Kesher Zion Synagogue Center, Reading, Pennsylvania

  • Dates: 1911-1989
  • Size: 0.1 linear ft.
  • Number of Folders: 1
  • Languages: English
  • Location: Special Collections Reading Room, Jewish Theological Seminary Library.
  • Restrictions: Reproduction of fragile items is not permitted; consult the archivist about literary rights.
  • Gift Of: Kesher Zion Synaogue Center
  • Date: 1989

MCS 6/13/94

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

Kesher Zion Synagogue, Reading, Pennsylvania, was the product of the 1929 merger of Congregation B'nai Zion and Congregation Kesher Israel, two Conservative congregations which had split in 1911 and 1913 respectively from Congregation Shomrei Habrith, the Orthodox synagogue which had since 1887 served much of Reading's burgeoning Jewish immigrant community. B'nai Zion, the smaller of the two, rented rooms from its founding until 1917 and was subsequently housed in a building formerly used by Temple Oheb Sholom, an older Reading synagogue. The earliest rabbi on record at B'nai Zion is M. Ben-Ami, who arrived in 1923. Kesher Israel, which had fifty-one charter members at its founding, owned cemetery space adjacent to Shomrei Habrith, and was housed in a converted church building on Court Street. No record of a rabbi exists from 1913 until 1917, when rabbi Morris Borros arrived. In 1924, Rabbi Louis Haas came to Kesher Israel, becoming the first Jewish Theological Seminary graduate (ordained, 1912) in Reading. Meyer Shubow became Kesher Israel's first cantor, in 1917. The temple offered Hebrew School classes, adult education, and auxiliaries such as a Sisterhood and a Boy Scout troop. Its building was inherited by Kesher Zion at the time of the merger, and remained the congregation's home until 1945. A separate entity, the Kesher Zion Hebrew School, was founded in 1933. Between 1945 and 1950, the Hebrew School building also served as the home for meetings and services, except for services on major holidays, which were held at the Reading Jewish Community Center. In 1950, the present Kesher Zion Synagogue Center, notable for its stained glass windows, was dedicated after three years of construction. The decades of the 1950s and 1960s saw a large expansion of the Hebrew School on the heels of the postwar baby boom. The congregation library also grew, and the synagogue has amassed a large collection of Judaica from commemorative gifts of members of the synagogue. The rabbi today is Joel Weintraub, who has served since 1982.

Collection Description

The records of the Kesher Zion Synagogue Center consist of photocopies of documents and histories, and two photographs. The documents are: a list of charter members of each synagogue in Reading, with charters from 1888, 1911, 1913, and 1929; a list of charters and deeds relating to the center and its predecessors, 1911-1969; and a list of rabbis, cantors, and teachers at Kesher Zion as well as its predecessors, Kesher Israel and B'nai Zion. The records also include a short history of Kesher Zion and of Reading's Jewish community, 1987. There is also a short history and two articles from the Kesher Zion Bulletin explaining the temple's stained glass windows, 1988, 1989. The photographs are two external views of Kesher Zion Synagogue Center, 1986.