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Rabbi Samuel Porrath Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0208

Scope and Contents

Series I. primarily contains Rabbi Porrath's biographical files, including his photographs, professional profiles, and family files from different areas, as well as clippings that he collected from a variety of sources.

Series II. comprises Rabbi Porrath's writings as a spiritual leader, language researcher, traveler, and rabbi. Many historical events affect these writings - including the Great Depression, Anti-Semitism, World War II, the Nuremburg Trials, the birth of the State of Israel, the Yom Kippur War, the Civil Rights Movement, and JFK's assassination - as well as various social issues from civil liberties with respect to gender and religion, economic problems, educational matters, immigration and diaspora issues, political affairs, and freedom of speech. Since many of the original files and papers were undated, and mixed with many different topics and times, the subject files are first sorted by activities (arranged alphabetically by topic), then by chronological order. Those writings can be retrieved from Subseries C, E, and F of the series as well as Subseries A of Series III. In addition to his materials relating to Shabbat and Jewish holiday talks and sermons, which are usually found in Subseries E and F by subject or place, a researcher looking for Rosh Hashanah service sermons might find some under "H" for High Holiday or "R" for Rosh Hashanah in Subseries E, and in various files in Subseries F. Multiple research approaches are necessary to locate a specific item, as original order has been maintained as much as possible.

Series III. houses clean drafts or books of Porrath's manuscripts "Comfort in Death: A Rabbi's Personal Statement," "Life Beyond the Final Curtain," and "You Are Not Getting Married...Your Mother Is." His articles for the Buffalo News, Niagara Falls Gazette, and Buffalo Jewish Review are in this series. His collected newspaper clippings and other temple publications are also stored in this series. Series I, II, and III contain editorial suggestions and comments by Rabbi Porrath's wife, "Tibey" (Theresa), interspersed throughout his papers.

Series IV. documents administrative and curricular files of the Institute of Transportation, Travel and Tourism at Niagara University (during Porrath's directorship from 1964-1979), which includes correspondence among affiliate schools and government branches. Significant information in Niagara community development and plans for Niagara Falls international Airport are housed in this series as well.

Series V. includes papers of Samuel Porrath's father, Rabbi Israel Porath (1886-1974) collected by Samuel around 1975 after his father's death. It also contains significant combined files of Israel and Samuel, most of which are written in Hebrew and Yiddish. Father (Israel) and son (Samuel) have slightly different spellings of their common last name (single "r" and double "rr").


  • 1863-1992
  • Majority of material found within 1920-1989


Language of Materials

Collection material in English, Hebrew and Yiddish.

Terms of Access and Use

The personal papers of Rabbi Samuel Porrath Papers, 1863-1992 (bulk 1920-1989), are open for research. There are no restrictions regarding access to or use of this collection.


Copyright of papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the University Archives before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Biographical Note

Samuel Porrath was born in Jerusalem while the town was under control of the Ottoman Empire in 1908. As a son of a 15th generation rabbi, he was educated in Etz Hayim High School Jerusalem, Doresh Zion Seminary, and Yeshivath Etz Hayim College, before his father, Rabbi Israel Porath, moved to the United States to become rabbi of Congregation Oheb Zedek in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1925. Samuel Porrath quickly emerged as a young religious leader. By 1927, he was a speaker and an administrator at his father's congregation, Oheb Zedek, and he was vice president of the Ohio branch of Mizrachi Youth Organization of America. A year later - at the age of 20 - he was appointed as a spiritual leader of Congregation Sons of Israel, in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, where he had supervised their Hebrew and Sunday schools. From 1931 to 1937, he was appointed rabbi at Temple Beth Israel (TBI), Niagara Falls, New York and also ran the Sunday school. While continuing a connection with TBI, he was appointed rabbi to Congregation Agudath Achim in Hibbing, Minnesota from 1937 to 1941. In 1941, he accepted a position as a civilian chaplain at Camp Grant, Illinois, and also served as a Rabbi of Ohave Sholom synagogue (Rockford, Illinois) for a year, while also working as an editor to the American Hebrew. He returned to Niagara Falls in 1944 and served as a civilian chaplain to Jewish troops stationed at Fort Niagara, Youngstown, during World War II. Throughout the late 1940s and early 1960s, Rabbi Porrath intermittently served as rabbi and spiritual leader of Temple Beth Israel in Niagara Falls while at the same time working within a family business: The Sample Shop, on Main Street in Niagara Falls where he was a buyer and advertising executive. In addition, he was very active in Jewish community and interfaith affairs. In 1968, he was elected as Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Beth Israel for his 20 years of service to Temple Beth Israel. From 1974 to 1989, when he retired in March, just months before his death, he served as the senior full-time rabbi to Temple Beth El, Tonawanda, NY. The congregation of Temple Beth El showed its appreciation for his leadership by dedicating the foyer of their new Sanctuary on Eggert Road in his name. In 1981, he was honored for 50 years of rabbinic and community service with an award for this civic, educational, religious, cultural, social, and humanitarian commitments. Rabbi Samuel Porrath was also an accomplished educator and advocate for broader local community development. He was one of the founders of Niagara County Community College (later becoming a Vice President of the Board of Trustees) and founded Niagara University's Institute of Transportation, Travel and Tourism (ITTT). In 1968, he became Director of ITTT also developing its curricula. During the early 1960s he, he supported a campaign to revitalize Niagara Falls International Airport (later becoming a member of its advisory board). His consulting works for the government and several educational institutions was widely acknowledged. As a spiritual and community leader, Rabbi Porrath was active in furthering interfaith and interracial relationships, and wrote many articles for the Buffalo News, Niagara Falls Gazette, and Buffalo Jewish Review. His prolific writings included Jewish themes and theological topics, but also focused on community issues that affected the daily experience of all Western New Yorkers. Many of his articles included an historical perspective and observations on the varied social changes that had occurred during his own lifetime. In 1985, he published "Life Beyond the Final Curtain" which is his personal statement about the continued benevolent effects the dead have upon the living. One of his unpublished books, "In the Beginning There Was The Word" was a result of his long etymological research analyzing relationships between Hebrew and English languages. Rabbi Porath received awards from many area organizations, including the Interfaith Award from B'nai B'rith (1967) and the Rainbow Award (1980) for outstanding contribution to the area's travel and tourism industry. He was a long-standing member of the National Conference of Christians and Jews; past President of the Niagara Falls Appeals Review Board, Niagara Jewish Federation; Vice President of the Niagara Falls Kiwanis Club; board member of Kadimah School of Buffalo, the Niagara Falls Golden Age Club, Temple Beth El and Temple Beth Israel. He was a 1988 honoree of the Niagara Falls Chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Married to Theresa "Tibey" Gellman in 1932, the Porraths had two children; a son Saar and a daughter Hedria. On May 13, 1989, Rabbi Samuel Porrath died in Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.


13.5 Linear Feet (9 carton boxes, 1 flat box, 1 oversize folder)


The papers of Rabbi Samuel Porrath (1908-1989) document his personal and professional activities in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, New York.


This collection is arranged in five series:

  1. Biographical Sources
  2. Writings
  3. Publications
  4. Education
  5. Assorted Rabbi Israel Porath and Rabbi Samuel Porrath's Writings

Acquisition Information

Hedria Porrath Lunken Saltzman donated her father's personal and professional materials to the Jewish Buffalo Archives Project in 2010. The Jewish Buffalo Archives Project was founded in late 2007 under the auspices of the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Buffalo with a seed grant from the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies. The Archives Project collects mainly 20th century documentation relating to the diverse histories, religious traditions and cultures of Jewish communities within the Greater Buffalo area of Western New York, encompassing the geographic areas of Erie and Niagara Counties and partners with the University Archives at the University at Buffalo to make these records accessible. The arrangement and description of the Rabbi Samuel Porrath Papers was made possible by the funding obtained through the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies and the Bureau of Jewish Education.

Accruals and Additions

Accruals are not expected to this collection.

Related Materials

Separated Materials

Temple Beth El Collection. Temple Beth Israel Collection.

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Kuniko Simon, November 2014-June 2015. Finding aid encoded by Archives Staff, January 2016.


Finding Aid for the Rabbi Samuel Porrath Papers
Finding aid was written by Kuniko Simon.
June 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo New York 14260-1674 US
716-645-3714 (Fax)