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Guide to the Beth El Synagogue Records, 1881-2012 and undated

Summary

Organizational records for Beth El Synagogue in Durham, N.C., consisting of records of the board, general membership, Beth-El Sisterhood and Ladies' Aid Society meetings between 1930 and 1984, primarily containing minutes and financial reports, but also correspondence, committee reports and other material. Also included are correspondence; printed material, including Books of Life, programs from services, newsletters, and other publications about Jewish history; documentation about the operations of Beth-El Preschool; legal papers; financial papers; photographs of the synagogue, congregation, and programs; and subject files documenting changes in the synagogue's constitutions, construction of new synagogue buildings in 1921 and 1957, dedication services, and the careers of rabbis.

Collection Details

Collection Number
RL.11336
Title
Beth El Synagogue records
Date
1881-2012 and undated
Creator
Beth-El Synagogue (Durham, N.C.)
Extent
15 Linear Feet
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Language
Materials in English and Hebrew

Collection Overview

The Beth El Synagogue Records are divided into five series: Administration, Jewish History, Photographs, Printed Materials, and Programming. The Administration series contains documents relevant to the congregation’s organizational records, and is divided into four subseries: Beth El Preschool, Board and Governance, Correspondence, and Subject Files. Jewish History primarily consists of historical accounts of Jewish life in Durham and Chapel Hill, and includes personal biographies of several congregant members. Photographs document congregant members and synagogue events. The series also includes formal portraits of congregant presidents and rabbis. Printed Materials includes newspaper clippings from throughout the twentieth century, primarily from the Durham Morning Herald. Also includes a variety of professional publications related to Jewish life. Programming includes copies of the synagogue’s newsletter, the Beth El Bulletin, assorted service bulletins, and a dedication book to commemorate the construction of the new synagogue on Markham and Watts Streets in Durham.

More Biographical / Historical Info

Arrangement

The collection arrived partially sorted and has been divided into five series: Administration, Jewish History, Photographs, Printed Materials, and Programming.

Using These Materials

A majority of collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 2 full business days in advance for retrieval. Contact Rubenstein Library staff before visiting. Read More »

warning Access to the Collection

Collection is open for research, except that original audiovisual materials and electronic records are closed to use. Contact Research Services in advance to request the production of use copies for those formats.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

warning Use & Permissions

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Original audiovisual materials are closed to use. Contact Research Services to request the production of use copies.

More copyright and citation information

How to Cite

[Identification of item], Beth El Synagogue Records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

1. Administration, 1881-2009 and undated

The Administration series contains documents relevant to the congregation’s organizational records, and is divided into four subseries: Beth El Preschool, Board and Governance, Correspondence, and Subject Files. Beth El Preschool contains documents from the Carnival of the Arts, including publicity materials and financial summaries. The subseries includes extensive financial records of the preschool, including tax reports, payment records, and supplies expenditures. Also includes teacher applications, letters to parents, and information of the preschool’s founding. Arranged alphabetically by folder title.

The Board and Governance subseries contains meeting minutes of the congregation’s leadership, including the board of directors and board of trustees, from 1939-2008. Includes several bound volumes of handwritten meeting notes with various handouts taped in, including: form letters, financial reports, budgets, requests, and typed notes. Arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Correspondence mostly consists of official correspondence between the Synagogue leadership with various individuals and official organizations, including the American Association for Jewish Education, American Zionist Youth Commission, Hebrew Theological College, United Synagogue of America, and Yeshiva University. Also includes official correspondence with Rabbi Steven Sagar from the 1980s while he served the congregation. Arranged chronologically by year.

Subject Files contain a variety of organizational records from the synagogue, including financial records, legal papers such as deeds and congregant constitutions, membership lists, staff meeting minutes, Ladies’ Aid Society meetings, Beth El Sisterhood meetings, and historical accounts of the synagogue. Also includes two Books of Life, extensive information on funeral rituals and preparation, Chevra Kadisha, and documents pertaining to the centennial celebration in 1987. The documents include ceremony recordings, concert programs, handouts, flyers, some correspondence, exhibit displays, and meeting minutes. Also includes information from the Jewish Ceremonial Art Exhibition at Duke University in 1988, in which the synagogue participated as part of the centennial. One folder includes photocopied advertisements from Jewish businesses in Durham from the 1880s. Arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Original audiovisual materials are closed to use. Contact Research Services to request the production of use copies.

Carnival of the Arts, 1975-1979
(2 folders)

Flyers, form letters, publicity notes, meeting agendas, reports

Box 1
Carnival of the Arts Financial Summaries, 1970-1972

Financial summaries

Box 1
Carnival of the Arts Publicity Materials, 1975-1978

Flyers, handouts, newspaper clippings

Box 1
Exhibit Boards, 1998-2004

Contain photos of preschool activities on display boards

Box 24
Financial Records, 1972-1973

Notes, budgets

Box 1
Financial Records Bound Volume, 1968-1969

Bound volume of billing information and employee payment records

Box 28
Folded note, undated
Box 1
Founding of Beth-El Preschool, 1968-1969

Correspondence, flyer, article

Box 1
Insurance Accident Forms, 1970
Box 1
Letters to Parents, 1971-1972

Form letters

Box 1
Monthly Financial Reports, 1969-1971
Box 1
Pen Pal Letters, 1988 and undated
Box 1
Planning Notes, 1969-1972

Meeting notes, directories

Box 1
Quarterly Tax Records, 1970-1976

Federal tax documents

Box 1
Rosters, 1969-1976
Box 1
Supplies Expenditures, 1969-1974
Box 1
Teacher Applications and Letters, 1969-1976
Box 1
Teacher Contracts, 1971-1973
Box 1
Teacher Files, 1970-1971
Box 1
Board and General Meeting Minutes Bound Volume, 1939-1951

Bound volume of handwritten meeting notes with various handouts taped in, including:correspondence, financial reports, budgets, and typed notes

Box 27
Board and General Meeting Minutes, 1948-1984
(8 folders)

Agendas, meeting minutes

Box 2
Board and General Meeting Minutes Bound Volume, 1975-1977

Bound volume of handwritten meeting notes with various handouts taped in, including: form letters, financial reports, budgets, requests, and typed notes

Box 27
Board and General Meeting Minutes Bound Volume, 1978-1980

Bound volume of handwritten meeting notes with various handouts taped in, including: form letters, financial reports, budgets, requests, and typed notes

Box 26
Board Member Materials, 1978-1980

Agendas, congregation letters, financial reports, proposed budgets

Box 3
Board of Directors Meeting Minutes, 1979-1985
(2 folders)
Box 3
Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes, 1985-1991
(7 folders)
Box 3
Board and General Meeting Minutes, 1992-2008
(13 folders)
Box 4
Board Meeting Schedules, 2000-2001
Box 4
Sagar, Steven, 1980-1985
(9 folders)

Official correspondence with Rabbi Sagar while serving at Beth-El Synagogue

Box 5
Miscellaneous, 1940-1950

ands

Box 5
Miscellaneous, 1951-2005
(3 folders)

Official correspondence between Beth-El Synagogue and various individuals and official organizations, including the American Association for Jewish Education, American Zionist Youth Commission, Hebrew Theological College, United Synagogue of America, and Yeshiva University

Box 6
Zionist Letter, undated

To William Bane, Secretary Durham Zionist District; written in Hebrew

Box 6

Subject Files, 1881-2009 and undated

Original audiovisual materials are closed to use. Contact Research Services to request the production of use copies.

Advertisements, 1881 and undated

Photocopies of various merchandise advertisements

Box 6
Alpine Summit Meeting, 1986

Form letter, handout, newsletter

Box 6
Archival List, undated

Numbered list of archival materiels from Beth-El Synagogue

Box 6
Beth-El Sisterhood Meeting Minutes Bound Volume, 1955-1959

Bound volume of handwritten meeting notes

Box 26
Beth-El Sisterhood Meeting Minutes Bound Volume, 1971-1972
Box 6
Beth-El Sisterhood, 1959-1995

Form letters, scripts, news clippings, agendas, membership lists

Box 6
Beth-El Synagogue Building, 1920

Photocopied photos of original synagogue in downtown Durham, North Carolina

Box 6
Book of Life, 1920

Durham Hebrew Congregation, Beth-El Synagogue

Box 23
Golden Book of Life, 1924-1963

Beth-El Synagogue, Durham, NC; In memory of Louis Gladstein

Box 23
By-laws, 1907
Box 6
Calendar Cover, undated

Floppy disc that contains synagogue calendar cover

Box 25
Cemetary Deeds, 1916-1933
Box 6
Cemetary Deed and Freedman Center Deed, 1985
Box 6
Centennial Celebration of Beth-El, 1988 and undated

Notes, meeting minutes, concert programs

Box 6
Centennial Time Capsule, 1987

Questionnaires

Box 6
Centennial Events, 1987
(2 folders)

Programs, pamphlets, correspondence, handouts, flyers, news clippings, photographs

Box 7
Centennial Exhibit Boards, 1987-1998

Includes congregation signatures, photo of synagogue interior

Box 24
Centennial Items for Bulletin Board Display, 1988
Box 7
Centennial Recordings, 1988

17 April 1988; three VHS tapes of closing ceremonies, Schpiel Play, and "Torah as Lived by Music and Martin Lakin"

Original audiovisual materials are closed to use. Contact Research Services to request the production of use copies.

Box 25
Check Stubs, 1977-1995 and undated
(2 folders)
Box 7
Chevra Kadisha Correspondence, 1971-1990

Letters, agreements, receipts

Box 7
Chevra Kadisha for Eisenberg, Gertrude, 1983

Letters, agreements, clippings

Box 7
Chevra Kadisha Documents, 1988-1995

Funeral checklists, summaries, notes

Box 7
Chevra Kadisha Funeral Guides, undated

Handbooks, newspaper clipping

Box 8
Chevra Kadisha Funeral Preparations and Notes, 1997 and undated
(2 folders)

Meal of condolence, burial, Chevra

Box 8
Chevra Kadisha Funeral Summaries, 1985-1997

Obituaries, forms, tahara ritual, certificates

Box 8
Chevra Kadisha Text: Jewish Ritual, Reality, and the Response at the End of Life, 2007
Box 8
Chevra Kadisha Memorial Prayers and Books of Remembrance, 1989 and undated
Box 8
Chevra Kadisha Miscellaneous, 1972-2006 and undated

Burial plots, funeral checklists, handbooks, plot deeds, condolence emails

Box 8
Chevra Kadisha Volunteers, 1982-1989 and undated

Volunteer forms

Box 8
Confirmation, 1983-1987

Handouts, form letters, readings

Box 8
Confirmation and Baptism Documents, undated

Certificates, newsletters

Box 9
Congregation Membership Lists, 1965, 1974, 2000
Box 9
Congregation Constitutions, 1907-2007 and undated
(3 folders)
Box 9
Construction of New Synagogue, 1920 and undated

Meeting minutes, correspondence

Box 9
Construction of New Synagogue and Cornerstone Ceremony, 1921, 1957-1965 and undated

Reports, photograph, booklet

Box 9
Construction Proposal, 1958
Box 9
Construction blueprints/plans for synagogue, 1956
Oversize-folder 1
Durham Hebrew Cemetary plots blueprint/maps, 1938
Oversize-folder 1
Famous Congregation Members, 1955 and undated

Newspaper clippings, photographs, correspondence

Box 9
Financial Papers, 1886-1984

Miscellaneous reports and ledgers

Box 9
Financial Records Bound Volume, 1942

Ledger of synagogue financial transactions

Box 22
Financial Records Bound Volume, 1954-1957

Ledger of financial transactions

Box 28
Financial Records Binder, 1969-1984

Binder of payments for maintenance of cemetary graves

Box 22
Financial Records Floppy Discs, 1995-1999 and undated

Four floppy discs with synagogue financial data

Box 25
Financial Records Bound Volume, 1972-1978

Ledger of synagogue financial transactions

Box 22
Financial Reports, 1948-1973
Box 9
Foundation Contacts, 1985

Blumenthal, National Foundation for Jewish Culture

Box 9
Forming a Minyan: The History of Durham Beth-El Congregation, undated

Includes guide on how to conduct an interview

Box 9
Freedman Center Dedication, 1989

Photographs, program, report

Box 9
Historical Notes, 1950-1987

Beth-El Synagogue newspaper clippings and building fund correspondence

Box 9
History of Beth-El Synagogue, 1987

By Rogoff, Leonard; includes correspondence with author

Box 9
History of Beth-El Synagogue Binder, 1909-2003

Photocopies of newspaper clippings and photographs, reports

Box 10
History of Building Beth-El Synagogue Center, 1957

Typed report

Box 10
Histories, 1951-1953 and undated

Handwritten and typed accounts of members' history at synagogue

Box 10
Jewish Ceremonial Art Exhibition, 1985-1988
(2 folders)

Duke University; newspaper clippings, correspondence, pamphlets, articles, curatorial guide, agendas, draft descriptions

Box 10
Jewish Education Week, 1984

Photographs, pamphlet, letter

Box 10
Jewish Hsitorical Society 12th Annual Conference, 1987

Handouts, newspaper clipping photocopies

Box 10
Jewish Relief Committee, 1916

Flyers of servicemen from Durham, NC

Box 24
Jewish Relief Committees for World War I, 1916-1920 and undated

Flyers, handouts

Box 10
Judging Justices, undated

Statement by Terry Sanford

Box 10
Ladies' Aid Society Meeting Minutes, 1930-1944
(2 folders)
Box 10
Miscellaneous Documents, 1924-1987

Handouts, flyers, reports

Box 10
Miscellaneous Committee Reports, 2001-2006
Box 10
Miscellaneous Exhibits, 1961-1985

Photographs, captions, newspaper clipping photocopies

Box 10
Miscellaneous Legal Papers, 1899-1963
Box 11
Miscellaneous Handouts, 1975 and undated
Box 11
Music and Films, 1983 and undated

Catalogues, flyers

Box 11
National Foundation of Jewish Culture, 1985-1986

Applications and lists of traveling art shows, correspondence

Box 11
North Carolina Humanities Committee, 1986

Proposal guidelines

Box 11
Orthodox Kahilia, undated

Information sheets

Box 11
Puzzle, 1984

Puzzle letter sent by Rabbi Steven Sagar to the Bar Mitzvah Class of 1984

Box 11
Rabbis, 1938-1987

Photographs of and corrspondence from Beth-El Synagogue rabbis

Box 11
Rabbi's Banquets, 1988-1991

Receipts, correspndence, expense logs

Box 11
Religion and Public Education, 1988

Class taught by Rabbi Steven Sagar at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; syllabus

Box 11
Retirement Plan, undated

Documents for Rabbi Steven Sagar's retirement plan

Box 11
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association Placement, 1985

Placement documents

Box 11
Sheet Music, undated

Photocopies of "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" by Jimmy Cox; "Downtown" by Tony Hatch; "Who Will Buy" by Lionel Bart; "Get Me to the Church on Time" by Frederick Loewe

Box 11
Staff Meeting Minutes, 1997

Beth-El Staff

Box 11
Teachers' Tea Event, 1959

Form letter, script

Box 11
Teachers' Tea Program, undated
Box 11
Tree of Achievements Bronze Cast, 1992

Planning documents and photographs

Box 11
Tzadatsah (Charity Work), 1985-2009

Certificate, handouts, correspondence, reports

Box 12
Zionism, 1938-1987

Flyers, reports

Box 12

2. Jewish History, 1908-1987 and undated

The Jewish History series contains historical accounts of Jewish life in Durham and Chapel Hill, and includes personal biographies of several congregant members. Includes a full manuscript of “History of Jewish Community of Durham and Chapel Hill, 1887-1987” as well as Notes from “From Pine Street to Watts Street: An Oral History of the Jews of Durham, NC.” Also includes naturalization papers and petitions from several individuals in the 1910s. Arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Concentration Camps, undated

Shopiro, Karin; Dachau handout

Box 12
Durham-Chapel Hill Jewish Community History Project, 1986

Notes, outlines, reports

Box 12
History of Jewish Community of Durham and Chapel Hill, 1887-1987, 1987

Hanft, Sheldon, Ph.D. and Leonard Rogoff

Box 12
Durham County Naturalization Petitions, 1908-1922

Swartz, Sam; Hockfeld, Hyman

Box 12
Miscellaneous, undated

Certificate in Hebrew

Box 12
Miscellaneous Biographies, undated
Box 12
Naturalization Papers, 1917
Box 12
Notes from "From Pine Street to Watts Street: An Oral History of the Jews of Durham, NC", 1986

Gruber, Robin

Box 12
Passport, 1959

Berman, Samuel

Box 12
Personal Stories of the Establishment of Israel, 1993

Durham, NC residents

Box 12
Southern Jewish History, 1987

Contents of binder; handouts, correspondence

Box 12

3. Photographs, 1900-2004 and undated

Photographs primarily consists of documentation of congregant members at a variety of synagogue and Beth El Preschool events. Includes a 1900 photograph of the Gladsteins storefront with congregant members, the early Durham Hebrew Congregation, and the original cathedral-style synagogue in downtown Durham. Also includes photos from the Jewish Ceremonial Art exhibition, the photo album, “A Photographic History of Beth El,” and formal portraits of congregant presidents and rabbis. Arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Beth-El Preschool and Hebrew School, 1995-2002
(2 folders)
Box 12
Beth-El Preschool and Hebrew School, 1995-2002 and undated
(2 folders)
Box 13
Beth-El Presidents, undated
Box 13
Beth-El Renovations, undated
(2 folders)

Photographs by Levinsohn, Hunter

Box 13
Building and Renovations, 1999
Box 13
Cemetary, undated
Box 13
Chanukah Bazaar, 1999
Box 13
Children painting, undated
Box 13
Congregation Photo, undated
Box 24
Early Durham Hebrew Congregation, undated
Box 13
For Temple Bulletin Board Displays, 1983 and undated
(3 folders)

Congregation members involved in various activities at the synagogue

Box 13
Freedman Center, 1988

Construction photographs

Box 13
Gladsteins Store Photograph, 1900

Main Street, Durham, NC; contains correspondence regarding photograph

Box 13
Bruce Guild and Linda Convissor Wedding, 1983
Box 14
Living Heritage: Jewish Ceremonial Art, 1988
Box 14
Miscellaneous Photograph Collages, undated
Box 14
Miscellaneous Paper Prints, 2004

Photograph order forms

Box 14
Miscellaneous Negatives, undated
Box 14
Photographs Not Used in Photo Album, undated

Unused photographs from synagogue photograph album; various congregation activities

Box 14
A Photographic History of Beth-El, 1984-1987 and undated

Contents of photgraph album

Box 14
Pictures From Photo Directory, undated
Box 14
Pictures of Rabbi Foger and Synagogue Interior, 1987
Box 14
Portrait of Rabbi Steven Sagar, undated
Box 14
Portraits of Members, 1965 and undated
Box 14
Purim Carnival and Shabbaton, 1987-1997
(2 folders)
Box 14
Bar Mitzvah for Stern, Sam and Bat Mitzvah for Stern, Becky, undated
(2 folders)
Box 15
Sefer Torah, 1988
Box 15
Shabbaton, 1984-1998
(6 folders)
Box 15
Beth-El Sisterhood Photographs, undated
Box 15
Slides from Various Synagogue Events, undated
Box 15
Synagogue Play, 1964

Cast photograph; play title unknown

Box 15
Synagogue Events, 1965-1994
(4 folders)

Congregation members at various events and synagogue activities

Box 15
Synagogue Events, 1983-2004 and undatd
(10 folders)

Congregation members at various events and synagogue activities

Box 16
Synagogue Events, undated
(12 folders)

Congregation members at various events and synagogue activities

Box 17
Worship Conductors, 1997
Box 17
Uncaptioned Photo Albums, 1984-2001 and undated
(2 folders)

Congregation members at various events and synagogue activities

Box 18

4. Printed Materials, 1909-2012 and undated

Printed Materials include newspaper clippings from throughout the twentieth century, primarily from the Durham Morning Herald, that pertain to the synagogue, its members, or Jewish life. Includes ephemera from the funeral for the first Jewish mayor of Durham, “Mutt” Evans. The series also contains a book printed in Hebrew, Sidur u-Mahzor, Kol-Bo. The text is the second part of a set of prayer books that include daily prayers, prayers for high holidays such as Rosh Ha-shanah and Yom Kippur, liturgical poems, and the psalms, among others. Arranged alphabetically by folder title.

The American Jewish Times Outlook, 1986-1987
Box 18
Book of Songs and Blessings, 1983

United Jewish Appeal

Box 18
Calendar, 1975
Box 18
Centennial Celebration, 1987-1988

Newspaper Clippings

Box 18
Featuring Beth-El Members, 1996-1997 and undated

Newspaper Clippings

Box 18
Jewish Art and Culture in Early America, 1981

By Spoleto, Piccolo

Box 18
Jewish Burial, 1991

Newspaper clippings

Box 18
Jewish Year Programs, undated

Handbooks on Jewish religious events

Box 18
Judaism and the Environment, undated

2-disc CD set on "supporting environmental education and activism in conservative/Masorti communities"

Box 25
Emmanuel "Mutt" Evans Funeral, 1997

Newspapers, photograph

Box 18
Miscellaneous Publications, 1971-2004
Box 18
Newspaper Clippings, 1959-1961

Beth-El Sisterhood

Box 18
Newspaper Clippings Obituaries, 1985-1986 and undated
Box 18
Newspaper Clippings, 1909-2012 and undated
(4 folders)

Durham Morning Herald, Durham Herald

Box 19
Our Synagogue, 1974
Box 19
Rabbis Newspaper Clippings, 1958 and undated
Box 19
A Set of Holiday Sermons, 1961-1962

Union of American Hebrew Congregations

Box 19
Southern Jewish Historical Society, 1983-1987

Newsletters, pamphlets

Box 19
Hebrew prayer book, 1923

In Hebrew: Sidur Mahazor Kol-bo, second part. Published in Vilna, 1923.

Box 28

5. Programming, 1899-2007 and undated

Programming includes copies of the synagogue’s newsletter, the Beth El Bulletin, assorted service bulletins, and a dedication book to commemorate the construction of the new synagogue on Markham and Watts Streets in Durham. Also includes welcome booklets, and miscellaneous handouts and programs. Arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Annual Yearbook, 1959-1960

Beth-El congregation

Box 19
Beth-El Bulletin, 1955-1979
(2 folders)
Box 19
Beth-El Bulletin, 1987-2006 and undated
(9 folders)
Box 20
Beth-El Welcome Booklets, undated
Box 20
A Dedication to the Future, 1960

Synagogue dedication book

Box 21
A Dedication to the Future Drafts and Proofs, 1959-1960
(2 folders)

Drafts and proofs of dedication book

Box 21
Miscellaneous Programs, 1899-1960
Box 21
Miscellaneous Handouts, undated
Box 21
Remembrance Books, 1986, 1997

Evans, Emanuel Joshua "Mutt"; Evans, Sara Nachamson

Box 21
Service Bulletins, 1948-1978
(3 folders)

Programs from assorted temple services

Box 21
Service Bulletins, 1979-1988 and undated
(2 folders)

Programs from assorted temple services

Box 22
Service Invitations, 1965-2007
Box 22
Yom Kippur Memorial Books, 1988, 2006
Box 22
 

Historical Note

Mainly comprised of German and Eastern European immigrants as well as Russian-Jewish cigarette rollers, the Durham Hebrew Congregation organized in 1887 and rented a hall on Main Street. James B. Duke had formed a contract with Ukrainian immigrant Moses Gladstein to bring over a hundred workers from New York to roll cigarettes in Duke’s tobacco factories. Duke automated the factory in 1884 and dismissed the Jewish workers. Most returned north, but several, including Gladstein, chose to remain and opened stores in Durham. As the population continued to slowly grow, the congregation formally chartered in 1892 and hired a rabbi. In 1905 they purchased a small, wood-framed church on Liberty Street, which became Durham’s first synagogue. By 1910 the Jewish population in the area had reached approximately 305.

After the First World War, the congregation built a large, cathedral-style synagogue downtown at the intersection of Holloway and Queen Streets. Upon its dedication in 1921, they took the name Beth El Congregation. The congregation remained Orthodox throughout the 1930s and 1940s, but in 1948 hired a rabbi who was a member of the conservative movement. Despite significant internal tensions, the congregation shed its dominant orthodoxy by the mid 1950s. The congregation broke ground on a new, contemporary “American” synagogue on Watts and Markham Streets in 1957; the old structure became the Bethel Baptist Church with a primarily African American congregation. Durham took over and demolished the building in the late 1960s for urban renewal. The location is now the northwest corner of WTVD, the local ABC news affiliate for Durham.

By its centennial year, 1987, the congregation was known as Beth El Synagogue, and had not only successfully created a strategy to accommodate both its modern leanings and orthodox heritage but also helped create other Jewish congregations such as Judea Reform. Beth El had also embraced woman as ritual and lay leaders in the 1970s, and the creation of the adjacent Freedman Center in 1987 allowed the congregation to further expand its community service and social action programs. Today, as part of a Jewish population of approximately 8,000 in the Durham-Chapel Hill community, Beth El defines itself as “a vibrant, dynamic community led by a volunteer board, enriched with the teachings of many dedicated community members.”

Related Material

Related collections also held in the Rubenstein Library include: Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina Collection of Jewish Historical Materials, 1888-2014; Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina Records, 1750-2014 and undated; Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina Oral History Collection, 1981-2014; North Carolina Temple and Synagogue Historical Collection, 1926-2010 and undated; Evans Family Papers, 1920s-1990s.


Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.

Provenance

The Beth El Synagogue Records were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift in 1998 and 2014.

Processing Information

Processed by Paul Sommerfeld, November 2016

Accessions described in this collection guide: 1988, 2014-0116, and others