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Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein Collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0200-0008

Scope and Contents

The compiled collection consists mainly of Temple Sinai derived materials, dominated by original photographs relating to confirmation and scouting at the Temple as well as other youth activities. It also includes images of two former rabbis: Rabbi Gaynor and Rabbi Herzog. The collection also includes an item from the Suburban congregation, which preceded Temple Beth Am, as well as a recording of Beth Am High Holidays melodies, under the direction of Barbara Wagner and Kent J. Vander Band, choir, soloists and temple members. This collection can be used in association with the Jill Hamilton Collection and the Eliot Shapiro Collections.


  • 1957-1982
  • Bulk: Majority of material found within 1971-1974


Language of Materials

Collection material in English and Hebrew.

Terms of Access

The personal papers of Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein, 1957-1982 (bulk 1971-1974) 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.

Historical Note

The materials of this collection are derived from two former synagogues, Temple Beth Am also known as the Suburban Congregation and Temple Sinai, now both merged into Congregational Shir Shalom where Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein serves as spiritual leader. 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. In 1954, the first suburban congregation for Reform Judaism was created with an initial core of 12 people, and named the “Surburban Congregation.” Sharing church property initially, in 1958, after the selection of Rabbi Daniel Kerman, the congregation built their own home in 1959 on Sheridan Drive in Amherst and changed names to Temple Beth Am. Over the next decade the building expanded, adding a kitchen, school and more meeting space. With the death of Rabbi Kerman, Rabbi Steve Mason was hired, and under his tenure the religious school expanded and the temple hired Barbara Ostfeld, the first ordained female cantor in the Reform Movement. After Rabbi Mason left to join a Temple in Chicago, a number of other Rabbis served the congregation including Michael Feshbach, Rabbi Ron Herstik and Rabbi Irwin Tanenbaum. Cantorial soloist, Susan Wehle was hired at the same time as Rabbi Tanenbaum and she worked actively in the interfaith community as well as the wider musical community. In 2009, Susan Wehle was killed on Continental flight 3704 in 2009, which crashed in Clarence, NY. Rabbi Irwin Tanenbaum worked with Rabbi Alex Lazarus Klein and both congregational laities and leaderships through their merger with Temple Sinai to form Congregation Shir Shalom.


0.7 Linear Feet (1 manuscript box, 1 record holder)


Papers documenting aspects of the social, religious and cultural life of the Suburban Congregation/Temple Beth Am (Reform) and Temple Sinai (Reconstructionist) synagogues within Buffalo, NY.


This collection is arranged in one series as follows:

  1. Memorabilia

Acquisition Information

Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein deposited materials in 2015 and 2016. The papers were arranged in June 2016 and it was deposited at the University Archives, Special Collections by the Jewish Buffalo Archives Project in June 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 Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein collection of former congregational materials was made possible by funding obtained through the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies.

Accruals and Additions

Ongoing accruals are expected to this collection.

Related Resources

Processing Information

Collection was processed by Chana Revell Kotzin in June 2016. Finding aid created by University Staff, July 2016.


Finding Aid for the Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein Collection
Finding aid written by Chana Revell Kotzin.
June 2016
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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)