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Elliot Shapiro Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0200-0029

Scope and Contents

The papers of Elliot Shapiro, member and president of Temple Sinai offer an understanding of congregation during the decades of the 1960s through the 1990s, complementing materials already lodged in MS 150.5.

Series I includes materials relating to board functions as reflected through board minutes as well as budget information that track synagogue finances. It includes an undated constitution and a variety of papers held by Elliot Shapiro in his capacity as president. Series II holds congregational anniversary materials and a copy of a scrapbook compiled for Rabbi Nathan Gaynor that includes correspondence from Ira Eisenstein, a leader of the Reconstructionist movement. Series III holds a variety of materials relating to liturgy and ritual of the temple as compiled by Rabbi Herzog and discussed within a spiritual and liturgy committee. A number of photographs of board members and presidents as well as school materials are also housed within this series.


  • 1962-2007
  • 1973-1989


Language of Materials

Collection material in English.

Terms of Access

The personal papers of Elliot Shapiro, 1962-2007 (bulk 1973-1989) 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 the materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Biographical Note

Elliot Shapiro (August 25, 1927-January 4, 2012) was born in Boston, Mass., and completed his schooling at Boston Latin School in 1944. He earned an undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University and a Master’s degree from the Harvard School of Government. From 1945 to 1947, he served in the Army in Europe both during and after World War II. He began his career in journalism in Pennsylvania, working as a reporter and editor at the Valley Daily News in Tarentum and the Morning News in Danville. After relocating to Western New York, he worked at the Tonawanda News. Soon after winning a newspaper article award competition in 1962, he joined the staff of the Buffalo Evening News in 1963. After a long tenure on the city desk, and then service as the director of the newspaper photograph library, he retired in 1991. He was a member of Sigma Delta Chi, Greater Buffalo International Chapter and served as local treasurer of the American Newspaper Guild. He was also a member of the Legislative Correspondents Association. He served as a president of Temple Sinai where he also was president of the Couples Club and the bowling league.

Historical Note

Temple Sinai was formed at a meeting organized by Louis Bunis on August 24, 1952, where it was agreed for the need of a “new liberal conservative temple,” to provide its members with “relevant, dynamic, positive and creative Judaism.” Twenty-eight men and women signed the articles of incorporation which included the family names of Borins, Bunis, Estry, Feld, Frey, Goldman, Goldstein, Gross, Kaufman, Posner, Rekoon, Shapiro, Snitzer and Wunder. The first service was held at former home of the Lyndale Evangelical and Reformed Church on October 24, 1952, with Rabbi Harold Weisburg, Cantor Kaufman, and organist Ruth Axelrod as service leaders. Eventually the building was purchased and formally dedicated on April 26, 1953 with (Rabbi) Dr. Ira Eisenstein, then editor of The Reconstructionist, as guest speaker. On April 1, 1954, Rabbi Nathan Gaynor, was installed as the congregation’s first rabbi by Dr. Mordecai Kaplan, a founder of the Reconstructionist Movement.

The next milestone in the synagogue's history was the building of its first dedicated sanctuary building that remained in synagogue’s ownership until it was sold when the Temple combined with another congregation. In 1955, the congregation held a groundbreaking ceremony on Alberta Drive in Amherst, NY. The cornerstone laying for the new synagogue took place on Sunday, November 3, 1957 and the first service at the site was held on August 22, 1957. In 1965, Temple Sinai celebrated its Bar Mitzvah year, and also its first adult b’nai mitzvah ceremony. After the departure of Rabbi Gaynor to become director of Hillel at University of Illinois, Rabbi Paul Levinson served as an interim rabbi with the congregation from 1966 to 1968.

In 1968, Rabbi Joseph D. Herzog, began a 25-year rabbinate with Temple Sinai until his retirement in the 1990s. Following his retirement, several rabbis led the congregation. These included from 1993, Rabbi Barry Schwartz, who during his tenure began the Jubilee Endowment fund and edited a new Shabbat prayer book. Rabbi Benjamin (Jamie) Arnold, took up the reigns in 1999, as the first Reconstructionist trained rabbi. Originally from Western New York, he served as the rabbi of Temple Sinai until relocating to Denver, Colorado in 2005. He was followed by Rabbi Jerry Seidler, whose strong interest in pastoral care led him to become a Jewish Staff Chaplain at an interfaith, multi-cultural health care chaplaincy at Sinai and Northwest Hospitals in Baltimore, MD. In 2008, Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein, also Reconstructionist trained, was appointed rabbi, and was a joint rabbi at the successor congregation when Temple Sinai merged with Temple Beth Am. In Congregation Shir Shalom, Reform synagogue, Temple Beth Am and Reconstructionist synagogue, Temple Sinai joined to form the first joint Reconstructionist-Reform temple in the United States.


1 Linear Feet (1 manuscript box, 1 half manuscript box)


Personal papers documenting member and leadership experience of Elliot Shapiro at Temple Sinai in Amherst, NY. Material includes minutes, newsletters, programs, photographs and newspaper clippings relating to the cultural and religious life of this Reconstructionist synagogue.


This collection is arranged in three series as follows:

  1. Administrative Records of Temple Sinai
  2. Events and Special Events
  3. Other Records relating to Temple Sinai

Acquisition Information

Stephanie Shapiro donated the papers of her husband Elliot Shapiro in 2013 and 2016. The papers were arranged in March 2016 and it was deposited at the University Archives, Special Collections by the Jewish Buffalo Archives Project in March 2016.

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 Elliot Shapiro Papers was made possible by funding obtained through the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies.

Accruals and Additions

Accruals are not expected to this collection.

Related Resources

Processing Information

Collection was processed by Chana Revell Kotzin in March 2016. Finding aid encoded by Archives staff, April 2016.


Finding aid for the Elliot Shapiro Papers
Finding aid finalized by Chana Revell Kotzin
March 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

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