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Magnes collection on Congregation Emanu-El, 1850-2002

When a group of San Francisco’s Jews met in 1849 to participate in Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, the end result was the formation of San Francisco’s congregations, Emanu-El and Sherith Israel. Congregation Emanu-El was founded in 1851 as an Orthodox congregation, and its members were primarily German-speaking Europeans. Its present synagogue building was designed by architects Arthur Brown, Jr., John Bakewell, and Sylvain Schnaittacher. In 1927, the American Institute of Architects selected the building as the finest piece of architecture in Northern California. The congregation and many of its members are recognized for supporting the arts and sponsoring many individual artists, in addition to the synagogue hosting a small museum in its building. In 1928, Nahum Zemach directed a dramatic production of The Dybbuk at Emanu-El.

Collection consists of materials from and about Congregation Emanu-El collected by the Judah L. Magnes Museum’s staff, including a small number of administrative and cemetery records (some of these are photocopies of early materials); materials from the Congregation’s religious school (mostly the school’s publication “The Scroll” and confirmation booklets); scattered materials on various congregational events, including a copy of a centennial essay on the history of the congregation compiled by Edgar Kahn in 1950; materials on organizations associated with the congregation, including the Women’s Guild, the Pathfinders, the Emanuelites, and the Men’s Club; a small number of files on individuals, including Rabbis Herman Bien, Elkan Cohn, Jacob Voorsanger, and Martin A. Meyer; copies of The Temple Chronicle, the congregational newsletter (1924-2002); and photographs. The photographs consist mainly of images of the congregation’s various buildings before and after the 1906 earthquake and fire. There is an especially fine collection of stereographs of Emanu-El’s Sutter Street temple, which was one of the dominating architectural features of the San Francisco skyline.

Organization: Carton 1: Administrative records (c. 1930-1970), including scattered by-laws and annual reports, photocopies of early minutes, seat deeds, and officers’ lists, bills and invoices; photocopies of some marriage and conversion records (1855-1910); scattered materials on the Home of Peace Cemetery; religious school materials (c. 1860-1975 ), including photocopies of early school materials, confirmation lists and booklets up through 1975, and copies of the school’s bulletin, “The Scroll” (1921-1974). Carton 2: Copies of the religious school’s bulletin, “The Scroll” (1975-1995); information about special events, such as anniversaries, information on clubs, including the Emanu-El Men’s Club, the Women’s Guild, and Pathfinders, and files on individuals and buildings. Box 1: Temple Chronicle (newsletter), September 1924-May 1930, September 1951-May 1958. Box 2: Temple Chronicle (newsletter), September 1930-May 1947. Box 3: Temple Chronicle (newsletter); loose scattered issues (c. 1947-1991 and 1995-2002). Box 4: Photographs. Oversize folder 1: photograph of Emanu-El after the 1906 earthquake, memorial resolution for Rabbi Elkan Cohn (1889), announcement for quarterly meeting of congregation (1859-1860), confirmation certificate for Henrietta Kahn (1882), and newspaper clippings with images of the Temple (1926, 1969).


2 cartons, 4 boxes, and 1 oversize folder (3.6 linear feet)

Collection #

BANC MSS 2010/612

Publication Date

August 23, 1850

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