Beth Sholom Congregation, Elkins Park, PA

  • Dates: 1917-1988
  • Size: .1 linear ft.
  • Number of Folders: 1
  • Languages: English
  • Location: Special Collections Reading Room, Jewish Theological Seminary Library.
  • Restrictions: Reproduction of fragile items is not permitted; consult the archivist about literary rights.
  • Gift Of: Congregation Beth Sholom
  • Date: 1988
  • Related Collections: Mortimer Cohen Papers

MCS, 6/9/94; rev. EK, 2/03

Table of Contents:

A Note on Folder Headings

Individual folders are identified in the following way on the left side of each folder: Name of Collection, box #/folder#, as in Ben Zion Bokser Papers, 4/22. Please use this format in citations and when referring to files for any other reason.

Historical Note

Beth Sholom Congregation, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, was officially organized in the Logan section of Philadelphia in 1919. Initial attempts at founding a congregation began in 1917, and while attendance at meetings was growing and the school which had been organized was operating "on and off," the congregation had no building or constitution for two years. In January of 1919, a lot was purchased. Two months later a constitution was approved and Beth Sholom, its name selected to commemorate the end of World War I, was officially born. From the 1920s to the 1940s, the Conservative congregation grew rapidly from its initial three hundred families to several thousand, aiming to serve as both a house of worship and a center of community life. After the Second World War, as increasing numbers of members moved out of the city to Philadelphia's northern suburbs, Beth Sholom followed them, building in the early 1950s a new center at Elkins Park, including facilities for catering, a swimming pool, a large auditorium-gymnasium, a religious school building, and a chapel. The highlight of the new suburban center was the now-famous synagogue designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, America's foremost architect. The congregation's founding Rabbi, Mortimer J. Cohen, led the congregation until his retirement in 1964.

Collection Description

The records of Beth Sholom Congregation consist entirely of photocopies from the congregation's own extensive archives. Included are: minutes, from May to September 1917, of the committee discussing the establishment of a congregation at Logan; the first constitution of the congregation, 1919; a survey of the lot on which the first synagogue was built, 1919; letters from the congregation to Rabbi Cohen; and the 1923 charter of the congregation.

Also included in the records are several histories, one from the 1920s and several more recent ones. The most extensive history is the 1979 "Highlights in the History of Beth Sholom, 1917-1979," compiled by Bob Weil from research involving meeting minutes and budgetary reports from those years. The highlights also includes a table of significant historical and social events. Included in "The Archives of Beth Sholom Congregation, Elkins Park, PA," a submission for the Solomon Schechter Award, is a discussion of the congregation's historical philosophy as well as a history of the congregation's archives and record-keeping. Rabbi Aaron Landes' "Beth Sholom Congregation, Elkins Park, PA," briefly discusses the congregation's history and spends considerable time on its present and future.

The records also contain two indexes of Beth Sholom Congregation's archives, which remain in Elkins Park.

 Item List

Item Description 
1Minutes, May-Sept. 1917 of committee discussing establishment of first congregationin Logan.
2First constitution of the congregation, in congregational minutes, 3/9/19.
3Survey of the lot on which the synagogue was to be built, 3/17/19.
4Letter from Congregation Beth Sholom to Mortimer Cohen informing him of the unanimousvote electing him as rabbi, 3/28/20.
5Letter from Congregation Beth Sholom to Mortimer Cohen including "resolutionon Committee on Rabbi," 1/10/22.
6Charter of Beth Sholom Congregation, 4/19/23.
7"The History of the Congregation," 1920s.
8"Highlights of the History of Beth Sholom 1917-1979," compiled by BobWeil.
9The Archives of Congregation Beth Sholom, Elkins Park, PA," submitted asentry for the Solomon Schechter Award, 1985.
10"The Archives of Beth Sholom Congregation, Elkins Park, PA," 1987.
11"Beth Sholom Congregation, Elkins Park, PA," by Rabbi Aaron Landes,1988.
12Archives Index, Congregation Beth Sholom, Elkins Park, PA; partial
13Archives Index, Congregation Beth Sholom, complete through 1987.