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Temple Beth Zion Records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0156

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.


  • 1864-2008
  • Majority of material found within (Bulk 1890-1995)


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.

Conditions Governing Use

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

In 1850, Beth Zion began after a small breakaway group split away from Temple Beth El, the first synagogue founded in Buffalo in 1847. While retaining a self-identification with Orthodoxy, this dominantly German-Jewish congregation gradually changed orientation and by 1863, had aligned with Reform Judaism, reorganizing as a Reform incorporated congregation in 1864 after meeting in Kremlin Hall on October 9. In 1864 a first building was purchased, the former Methodist Episcopal Church on Niagara Street, which was remodeled and dedicated on May 26, 1865. At this service, Rabbi Isaac M. Wise, the leader of the Reform movement, addressed the congregation in English, while Rabbi Isaac N. Cohen, the congregational Rabbi, gave a sermon in German. In 1866, Rabbi Samson Falk became the third Rabbi to serve Beth Zion. Under his leadership, the congregation joined the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and he became active in community affairs beginning the practice of pulpit exchange with churches. In 1876, Rabbi Falk also became the first historian of Jewish Buffalo, presenting a paper, “A History of the Israelites in Buffalo” to the Buffalo Historical Society, where he also served on the Board of Managers. Written just before the expansion of the Buffalo Jewish community when the Jewish community numbered around 1000, it highlighted a confident community connected by inter-family ties, participating in cultural, musical and financial institutions within the broader city community.

In 1886, the Niagara Street temple was sold and services were held at the Unitarian Church of Our Father on Delaware Avenue and the Central Presbyterian Church on Pearl and Genesee Streets. Within this period of location transition, Temple Beth Zion hired a new rabbi following the death of Rabbi Falk. Rabbi Israel Aaron was appointed in 1887 during a time when the broader Jewish community was also undergoing demographic change as new incoming Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe enlarged the existing Jewish community to over 10,000 by 1899. Temple Beth Zion became an early and central part of this transitioning community - not as a place of worship as new shuls founded by the new immigrants themselves served those needs - but rather through the creation of Zion House, a settlement style house run by the Sisterhood of Zion from 1891. This settlement house provided English lessons, other services and activities for children and adults as well as providing an alternative space to missionary organizations that sprang up in the neighborhood.

Temple Beth Zion celebrated a pivotal moment in its history in 1890. The dedication of its first purpose built temple at 599 Delaware Avenue was a Buffalo wide affair. Edward A. Kent and William Kent were the commissioned architects, with Edward Kent taking the lead in designing an imposing Byzantine revival building. Fashioned from Medina sandstone and topped with a large copper covered dome, the new Temple Beth Zion became an immediate local landmark. The building was subsequently expanded and remodeled several times. In 1915 a gymnasium, an auditorium and classrooms were added under Rabbi Louis J. Kopald who succeeded Rabbi Aaron after his unexpected death. By the 1920s, Temple Beth Zion had a Women’s Temple Society, a Men’s Club and a Young People’s Society, as membership grew annually. As Rabbi Kopald’s health failed, however, Temple Beth Zion appointed a new rabbi who had initially visited in 1924. Rabbi Dr. Joseph L. Fink served the congregation for the next 34 years from 1926. During this time the synagogue expanded further, adding a rabbi’s study, kitchen, more classrooms and a library. Rabbi Dr. Fink became a leading religious figure known nationally as well as locally, and heard regularly on the radio through the Humanitarian Hour that aired through WBEN from 1930 to 1956.

In 1958, due to Rabbi Dr. Fink’s failing health, Rabbi Martin Goldberg, the temple’s associate rabbi succeeded Dr. Fink. Under Rabbi Goldberg, a suburban location was opened in Amherst to house the Religious School. In 1961, a fire destroyed the iconic building at 599 Delaware and temporary sites served as “homes” for congregational worship, meetings, and celebrations for several years. Discussions varied on where to locate the new synagogue and several sites were considered including the existing site, which was eventually deemed too small. Several nationally renowned architects were considered. Eventually, architect Max Abramovitz was secured to design the new sanctuary at 805 Delaware Ave, and Siegfried Construction was hired. Groundbreaking was celebrated in 1964, and the project was completed in 1967. Dedications ceremonies were held April 19 to April 23, 1967. The cornerstone from the original Delaware Avenue Temple was set in the rear wall of the sanctuary with an addition section insert, “Rebuilt 1966”.

The new building was a bold break with the former temple design, and by a designer more commonly known for his industrial, commercial and military buildings. Yet Max Abramovitz had always hoped to design a temple as an early college paper outlined, and while he had designed chapels, this was his first and only synagogue. Utilizing Brutalist elements, he designed his open, spacious and light-filled temple with the goal of connecting individual congregants to “the heavens” with the use of light above and at the sides of the building through the great art windows. Shaped into ten scalloped curves, representing the Ten Commandments, and set at an angle outwards of 15 degrees to replicate hands raised in prayer, Abramovitz used poured concrete that required significant technical anchoring innovation and special handcrafted molds. The inside concrete walls were bush hammered to give an aged effect and the external concrete was clad in Alabama limestone. The sanctuary was built to hold 1000 people downstairs and a further 400 people upstairs. J. Fruchtbaum, Engineers, and Siegfried Construction managed the technical side of translating design into reality. Two stained glass art windows, anchored the building opposite each other. Designed by Ben Shahn and created by Willett Glass, they also required technical innovation to enable unobstructed views of window designs while incorporating the essential structural elements to support their size and weight. This was achieved through a team approach with stained-glass artist Benoit Gilsoul of Willet Glass working to adapt the paintings, and Robert West of West, Preston and Sollenberger Associates of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, to provide technical engineering advice in consultation with Ben Shahn. The largest window illustrated a verse from the Book of Job, and the smaller window facing onto Delaware Avenue, featured Psalm 150th which was sung at the dedication of the first Temple Beth Zion in 1865. Ben Shahn’s artistry continued in the calligraphy design of the letters on the bimah, and a free-standing menorah. A 46 rank organ, opus 2870, was made by Casavant Frères Limitee, St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada, with trumpets from the Lafayette Theater, under the Tonal Director of Lawrence I. Phelps of Casavant and Hans Vigeland of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY. It was installed in front of the smaller Shahn window by Paul-Guy Servais of Casavant with voicing under the direction of Roger Chicoine and Gérald Archambault also of Casavant. By commission, Darius Milhaud, composed Cantata from Job, Opus 413, for the opening of the new sanctuary with a first performance on April 24, 1967 dedicated to the memory of Nellie B. and Eugene Warner. The building was designed as a complex to facilitate religious and community life, with the Sisterhood Chapel running in parallel, slightly south of the sanctuary for additional services, weddings and funerals. The Joseph L. Fink Auditorium was built to seat 1000. The complex also included classrooms, kitchen and rabbis’ study, a library and a boardroom among other features. The complex, and especially the Ben Shahn windows were recognized in 1971, with an award from New York State Council on the Arts. Parts of the space were eventually adapted into a significant regional Judaica Museum, the Benjamin and Dr. Edgar R. Cofeld Judaic Museum of Temple Beth Zion. In 1998, the Aaron and Bertha Broder Center for Jewish Education was established after extensive refurbishing of the former suburban building. The Delaware Avenue was also restored and refurbished in 2005 and further renovations were made to the Sisterhood Chapel in 2011.

Secessionists from first synagogue in Buffalo, Temple Beth El organize the Orthodox congregation “Beth Zion” eventually renting space at the corner of Ellicott and Clinton Streets. Rabbi Isaac Schoenbrun is appointed as first Rabbi and serves until 1863
Beth Zion aligns with Reform Judaism
Incorporates as Temple Beth Zion. Rabbi Isaac N. Cohen is appointed rabbi. Purchase of first building, a former Methodist Episcopal Church on Niagara Street
May 25th, the Niagara Street Temple is dedication by Rabbi Isaac M. Wise of Cincinnati
Rabbi Samson Falk is appointed as third rabbi of congregation
Temple Beth Zion joins the Union of American Hebrew Congregations
The first history of Jews in Buffalo is researched and presented by Rabbi Samson Falk
Rabbi Israel Aaron is appointed as fourth rabbi of congregation
The Niagara Street property is sold to the Masonic Hall Association
The Cushman property on Delaware Avenue is purchased and while the new temple is built the congregation worships in the Unitarian Church of Our Father on Delaware Avenue and the Central Presbyterian Church on Pearl and Genesee Streets
On September 12, the Temple at 599 Delaware Avenue is dedicated. Designed by Edward Kent in Byzantine style with Medina stone and a copper dome.
The Sisterhood of Zion forms to aid new Eastern European Jewish immigrants. The group rents space on Walnut Street creating a meeting place modeled on settlement houses. As Zion House it moves to Spring Street in 1896, and Jefferson Avenue in 1906 and is a forerunner to the Jewish Community Building, (later: Jewish Community Center)
Women’s Temple Society is formed in March, a forerunner to Sisterhood
Rabbi Israel Aaron dies and Rabbi Louis J. Kopald is appointed as fifth rabbi of TBZ
TBZ is a founding chapter of the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods
Men’s Club is formed, the forerunner to the Brotherhood.
Central Conference of American Rabbis meets in Buffalo and Temple Beth Zion is host
The Union of American Hebrew Congregations meets in Buffalo hosted by Beth Zion
Rabbi Joseph L. Fink is officially appointed the congregation’s sixth Rabbi after several years of support to Rabbi Kopald. Rabbi Fink leads the congregation for over 30 years
Rabbi Dr. Fink records weekly radio WBEN broadcast: The Humanitarian Hour
Rabbi Dr. Fink is elected president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis
The Suburban building opens at 700 Sweet Home Road in Amherst
Rabbi Fink retires becoming Emeritus and Rabbi Martin L. Goldberg becomes the seventh Senior Rabbi, having formerly served as Assistant Rabbi from 1954
Fire destroys temple building, October 4-5, 1961. Services continue in borrowed space at the Jewish Community Center, Beth El and Westminster Presbyterian Church and others
805 Delaware Avenue is selected as the new location of the temple and Max Abramovitz, a partner at the firm Harrison & Abramovitz is chosen as the architect for the project
On June 24, the groundbreaking ceremony is held for the new Temple Beth Zion
On April 15, the synagogue is completed and the dedication begins on April 20, 1967
Museum Committee starts work. Culminates in 1978 with museum opening
Publication of The Cofeld Judaic Museum of Temple Beth Zion, that includes images of Judaica and Jewish art and art forms from around the world, local history pieces and temple history and memorabilia, including architectural elements
On the retirement of Rabbi Goldberg, Rabbi Ronne Friedman is appointed the eighth Senior Rabbi and serves until 1999
The building at 700 Sweet Home Road building is rededicated in November 1998 as the Aaron and Bertha Broder Center for Jewish Education consolidating all administrative offices and the Religious School
Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld is appointed the ninth Rabbi of Beth Zion
Renovations at Delaware Avenue are completed in the corridor and the museum. Sanctuary pews are refurbished and new carpeting and sound systems are installed. The Rabbi Joseph L. Fink Auditorium is refinished with new lighting and restrooms
Temple Beth Zion is featured as part of an exhibit at National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Renovations of the Sisterhood Chapel
Rabbi Gary Pokras is appointed as tenth Senior Rabbi
Updates to the Sisterhood Sanctuary incorporate digital prayer screens
Rabbi Jonathan Freirich joins new shared-leadership model with Cantor Penny Myers and Rabbi Adam Scheldt


68 Linear Feet (105 manuscript boxes, 13 half manuscript boxes, 1 record carton, 6 oversize boxes, 12 roll storage tubes)

Language of Materials



Organizational papers documenting the religious and community activities of Temple Beth Zion synagogue. Includes photographs, ledgers, scrapbooks, correspondence, newspaper clippings, newsletters, flyers, certificates, architectural drawings and special format or oversize materials dating from 1864 to 2008. Includes materials created by auxiliaries, religious school, leadership, administration and clergy.


The Temple Beth Zion collection is arranged in 21 series and their subseries.

Series I. Board of Trustees, Minutes, 1864-2000

Series II. Board of Trustees, Treasury Records, 1864-1997

Subseries A: Membership and Long Range Planning, 1864-1997

Subseries B: Endowment Committee and Special Funds, 1952-1996

Series III. Rabbi Dr. Joseph L. Fink, Senior Rabbi (1926-1958), Papers, 1926-1959

Series IV. Synagogue Bulletins, 1917-2001

Series V. Sisterhood Records, 1891-2008

Subseries A: Sisterhood Forerunners and History, 1891-2008

Subseries B: Sisterhood Board Minutes and Young Women’s Group, 1951-2003

Subseries C: Sisterhood’s Service to the Sightless, 1952-2002

Subseries D: Sisterhood Committees, 1958-1994

Subseries E: Sisterhood Activities, Events and Programs, 1913-1995

Subseries F: Sisterhood Presidents’ Records, 1944-1988

Series VI. Brotherhood And Forerunner Records, 1913-2008

Series VII. Young People’s Society, 1933-1999

Subseries A: Programs and Activities, 1933-1999

Subseries B: Oversize Memorabilia, 1949-1953

Series VIII. Religious School and Nursery, 1879-2000

Subseries A: Minutes Religious School, 1890-1993

Subseries B: Principals and Religious School Directors, 1954-2000

Subseries C: Confirmation, 1879-2000

Subseries D: Curriculum, 1963-1984 Subseries E: School Social Activities, 1947-1995

Subseries F: Nursery School, 1960-1999

Subseries G: B’nai Mitzvot, 1960-1978

Subseries H: High School, 1933-1993

Subseries I: School Administration, 1949-1998

Subseries J: Consecration, 1949-1998

Subseries K: Certificates, 1970s-1980s

Subseries L: School Photographs and Memorabilia, 1936-1995

Series IX. Scouts, 1912-2003

Subseries A: Boy Scouts and Cubs, 1912-2003

Subseries B: Joint Boy and Girl Scout Programming, 1964

Subseries C: Girl Scouts, 1954-1964

Series X. Israel Tours, 1978-1994

Series XI. Kol Nidre Campaign, 1995-1997

Series XII. Union American Hebrew Congregation, 1921-1996

Subseries A: UAHC Conventions, 1921-1991

Subseries B: UAHC Dues, 1966-1993

Subseries C: UAHC Administration Materials, 1967-1996

Series XIII. Rabbi Martin L. Goldberg, Senior Rabbi, 1958-1994, Records 1930s-2002

Subseries A: Rabbi Dr. Joseph L. Fink, c.1930s-1964

Subseries B: Rabbi Dr. Martin L. Goldberg, 1961-2002

Series XIV. Presidents, 1928-2000

Series XV. Congregational Meetings (Annual and Special), 1929-2003

Series XVI. Committees, 1946-2002

Series XVII. High Holiday and Festival Activities, 1961-1996

Subseries A: Passover, 1967-1975

Subseries B: High Holidays, 1961-1996

Subseries C: Alternative High Holiday, 1980-1996

Subseries D: Other High Holiday Activities, 1976-1990

Series XVIII. Events, 1941-2000

Subseries A: Special Events Administration, 1941-2000

Subseries B: Musicals and Plays, 1940-1991

Subseries C: Balls and Dances, 1957-1986

Subseries D: Concerts, 1950-1998

Subseries E: Justice Philip Halpern Memorial Lectures, 1983-2002

Series XIX. Buildings and Grounds, 1887-1998

Subseries A: Niagara Street, Buffalo, NY, 1890

Subseries B: 599 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY, 1887-1986

Subseries C: 700 Sweet Home, Amherst, NY, 1950-1998

Subseries D: Temple Beth Zion Cemeteries, Buffalo and Cheektowaga, NY, 1952-1995

Subseries E: 805 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY, 1962-1996

Subseries F: Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, NY, 1967-1991

Series XX. Architectural Plans and Drawings, 1887-1965

Subseries A: 599 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY, 1887-1951

Subseries B: 805 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY, 1964-1965

Series XXI. Oversized Memorabilia [All Series], 1925-1987

Acquisition Information

Temple Beth Zion, under President Laurence Rubin, donated the Temple Beth Zion Archives in 2009. Several series remain within the Temple Beth Zion archives relating to historic materials and architectural plans as part of the Cofeld Judaic museum where they were housed separately. Materials post 2008 also remain at Temple Beth Zion, as well as pre-2008 materials still in use but with historical archival value. Archival materials for this large synagogue collection include materials created by the synagogue, its officers and executives, clergy and employees, as well as by the auxiliaries, other units and individual and family members. 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 Temple Beth Zion Papers was made possible by funding obtained through the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies.

Accruals and Additions

Accruals are expected to this collection.

Related Materials

Processing Information

Container lists were created by Michele Hope, Kathryn McKinney and Chana Kotzin in several separate stages from 2009-2014. The collection was processed by Chana Revell Kotzin from 2014 to 2016 in several separate phases. The finding aid was written by Chana Revell Kotzin and completed in 2016. EAD created by Archives staff in 2016.

Finding Aid for the Temple Beth Zion Records
Finding aid prepared by Chana Revell Kotzin.
Description rules
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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)