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Finding Aid to the Congregation Sherith Israel records, 1851-2003
BANC MSS 2010/720  
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The collection consists of the records of San Francisco's Congregation Sherith Israel from circa 1851 to 2003. Included are administrative records; correspondence; financial records; building and property records; cemetery records; membership records; religious school records; confirmation and bar/bat mitzvah records; materials relating to the congregation's rabbis and cantors; files relating to liturgy, services, and holidays; records of the congregation's Sisterhood and Brotherhood; subject files; newsletters; scrapbooks; and photographs.
San Francisco's Congregation Sherith Israel has its roots in the Gold Rush era immigration and migration of Jews from Prussia, Bavaria, England, France and the East Coast of the United States. By the end of 1850, these Jewish San Franciscans had founded two benevolent societies, established a cemetery, worshipped together on the High Holidays, and were considering creating a formal congregation. They managed to come together briefly but soon split into two groups: the English and North Germans, who demanded that worship in the new congregation adhere to the Minhag Polen (the Polish rite), and the primarily Bavarian Jewish immigrants, who wished to worship according to the Minhag Ashkenaz (the traditional German rite). In 1851, the first group formed Congregation Sherith Israel and the second formed the other of San Francisco's leading congregations, Emanu-El. Sherith Israel built is first synagogue on Stockton Street, between Broadway and Vallejo, in 1854. In 1870, having outgrown its first building, the congregation moved into an impressive Gothic style synagogue on Post and Taylor Streets. It was here, in its home on Post and Taylor Streets, that Sherith Israel began to take steps away from its Orthodox roots and toward Reform. This movement towards Reform was helped along by two of Sherith Israel's most prominent rabbis, Henry Vidaver and Jacob Nieto. In 1902, the congregation purchased the site of its current synagogue at California and Webster Streets. Albert Pissis, a prominent San Francisco architect, was immediately hired to design the new building. In 1905, the synagogue, with its noteworthy stained glass windows, elaborate frescoes, and Murray Harris organ, was consecrated. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire spared Sherith Israel's new building, causing only minor damage. The synagogue was actually used as a courthouse after the calamity and played host to Abe Ruef's notorious corruption trial. Rabbis who served Sherith Israel during the years documented by this collection are as follows: Henry A. Henry (1857-1869), Aaron Messing (1870-1873), Henry A. Vidaver (1874-1882), Falk Vidaver (1883-1892), Jacob Nieto (1893-1930), Jacob Weinstein (1930-1932), Morris Goldstein (1932-1972), and Martin Weiner (1972-2003).
Number of containers: 96 cartons, 3 boxes, 21 oversize boxes, 72 volumes, and 1 oversize folder (linear feet: 135)
All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 94720-6000. Consent is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission from the copyright owner. Such permission must be obtained from the copyright owner. See: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/reference/permissions.html.
Collection is open to researchers.