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.