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Identifier: MC 736

Congregation Knesseth Israel Records


  • 1921-1985

Scope and Content Note

The records of Congregation Knesseth Israel (originally called the Jacob H, Schiff Congregation), accession 3431, span the years 1921 to 1985 and are fairly equally distributed across the years with the exception of the smaller series.

Prominent series that give the best overview of Congregation Knesseth Israel are MINUTES of the Congregation's regular meetings and MINUTES of the Board of Trustees' meetings that succeeded them, plus MINUTES of the Sisterhood, However, all of these minutes series have·unexplained chronological gaps. Other substantial series are FINANCIAL RECORDS of the Congregation, and the JOURNAL DIRECTORY of the Sisterhood, which in addition to obvious financial or commercial information contain membership and officer lists or directories for years before and after the 1977-1981 period covered by MEMBERSHIP LISTS proper.

The Congregation GENERAL FILE is far from comprehensive~ offering a random sampling of different years of materials relating to what were probably ongoing or longer-term activities, such as 1954 resumes from applicants for the rabbi position (in fact there were quite a few rabbinical searches throughout the years), or insurance policies (there must have been more renewed policies especially covering later additions to the building, but none are included here), The materials found originally in a single binder and broken down by folder heading abruptly begin and end in 1980-1981 when in fact the activities they relate to were of longer duration, i.e. "United Synagogue and Federation" or "General Notices".

The Education Committee subgroup is substantial but in some disarray, its MINUTES containing many supplemental documents whose topics are not directly addressed in apposite meetings' minutes, while the ADMINISTRATIVE FILES contain much of the same type of supplemental information. These MINUTES are, however, strictly chronological. There is the possibility that prior years of minutes existed, reference being made in Congregation MINUTES to the existence of an Education Committee earlier than the 1963- 1972 MINUTES at hand. (For brief monthly Education Committee "reports" prior to these years, see Congregation MINUTES.)

The Congregation BOOKS OF REMEMBRANCE, NEWSLETTERS, and PROGRAMS are limited in size but indications from MINUTES and FINANCIAL RECORDS are that these publications were issued regularly for many years prior and following them.

While Congregation Knesseth Israel did have an active Men's Club, no records generated or collected by that organization are present in this collection.


2.9 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

No Restrictions.


Constitution and by-laws, undated; congregation minutes, December 1, 1921-May 28, 1964; board of trustees minutes, July 16, 1962-August 1, 1967; financial records, 1943-1967, 1977-1978 and undated; general files, 1954-1981; ad journals, 1944-1985 with gaps; newsletters, 1975-1987; membership lists, 1977-1981 with gaps; programs, 1978 and 1980; books of remembrance, 1977-1983 with gaps; guest books, 1951 and 1977; scrapbook, circa 1955; minutes, November 8, 1921-April 25, 1968, and articles of incorporation, December 8, 1921, of the sisterhood; minutes, July 1963-May 1972, and administrative files, 1965-1976, of the education committee; general files, 1953-1954 and 1962, of the building committee; general files, 1968, of the choir; and correspondence, 1977-1979, reflecting Rabbi Aaron Decter's participation in the Bound Brook Clergy Association. Financial records consist of financial statements, 1952-1953, and balance sheets, 1977-1978; cash books, October 1950-June 1967; a membership account, undated; a rabbinical account, 1943-1949; and a raffle account, 1957. Beginning in 1958 the ad journals include membership directories.

Historical Chronology

1920 October
First minyan of the founding members is held in a private home.
The congregation decides to call itself the Jacob H. Schiff Congregation in honor of a prominent Jewish philanthropist who had recently died.
The Jacob Schiff Ladies Social Circle is formed. Lena Gottlieb, the mother of Ruth Kissel (later a prominent member), is elected first president.
The first official services are held in the Ivy Hook and Ladder building in Bound Brook,
1923 November 14
A motion is made to change the name of the Congregation from Jacob H. Schiff to something else, due to Mrs. Schiff, his widow, expressing "unconcern" toward their solicitation of a donation from her to build a synagogue in her late husband's name. The motion is not acted on , however.
Services are held in Congregational Church.
1925 January
$3,500 is raised by the Jacob Schiff Ladies Social Circle and used as a deposit on property at Mountain Avenue in Bound Brook.
1925 February 25
First meeting and service held at the new site, led by Mr. Ratner of New Brunswick (followed in 1930 by Rabbi Tebon).
The first Joint Installation of Officers dinner is held.
Martin Kissel secures deed to presently owned (as of 1971 information) cemetery plot.
The first Bas Mitzvah is held, jointly for Paula Koenigsberg and Flora Greenberg. A Mr. Katz volunteers to pay Hebrew School tuition for any child whose parents are unable to pay,
Vandalism of a local Jewish community center prompts Jacob Schiff trustees to purchase special insurance that will protect them in the event of such occurrences.
First full-time rabbi, Aaron Sillman, is hired.
Rabbi Sillman is released for having been "inexcusably lax in his duties". He is also considered to have a poor singing voice.
The Jacob H. Schiff Ladies Social Circle changes its name to the Jacob H. Schiff Women's Division.
The Jacob H. Schiff Women's Division changes its name to the Bound Brook Jewish Center, Women's Division. The Congregation adopts two new names: the Bound Brook Jewish Center and Knesseth Israel (the Jacob H. Schiff name being finally dropped).
Plans are made and money borrowed for a new building.
A dedication ceremony for the new building is held.
Affiliation with the conservative· movement (Knesseth Israel having been orthodox until then) and with United Synagogues of America is discussed the Board of Trustees.
The Board of Trustees discussed renewal of contract with Rabbi Horowitz, and continues discussion of affiliation with U.S.A. and the conservative movement. Rabbi Horowitz declares he will not stay if the Congregation goes conservative, and the Congregation votes it will not keep Rabbi Horowitz if the congregation affiliates with U.S.A.
Rabbi Horowitz' contract terminates and David P. Prince assumes the rabbinate, The Congregation affiliates with U.S.A. and the conservative movement.
An entirely new constitution is adopted. [Unfortunately, that constitution cannot be identified in the Congregation CONSTITUTION AND BY-LAWS series of this collection.]
The first Bingo evening is held under the direction of the Men's Club.
A dedication ceremony for the new building (also at Mountain Avenue) containing a chapel, youth lounge, rabbi's study and office, etc., is held.

Arrangement Note

The Congregation Knesseth Israel records were fairly well organized when received by Rutgers, arid required but little rearrangement. None of the rearrangement decisions made were very significant. Some insurance policies found within a FINANCIAL RECORD Cash Book were shifted to a section of GENERAL FILES that already contained insurance policies. Three Membership Lists (1980, 1981 and undated.) were lifted from the GENERAL FILES area and made to form their own series at a higher position in the records hierarchy. A photograph with Rabbi Aaron Deeter and what appear to be three other clergymen such as might have formed the Bound Brook Clergy Association was shifted to the Rabbi subgroup, having been found between folders elsewhere in the collection,

Appendix: List of Principal Officers

  1. Rabbi:
  2. Aaron Sillman, 1943
  3. Herbert H. Kumin, 1953
  4. H. Hillel Horowitz, 1955
  5. David P. Prince, 1970
  6. Aaron Deeter, 1976
  7. Other rabbis: Hochberg, Rubinger, Goldberg
  1. President:
  2. E.H. Levy, 1921
  3. David Wahl, 1944
  4. Al Farber, 1953
  5. David Wahl, 1955
  6. Morris Ruter, 1957
  7. Lawrence Katchen, 1958
  8. Morton Margules, 1960
  9. Myron Levy, 1961
  10. Edward Biely, 1962
  11. Paul Schumer, 1964
  12. Karl Goldsmith, 1965
  13. Edward Biely, 1968
  14. Maxwell Borow, 1970
  15. Leonard Moshinsky, 1974
  16. Maxwell Borow, 1977,
  17. Seymour Spiegel, 1980
  1. Women's Division President:
  2. Freda Simon, 1944
  3. Dorothy Brady, 1957
  4. Belle Fidell, 1958
  5. Yvette Rosenberg, 1961
  6. Eleanor Gerber, 1963
  7. Sandy Green, 1965
  8. Margit Feldman, 1968
  9. Katherine Rosensheim, 1970
  10. Mildred Ellenberg, 1974
  11. Penina Deeter, 1977
  12. Frances Cherwin, 1980
  13. Harriet Hartman & Roslyn Sherman, 1984
  14. Estelle G. Cohen, 1985
  1. Trustees:
  2. Sidney Edelberg, Nat Koenigsberg, Louis Sudzin and Irving Olien, 1957
  3. Sidney Edelberg, Nat Koenigsberg, Louis Sudzin and Arthur Tarin, 1958
  4. Rose Shereshevsky, 1959
  5. Yvette Rosenberg, 1961
Inventory to the Congregation Knesseth Israel Records
Edited Full Draft
Mitchell Greenberg
August 1987
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.
Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.