Sometimes, you can be transported back by a simple address or name that propels you into a whole era, along with the people you loved and lived with, seemingly at your sides. This bar mitzvah invitation card donated by Sam Korus is a memory gift box for those who remember such times and a signpost for those, like me, who came after, and learned of this neighborhood through other means. Collecting archives materials over the last ten years has introduced me to many places, but the East Side is one of those spaces that looms very large in Jewish Buffalo memory and continues to draw me into discovering more stories. The Jefferson “Street” or “Avenue” (depending on the decade) was a major thoroughfare of Buffalo Jewish life, and the Jefferson Shul, in which many a bar mitzvah took place, was an important address, along with the Jewish Community Building, set almost opposite, on the other side of the street.
This modest invitation by today’s standards might have been regarded as fancy back then, with its feature photograph. I wish I knew more about the individual family. Who was Samuel? What happened to him after his bar mitzvah? Did he remain in Buffalo? Who were his parents? How did they make a living? Did they remain on the East Side, move to North Buffalo, or strike out to Kenmore? At least we know more about the synagogue. The Jefferson Shul – or Congregation Ahavath Sholem at 407 Jefferson, was certainly “stylish” as recorded in newspaper articles back then. In 1917, when this bar mitzvah took place, now almost 100 years ago, the Jefferson Shul was enjoying its zenith. Originally founded in 1890, it was officially incorporated two years later as “Ahavas Sholem” on March 21, 1892. The synagogue was Orthodox in religious practice and its first members were new immigrants from Russia, Eastern Europe. By 1897 the Jefferson Shul was home to the Talmud Torah – Buffalo’s first city wide supplementary Hebrew and Religious School. In 1903, as members acculturated and became increasingly successful, their members were able to fund a $28,000 dollar frontage addition to 407 Jefferson Ave. With its eye-catching design - yellow bricks and its Moorish revival “onion” shaped dome - it became an instant local landmark. The active life of the synagogue continued through to 1950s based on the minute book entries included in a collection at the University Archives, at the University at Buffalo. You can find out more about the synagogue collection and its history by exploring the records at the archives. A specific guide for your visit is available by clicking on this link: http://purl.org/net/findingaids/view?docId=ead/archives/ubar_ms0200_5.xml
Peckham Street, where the Miller family received guests after the service, has also undergone change as has the observation of Bar mitzvah celebrations themselves over the almost hundred years since Samuel Miller took to the bimah. The bar mitzvah invitation invites us back into that past, to explore the cityscapes then and to reflect on how landmarks have changed since. It also enables us to think about religious and cultural continuity and how those reflect wider trends within American Jewish life, then as now, as well as change in this particular place we call home.
You can share your stories about synagogues, businesses, organizations, families and more by contacting me at email@example.com. You can also write to: Dr. Chana Kotzin, Jewish Buffalo Archives Project, Bureau of Jewish Education, 2640 North Forest Road, Suite 400, Getzville, NY 14068.
This week’s focus is for Jewish business and professional offices in and around the Elmwood Avenue and Delaware Avenue section on the West Side of Buffalo as part of a general request for help researching Jewish businesses, neighborhood by neighborhood. Along Elmwood and its near vicinity, as well as on Delaware, and its surroundings, there were a whole range of businesses at various times including Hoffman’s Meat, Weinstein and Cheplowitz Groceries, Chasins Delicatessen, Hoffman’s Fish, Brownrout Seafoods, Rosenblatt Furriers, and Frederic Marshall Photography to name just a few. Can you add more information about these names, or any others? What other businesses do you remember? These names represent a tiny sampling of former services offered in the extended area. Can you add to these lists, and provide further information? We have almost no materials related to Congregation Beth Abraham and, we have absolutely no materials from its short-lived forerunner, Temple Beth Israel, also located on Elmwood Avenue (not to be confused with the congregation in Niagara Falls). Perhaps you have old programs, photographs, anniversary books, or clippings?
Another former congregation that was located on the West Side was Temple Beth El, and one of its former buildings, the Richmond Avenue temple was in the news this week, as the building, since owned by a series of churches, is now up for sale. Recently, the Temple Beth El archives collection were made available at the University Archives, with records from its earliest beginnings, to just prior to merger with Temple Shaarey Zedek in 2008 to form Temple Beth Tzedek. The guide to this collection is over 80 pages long and is available online at: http://www.bjebuffalo.org/jbap by clicking on “Temple Beth El, 1847-2006.” Temple Beth El, Buffalo was the first Jewish congregation established in Buffalo. After a number of homes at Pearl Street and Elm Street, Richmond Avenue was selected in 1909, and a cornerstone was laid in 1910, with the new building dedicated in 1911. The decision to locate the Temple on Richmond Avenue was spearheaded by Charles Polakoff who led the congregation as President over twenty years from 1909 to well into the 1930s. The Richmond Avenue temple was home to Temple Beth El for over fifty years, and until the congregation expanded its Eggert Road school site in the town of Tonawanda.
In the mean time, you can share your stories about businesses, stores and more by contacting me at: 716-204-5388, or email, at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also write to: Dr. Chana Kotzin, Jewish Buffalo Archives Project, Bureau of Jewish Education, 2640 North Forest Road, Suite 400, Getzville, NY 14068.
This week’s focus is for Jewish business and professional offices in and around the Humboldt and Ferry areas, continuing my general request for help researching Jewish businesses, neighborhood by neighborhood. In the Humboldt area there was an array of medical practitioners and several local pharmacies. Do you remember them? Ferry area business at various times included Altman’s Grocery, Kaufman’s Bakery, Risman’s Grocery, Reisner’s Fish, Gallen Grocery, Cheskin Deli, Chepin and Fagin Deli, Rosen Butcher, Lippes Bakery, Zollerson Grocery, Tasman Tailor, Rosenberg Tailor, Leff’s Pharmacy, Schwartz Bakery, and Perelstein Butcher shop, to name just a few. Can you add more information about these names, or any others? What other businesses do you remember? These names represent a sampling of former services offered in the extended Ferry area. Can you add to these lists, and more centrally, provide further information? We have a small collection of materials for Temple Beth David interspersed across several collections, but need further information about Humboldt Orthodox, Ohev Zedek, Anshe Zedek, Ohel Jacob and Tifereth Zion. Perhaps you have old programs, photographs, anniversary books, or clippings?
A few weeks ago I asked about pharmacy related information. This week, I’d like to find out more information about law enforcement and fire service personnel. In the next issue, I’ll focus on the West Side, but in the mean time, you can share your stories by contacting me at: 716-204-5388, or email, at email@example.com. You can also write to: Dr. Chana Kotzin, Jewish Buffalo Archives Project, Bureau of Jewish Education, 2640 North Forest Road, Suite 400, Getzville, NY 14068.
My latest query is a request for help researching Jewish businesses, neighborhood by neighborhood, beginning with the East Side. Here there was an array of independent business on several streets. On Jefferson at various times, names like Levy Leather Store, A. Wunder, Lang Dairy, and Lang Brewery come to mind.
On Sycamore, services and stores included Kotok Fish, Scheitzer Shoe Store, Ediuson Butcher, Morrison Pharmacy, Hasselback Cheese Co. , Rich Ice Cream, Gelman Scrap, Brock Scrap, Shumsky’s, Meyer’s Shoe Store, Hirsch Pharmacy, Sutanik Meats and Pleskow Pharmacy. Can you add more information about these names, or any others?
William Street was even more varied, with familiar names that included Silverstein’s, Abrams Pharmacy, Ulman’s Dairy, Brown Meats, Elkins Fish, Weintraub Clothing, Steinhart’s, Block’s Bakery, Weber Cleaners and Kulick Grocery. What other businesses do you remember?
On Broadway and surrounding there was Sattler’s, Posmantur’s, Kobacker’s , Golden’s, Broadway Market, several bakeries, Berkoff’s Fish, Loonsk Cleaners, Zolte Furniture among others. These names represent a fraction of former services offered on the East Side. Can you extend these lists, and more centrally, provide further information?
Next week, I’ll focus on Humboldt, but in the mean time, can you share your stories by contacting Chana Kotzin at: 716-204-5388, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also write to: Dr. Chana Kotzin at the Bureau of Jewish Education, 2640 North Forest Road, Suite 400, Getzville, NY 14068.
Over the next six months I will be asking for help in tracing archival materials and stories regarding a range of Jewish businesses and professions, and intermittently over the next few weeks, I will compile responses I have received thus far. Although I am asking new questions this week, I still welcome comments and more, for earlier subject matters that I have already explored. I am still seeking information about the lesser-known synagogues of North Buffalo (not Emanu-el at this time, that will be a later separate call) and the Humboldt area, and I am also interested in tracing local Jewish butchers and local Jewish catering businesses. The Buffalo Jewish diaspora spreads far and wide, and I am sometimes amazed at how far some of your replies come from!
This week’s request is for pharmacists and pharmacies. There were a whole range of independent owned pharmacy businesses, small independent pharmacy chains and individual pharmacists that dotted Buffalo’s mainly neighborhoods, the outer ring suburbs (for example: Cheektowaga), and from where I sit now and write, here in Amherst. I have had the pleasure of meeting several pharmacists and learning about the independent and family run businesses that existed prior to the larger chains we have today (although that transition is interesting history too, as part of a changing Buffalo, and beyond). Were you a pharmacist or was a relative? The pharmacy school at UB also had a fraternity. Did you or a relative belong to it?
Intermittently, I will reproduce the list of collections we already have at the University Archives at the University at Buffalo, as one thoughtful reader has already responded about an existing collection, and been willing to add another piece of the puzzle to that collection.
If you have stories to share and more, please contact Chana Kotzin at: 716-204-5388, or email her at email@example.com. You can also write to: Dr. Chana Kotzin at the Bureau of Jewish Education, 2640 North Forest Road, Suite 400, Getzville, NY 14068. As we gain more information and stories, these will be shared in the Buffalo Jewish Review. Many thanks to the Sull family for enabling the JBAP/BJE to run these bi-monthly requests which will help us fill in more details and corners of Jewish heritage in Greater Buffalo and Niagara Falls! Keep reading to see if you might be able to help with our business, professional, organizational and neighborhood queries from the past.
In this second bi-monthly essay, I wanted to reach out to readers in order to find out more about Kosher butcher businesses. We would love to compile a full list of businesses and addresses, names of owners, and connections to Jewish caterers as well as memorabilia from both groups. This is a significant area that remains under-documented in the archives. Perhaps you, or your grandmother, mother or father shopped at a kosher butcher’s shop on the East Side, on Broadway, on Elmwood or Hertel Avenue? Was there a particular kosher butcher that your family frequented? Perhaps you remember specific Jewish caterers and their signature dishes? We’d love to know these answers and other thoughts you have. You can reach Chana Kotzin at: 716-204-5388, and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to: Bureau of Jewish Education, 2640 North Forest Road, Suite 400, Getzville, NY 14068. As we gain more information and stories, these will be shared in the Buffalo Jewish Review.
Through the Jewish Buffalo Archives project, 65 collections are now available for use. The collections are a unique source of local and regional Jewish history from 1847 to the 2015. The listing in this article is organized in alphabetical order by organization name and family last name. The archives collections include Jewish agencies, Jewish Day schools, Jewish organizations past and present, and individual and family papers. There are many cross-over connections, for example the David and Minnie Coplon papers include information about the Rosa Coplon Home, and Weinberg Campus, Temple Beth El and Temple Beth Zion, Jewish Masonic organizations, Jewish Country Clubs, braille materials, business images and personal Coplon Family materials that span the globe! Temple Beth El includes information about local, national and international Jewish organizations, in addition to all aspects of synagogue life.
The Archives are located at the University at Buffalo in Capen Hall on North Campus at 420 Capen Hall, Buffalo, NY 14260 and you can call them directly at: 716-645-2916 or email them at email@example.com. Normally you can visit the Archives from Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm. While no appointment is necessary, it will reduce your wait time for box retrieval if you plan ahead. Please note that the archives are occasionally closed, so use the contact information above to confirm your visit.
We will be running a series of bi-monthly essays on underrepresented aspects of Jewish Buffalo and Jewish Niagara Falls. You can help us locate more information about specific areas of Jewish Buffalo and Jewish Niagara Falls that have little or no documentary materials, but are essential to the stories of Jewish Buffalo and Niagara Falls, so that we have a fully representative and inclusive record. Over the past few years, I have been locating, collecting, and organizing records relating to the unique local history of Jewish Buffalo and Niagara Falls. To make these records available consistently and permanently available, all of the records, once processed and placed in archival boxes and enclosures, are then made available through the University Archives at the University at Buffalo at North Campus. Under the Jewish Buffalo Archives project, 65 collections are now available for use, and these are listed at www.bjebuffalo.org/jbap and www.bjebuffalo.org/jbap2 Most of the collections are organizational or family related, and are a significant and unique source of local and regional Jewish history from 1847 to the 2015. Yet there still remain a few areas that are under-documented or completely missing archives. Perhaps you can help?
Synagogues have played a central role in the development of Jewish Buffalo and the two founding synagogues of Buffalo with the longest histories: Temple Beth El (1847) and Temple Beth Zion (1850), are both well documented. On the BJE website you will find a guide to each of these particular synagogues, between 70 and 90 pages long! With just a few locations, and a dedicated archives program at one time, both Beth El and Beth Zion managed to retain a significant holding of critical documents, photographs, architectural designs and other materials despite each experiencing flood and fire, that in the case of Temple Beth Zion was so devastating, their synagogue at 599 Delaware Avenue was completely destroyed. Even so, as you read through the materials saved, you get a sense, not just of the synagogue milestones and styles of leaders and clergy, but each synagogue’s changing emphases, and the meaning each synagogue held for its members, and how this was shaped by the members themselves, their clergy, leadership, and laity, and mediated through location and time.
We also have smaller collections that trace the histories of other congregations including, among others, Ahavas Sholem (Jefferson Shul), Kehilat Shalom, Temple Beth Shalom in Elma, Temple Beth Israel (Niagara Falls) and Temple Sinai (through the personal papers of past officers). But other histories are less well known, either through the loss of centralized synagogue records during relocation, or merger, or both, or catastrophic event (fire or flood), or for a variety of other reasons and this is where we need your help. Given the lack of documentary materials readily available, the memories of former members and clergy are critical. In Niagara Falls, we are still trying to trace written records and recollections of the Tenth Street Shul, and would like to find former members or descendants, so that we can document as many aspects of this small congregation and its officers, rabbis and members. In Buffalo, the Ferry and Humboldt areas were home to a number of synagogues for which we also seek records and recollections. Ohel Jacob, a small synagogue located at 493 E. Ferry between Wohlers and Humboldt and Tifereth Zion Synagogue at 421 Woodlawn between Dupont and Roehrer have no currently found records, although some of the stained glass windows for Ohel Jacob are preserved in the Cofeld Judaic Museum. Humboldt Orthodox Center, also known as the Glenwood Ave Shul, located at 445 Glenwood Ave, between Roehrer and Wohlers is also missing records. In each case we would like to find photographs of rabbis and presidents, and member lists and other available materials, perhaps in the form of synagogue milestones and anniversaries, member recollections or even family genealogies and histories that include references to these shuls. We hope you can help us preserve their histories!
North Buffalo is an area of interest in a number of areas. This article will focus on congregations. Ohav Zedek and Anshe Zedek Synagogue were forerunners to Ner Israel, and it would be helpful to know their own specific stories before they merged to form Ner Israel, which had a number of homes. Ner Israel was initially located at 141 Crestwood and then at 85 Saranac Ave. From there it built on 500 Starin Avenue and merged with Temple Beth David to form Temple Beth David-Ner Israel. Although a small amount of Temple Beth David-Ner Israel materials are preserved in Beth Tzedek papers, (soon to be organized), they are limited, and the histories of Ohav Zedek and Anshe Zedek Synagogues are absent.
In addition to these congregations that were wholly located in either North Buffalo or in the case of Beth David, previously located on Humboldt Parkway, North Buffalo was also the home of former East Side synagogues that had merged and relocated to North Buffalo. We are very keen to trace more information for both B’rith Sholem Synagogue, the former Pine Street Shul, located at 1052 Hertel Ave, between Delaware and Camden as well as B’rith Israel-Anshe Emes Synagogue, a merger of the former “Big Hickory” and “Little Hickory” street shuls, also on Hertel at 1231 Hertel Ave, between Traymore and Commonwealth. We also seek documentation for Ahavas Achim, the former Fillmore Avenue Shul in wither its east side or North Buffalo iteration.
In the next issue of Heritage Corner I will provide updates on leads as well as other areas of interest, along side a complete list of completed collections. If you have any questions, leads or ideas, you can reach Dr. Chana Kotzin at 716-204-5388, or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org and mail at: Chana R. Kotzin, Bureau of Jewish Education, 2640 North Forest Road, Getzville, NY 14068.
Chana Kotzin has been working in a part-time capacity for the Jewish Buffalo Archives Project for several years. Over this time, she has organized the archives of synagogues, congregations, Jewish volunteer organizations and interest groups, as well as agencies and a range of cultural organizations. She also organized or aided with digital presences for the Archives Project through the online platforms of Jews in America located at www.jewsinamerica.org/ and New York Heritage, a rich collection of images at http://nyheritage.org/collections/jewish-buffalo-image-collection. She has recorded the recollections of a number of lay leaders and executives as well as written, Jewish Community of Greater Buffalo, published in 2013 by Arcadia Publishing. Chana was originally from the UK, and has a background in Jewish Studies. Her Ph.D. thesis focused on British responses to Jewish Refugees during the 1930s and she has also taught and spoken on a wide range of areas from “Anglo-Jewish History,” to “Refugees in the Modern Era” as well as “Developing Community Archives” among many other subjects.