The Congregation Emanu-el Archives
Preserving Our Past for the Future
The Congregation Emanu-El Archives, established as a counterpart to our Museum by Rabbi Alvin I. Fine in 1950, is dedicated to collecting and preserving our congregation’s rich and vibrant history. Today’s Archives contain a wealth of materials pertaining to every element of our Congregation’s history: from its clergy, congregants, and educational programs to its architecture, administration, and volunteer organizations.
The portrait that emerges is a multi-generational one that begins with our founders and progresses over 150 years to embrace the vitality that is Congregation Emanu-El today. Among the artifacts you’ll find here are congregational records, publications, photographs, scrapbooks, ephemera (such as concert and theatrical programs), and commissioned musical scores. Our treasures range from the whimsical (Rabbi Irving F. Reichert’s top hat), to the documentary (photographs of the Sutter Street synagogue, both before and after the 1906 earthquake), to the prosaic (invoices for services rendered and items purchased while constructing the Lake Street Temple). Yet much of our story is missing. When the 1906 earthquake and fire devastated the Sutter Street Synagogue, it left most of our historical record in ashes. And many events from the 1920s on remain underrepresented.
Perhaps you have something sitting in a drawer: a photograph, brochure, memento, or document that will help illustrate our congregational tale. If so, we’d love to hear from you! Won’t you contribute to Emanu-El’s heritage by donating an item, sharing a story, or even just asking a question? Please contact Judi Leff at (415) 751-2541, ext. 115 or by email at Jleff@emanuelsf.org. Your interest and participation will help keep our traditions alive for generations to come.
The Judaica collection includes hundreds of rare and beautiful artifacts- everything from tapestries, torah ornaments and household ritual objects to paintings, works on paper and books (including Bibles). Many are donations from families descended from the Temple’s founding members. Together, the Archives and Judaica bear eloquent witness to the continuity of Jewish tradition as well as Congregation Emanu-El’s vibrant one hundred and fifty-year history
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