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.
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.