San Francisco's Congregation Sherith Israel was founded in 1851, the same year as the city's other leading Jewish congregation, Emanu-El. Its first buildings were on Stockton Street and then Post and Taylor Streets. The congregation finally settled on Webster St., where the synagogue was used as a courthouse after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. During that time, Abe Ruef's corruption trial took place in the building, as it was one of the few buildings of its size that survived the calamity with very little damage.
The collection Sherith Israel (Congregation) records, 1851-2000 in the Western Jewish Americana archives of the Magnes consists of materials relating to the congregation's rabbis (e.g., correspondence from Rabbis Jacob Nieto and Morris M. Goldstein); its lay leadership and Board of Trustees; and to its Sisterhood (i.e., minutes, photographs and scrapbooks dating from 1921-1982). Supplementary materials include applications and membership lists (1868 intermittently through 1941); the congregation's constitutions and bylaws (1871-1979); minutes of the Board of Trustees (1851-1980); reports and correspondence; tributes and resolutions; marriage contracts (1898-1964); memorial books; and many financial records (e.g., cash books from 1878-1931; check registers from 1891-1943; day book registers from 1863-1919; and ledgers from 1865-1941); together with lists of children born to members of the congregation (1957-1970); the names of individuals who had their bar or bat mitzvah at the congregation (1935-1979); confirmation certificates (1908-1972); and funeral notices for congregants, cemetery plot ledgers, and permits for interment in the congregation's cemeteries, first in Giboth Olam, in San Francisco, and then in Colma's Hills of Eternity (1861-1975).
The collection also contains newsletters and copies of the Sherith Israel Bulletin that were published by the congregation (1907-1981); scrapbooks of newspaper clippings and photographs (1870-1908); and congregational prayer books.
In 2002, an accretion of materials, much of it relating to the cornerstone laying and dedication of the synagogue, in 1904-1905, was added to the collection. This material contains a Secretary's Report of the 41st Annual Meeting of Congregation Sherith Israel (9 Oct. 1892); a program of the ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone of the synagogue (22 Feb. 1904); a pamphlet entitled Consecration Service Temple Israel of Congregation Sherith Israel (24 Sept. 1905); and an undated dedication program for the third Sherith Israel Synagogue.
In February 2004, the following were added to the collection: a deed for seats in Congregation Sherith Israel for Wolf Bloom (March 31, 1871), given to Adolph Rosenberg, the archivist of Sherith Israel, by a trust officer at Wells Fargo Bank, in December 29, 1977; and a copy of Founding the First Jewish Congregation in San Francisco by Adolph Rosenberg.