed programs for holiday observances.
  1. The minutes of the Temple Board meetings will turned over to the Archives, either monthly or annually.
  1. The rabbi will save copies of eulogies and representative speeches and sermons to be placed on file in the archives. These may be stored on computer disk and given to the Archives at intervals convenient to the rabbi.
  1. The Education Director will routinely give the Archives copies of the religious school directory, parent handbook, and formal group photographs. These include  Consecration Class and Confirmation Class photos.

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