Religious School, Joseph Poisson, Director of Religious Education, 1979-1983
Scope and Contents
The papers of Temple Beth Zion document the religious and community activities of Temple Beth Zion synagogue from 1864-2008. Although the congregation was founded much earlier in 1850, material for the period prior to 1864 when it was an orthodox synagogue is missing. A constitution from 1863 is found in the Cofeld Judaic Museum. Despite the earlier losses, and a fire that destroyed the former sanctuary and temple complex, this collection provides a considerable span of materials arranged into 21 series. For a number of years these series were added to intermittently by several synagogue archivists following an initial collecting period, and then were added to in other phases as materials became available. Within these earlier series original order has been maintained, with new housing and supports. Later series were arranged by the Jewish Buffalo Archives Project.
This collection has specific concentrations in architectural materials, lay and professional leadership, religious change and community social action. It includes religious, financial, administrative, organizational, cultural and educational materials, in a wide range of formats, including architectural plans, minutes, reports, photographs, fliers, programs, bulletins, commemorative booklets, correspondence, film, materials culture, memorabilia and ephemera. Its records also include materials that relate to subgroups within the synagogue structure including presidents, scouts (boys and girls) and auxiliaries including the Sisterhood and Brotherhood and their forerunners, as well as the “Young Peoples Group” group. Due to the size and complexity of this collection, additional scope notes are included under most of the separate series.
Temple Beth Zion has had two long serving rabbis: Dr. Joseph Fink and Dr. Martin Goldberg. Joseph Lionel Fink (1895-1964) served as Rabbi from 1926-1958 when he became Emeritus until 1964. He also served while Rabbi Kopald was ill in the two years prior to his official appointment. The son of Rabbi Mendel and Tillie Kagen Finkelstein, Joseph Lionel Fink was born in Springfield, Ohio on 12 May 1895. Joseph Fink received a B. A. from the University of Cincinnati in 1915, an M.A. from the University of Chicago in 1918 and a rabbinical degree from Hebrew Union College in 1919. He was awarded a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Niagara University in 1934. Beginning his pulpit career in Terre Haute, Indiana, he served the United Hebrew Congregation from 1919 to 1924. Planning doctoral graduate studies in Germany in 1924, Rabbi Fink stayed overnight in Buffalo, New York with the ailing Rabbi Louis Kopald, then Rabbi of Temple Beth Zion. Rabbi Kopald asked him to stay and Rabbi Fink succeeded him as rabbi, serving Temple Beth Zion until his own retirement in 1958. As sole rabbi and then as Senior Rabbi until 1958, and Emeritus Rabbi until his death in 1964, Dr. Fink was the leading Reform Jewish spokesperson for the Buffalo Jewish community. From 1930 to 1956, he had a weekly radio program entitled “The Humanitarian Hour,” addressing issues of the day. His papers are located at American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio, however, a small number of materials created by and related to Rabbi Dr. Fink are found in series III. Other rabbinic papers located in the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati are those of Rabbi Louis Kopald and Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld.
Rabbi Martin L. Goldberg (1925-2002) served at Temple Beth Zion from 1954-1994. Born in Paterson, New Jersey, Rabbi Goldberg graduated from Syracuse University in 1949 and received a master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh. He was ordained in 1953 at Hebrew Union College. A serviceman in Europe during World War II, Rabbi Goldberg was appointed as an assistant rabbi at Temple Beth Zion in 1954, and was named senior rabbi in 1959. In 1967, Rabbi Goldberg became one of the first two non-Catholics to join the faculty at Canisius College, where he taught theology. Rabbi Goldberg stepped down as senior rabbi in 1994. In retirement he continued teaching and began pastoral duties at Temple Beth El in Niagara Falls. He also was a founder of the Buffalo Area Metropolitan Ministries. He was a past president of the Buffalo Board of Rabbis, a past rabbinical advisor of the Northeastern Lakes Federation of Temple Youth and was a member of the School Superintendent’s Advisory Committee for Review of Public Education. Rabbi Goldberg also served on many organizational boards including the National Conference of Christians and Jews, American Red Cross, Children’s Hospital Advisory Board, United Fund, Buffalo Area Council Boy Scouts of America, United Jewish Federation, Jewish Center and the Rosa Coplon Jewish Home and Infirmary. His materials are mainly held at Temple Beth Zion within the Cofeld Museum, but a small amount of materials are included within series XIII.
The Temple Beth Zion collection contains significant materials relating to the building of two architecturally distinct sanctuaries and temple complexes. Series XIX and XX contains materials relating to the creation of 599 Delaware Avenue (Edward A. Kent), as well as reaction to its loss by fire, and the building of a subsequent sanctuary at 805 Delaware Avenue (Max Abramovitz), where the synagogue currently resides. Plans, renderings and correspondence are associated with each building architect. Landscape architectural materials of Katharine Wilson Rahn and building photographs also constitute part of the 805 Delaware Avenue documentation.
Through utilizing the combined Series IV (Synagogue Bulletins), Series XV (Congregational Meetings), Series XVII (High Holidays) and Series XVIII (Events) researchers may obtain an overview of the broad swathe of activities of the synagogue for its own members and the broader Jewish and non-Jewish communities. More detailed context is obtained when these series are combined with the auxiliaries: Sisterhood (Series V), Brotherhood (Series VI), Young People’s Society (Series VI), as well as the synagogue administrative materials, especially Board Minutes (Series I), Treasury materials (series II), Religious School (Series VIII) and Presidents (Series XIV) and Committees (Series XVI) thereby providing further depth and understanding of the synagogue’s religious, cultural and social service development over time.
- From the Collection: Temple Beth Zion (Buffalo, N.Y.) (Organization)
Conditions Governing Access
The collection of Temple Beth Zion, Buffalo, NY, 1864-2008, is open for research. There are restrictions regarding access to and use of this collection. Materials from 1969 through 2008 are restricted, and subject to a rolling ten-year release schedule. Researchers may contact the Temple Beth Zion President, Secretary or Chief Operating Officer directly regarding research permissions for materials created within these dates. All materials prior to 1969 are unrestricted, although fragile materials are accessed with the aid of the archivists.
From the Collection: 68 Linear Feet (105 manuscript boxes, 13 half manuscript boxes, 1 record carton, 6 oversize boxes, 12 roll storage tubes)
Language of Materials