Beth Israel Congregation, Vineland, NJ

  • Dates: 1987
  • Size: .1 linear ft.
  • Number of Boxes: 1
  • Languages: English
  • Location: Special Collections Reading Room, Jewish Theological Seminary Library. Ratner Center Vertical Files
  • Restrictions: Reproduction of fragile items is not permitted; consult the archivist about literary rights.
  • Gift Of: Congregation Beth Israel, Vineland, NJ
  • Date: February, 1989

RP, 6/21/94

Table of Contents:

A Note on Folder Headings

Individual folders are identified in the following way on the left side of each folder: Name of Collection, box #/folder#, as in Ben Zion Bokser Papers, 4/22. Please use this format in citations and when referring to files for any other reason.

Historical Note

In June of 1923, the new synagogue committee of the Ahavath Achim Congregation organized in the office of attorney Frank Kotok to discuss raising money to buy land on which to build a new synagogue. In October of the same year, all the members of the committee resigned from Ahavath Achim and purchased the Congregational Church building at the corner of 7th and Elmer Sts., naming it the Beth Israel Congregation of Vineland, NJ. Within three years of its birth, the temple had a functioning sisterhood and brotherhood, and had established a Hebrew school. By the time the mortgage had been paid off in 1929, Beth Israel was already active in organizing fledgling synagogues in the nearby communities of Bridgeton and Millville. Three years later, the temple came to the aid of the neighboring Methodist Episcopal Church, donating the church the use of the temple sanctuary after the church building had been seriously damaged by fire.

Beth Israel's first Bar Mitzvah took place in 1947, the same year that the temple board began to discuss plans for building a new synagogue. Discussion of expansion continued through the mid fifties during which time the temple was growing dramatically. In 1953, a Board of Education was appointed for the Religious School. Seventy-six children registered at the Hebrew school and over one hundred at the Sabbath school. In 1954, increased membership necessitated that High Holy Days services be held at the Grand Theatre. A building fund was established in the same year and the congregation broke ground for the new synagogue on Park Avenue a year later. By the time the new sanctuary was dedicated in 1958, temple membership stood at 340 families. Beth Israel spent the next few years assiduously decorating the synagogue and establishing a temple library. In 1966 the synagogue was broken into and the Torah and other religious objects destroyed by fire. The entire community expressed sympathy, and youth groups from the local YMCA presented Beth Israel with a new Jewish flag. Renovations of the lobby, chapel, library, and gift shop began in the following year.

The late seventies and early eighties were marked by the establishment of the temple's Holocaust Institute, and the series of lectures that followed. These lectures not only dealt with the Holocaust, but also treated a wide variety of other Jewish issues, such as Yiddish culture, religious ethics and medicine, and Jewish law. Also at this time, Beth Israel established the tradition of assigning each Bar and Bat Mitzvah a Soviet counterpart, whose Bar Mitzvah would be celebrated in absentia, along with the ceremony of his or his American "twin". Due to the growing number of families with children, in 1983 the temple expanded the library to include a children's section, and in the following year established a nursery school for the youngest children. The year 1987 marked the 20th anniversary service of the temple Brotherhood, the 39th anniversary of the State of Israel, and Beth Israel's first group Bat Mitzvah, with twenty-nine women ranging in age from thirty to seventy. It seems fitting that the temple chose the end of this particular year to hold a service in dedication of the first phase of the congregation's spiritual life.

Collection Description

Included is a photocopy of a seven page history of the synagogue, "The History of Beth Israel, 1924-1987" by Bennett Bardfeld, 1987.