Keneseth Israel: The Archives

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In 1997 Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel published a short volume to commemorate its 150th anniversary. The book noted: “With Keneseth Israel’s long and significant role in the history of Jewish life in Philadelphia, it is little wonder the synagogue houses one of the most extensive synagogue archives in existence.” The Archives was founded in 1974 at the suggestion of Rabbi Bertram W. Korn, who was a significant historian of American Jewish history, as well as the senior rabbi at KI, and a Real Admiral in the U.S. Naval Reserve. The Archives collects and preserves the records, documents, and other materials that make up the history of KI. This includes correspondence of the rabbis, minutes of the board and various synagogue committees,…show more content…
Archives has been used for various historical exhibits, both within the synagogue and in the larger community. Some scholars have also worked on site at KI, using the collections for dissertations, articles, and books. In addition, many individuals have used The Archives for family history and genealogy research. K.I. is one of only two local synagogues with an organized collection containing vital statistics on the life cycles of families and members. Students and scholars studying the history of Reform Judaism have made extensive use of The Archives. Over the years The Archives has loaned memorabilia to museums and Jewish historical societies, including the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, the Jewish Museum of New York City and the American Jewish Archives in…show more content…
In 2015, Rabbi Lance J. Sussman, who is also a historian of American Jewish history, initiated a project to digitize the KI Archives. This project has been headed by Dr. Paul Finkelman, a leading U.S. historian who works in legal history, the history of immigration and ethnicity, and American Jewish history, and his colleague, Amy S. Erickson, a professional educator and website and technology advisor. Working with KI volunteers and Rabbi Sussman, they have begun digitizing the KI Archives collection in order to create an online KI Archives Website. Sussman, Finkelman, and Erickson launched kipah.org (Keneseth Israel Philadelphia Archives & History) in May, 2016, the first online synagogue archives in the world. Kipah.org is now making K.I.’s remarkable history and archived material increasingly accessible to scholars, genealogists and ‘web surfers’ of all stripes and serves as an easily imitated model for similar endeavors for any institution or organization seeking to preserve and share its history in a compelling and user friendly

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