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Jill Hamilton Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0200-0034

Scope and Contents

The Jill Hamilton papers document the final few years of Temple Sinai, where she served as an active member, as well as a board member and president. Historically, Temple Sinai was the only independent Reconstructionist synagogue in the Buffalo area from 1952 until 2012. These papers document the steps taken to merge with a local Reform congregation (former Temple Beth Am) in the face of declining membership, and the efforts made to enshrine both Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish practice within a new merged congregation constitution. Congregation Shir Shalom was the first Reconstructionist-Reform temple in the United States at its founding in 2012.


  • 1952-2012
  • Majority of material found within 2008-2012


Language of Materials

Collection material in English.

Terms of Access

The personal papers of Jill Hamilton Papers, 1952-2012, (bulk 2008-2012) 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 the 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

Dr. Jill Hamilton is a licensed psychologist who has spent the last 25 years evaluating children and adults with disabilities. In 2001, she joined Temple Sinai with her spouse and family. She served with the Sisterhood, authored monthly columns for the Temple newsletter highlighting Sisterhood activities and also served as President of the Sisterhood. After board service, in 2010, she became President of Temple Sinai. After 18 months of discussions with Temple Beth Am, a suburban Reform synagogue located on Sheridan Drive in Williamsville, the two congregations merged to form Congregation Shir Shalom, the first merged Reform-Reconstructionist synagogue in the country where both identities and affiliations are maintained. This merger was formalized on July 1, 2012. After a year as Vice President of Administration and a year as President of the new temple, Dr. Hamilton joined the strategic planning committee as chair. She is a member of Congregation Shir Shalom synagogue board, Congregation Shir Shalom Sisterhood, and the Congregation Shir Shalom choir.

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 Dr. Ira Eisenstein, then editor of the Reconstructionist Magazine, as guest speaker. On April 1, 1954, Rabbi Nathan Gaynor, was installed as temple’s rabbi by Dr. Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of the Reconstructionist Movement. In 1955, the congregation held a groundbreaking ceremony on Alberta Drive in Amherst, NY and in the following year Temple Sinai hosted the first national conference of the Reconstructionist movement in 1956.

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 (13th anniversary), and 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. From 1993, Rabbi Barry Schwartz served the Temple as rabbi, and during his tenure began the Jubilee Endowment fund and edited a new Shabbat prayer book. Rabbi Benjamin (Jamie) Arnold, took over in 1999 as the first Reconstructionist trained rabbi who was also from Western New York. He served as 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 of LifeBridge Health, an interfaith, multi-cultural health care chaplaincy at Sinai and Northwest Hospitals in Baltimore, MD. In 2008, Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein, also Reconstructionist trained, took the helm and was the joint rabbi at the successor congregation after Temple Sinai merged with Temple Beth Am, a Reform synagogue, to form the first Reconstructionist-Reform temple in the United States.


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


Personal papers documenting aspects of the final few years of an independent Temple Sinai, and merger talks with Temple Beth Am, to form a new combined Reform and Reconstructionist congregation, Congregation Shir Shalom.


This collection is arranged in four series as follows:

  1. Administrative
  2. Activities and Events
  3. Merger Discussions
  4. Media

Acquisition Information

Jill Hamilton donated her personal papers in July and September 2013. 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 Jill Hamilton Papers was made possible by funding obtained through the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies.

Accruals and Additions

Accruals are expected to this collection.

Related Resources

Processing Information

Collection was processed by Chana Revell Kotzin in March 2016. The Finding Aid was finalized by Chana Revell Kotzin in April 2016. EAD created by University Staff in May 2016.

Finding Aid for the Jill Hamilton Papers
Chana Revell Kotzin
April 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)