Access and Provenance

Institutional Sketch

Scope and Content Note

Box and Folder Listing

A Finding Aid to the

Congregation Beth Emeth (Albany, N.Y.) Records

Manuscript Collection No. 429

1843-1907. 0.4 Linear ft.


The American Jewish Archives received the Photostat copies contained in the Congregation Beth Emeth (Albany, N.Y.) Records from Alvin S. Roth (Albany, N.Y.) in 1961. All literary rights to material authored by individuals are held by that individual or by their heirs. Questions concerning rights should be addressed to the Executive Director of the American Jewish Archives.

Congregation Beth Emeth (Albany, N.Y.) Records are open to all users. The original manuscript collection is available in the reading room of the American Jewish Archives


A Jewish community emerged in Albany, New York in the 1830s; German-speaking Jews from Bavaria and Posen organized Congregation Beth El in 1838. By 1841, the congregation had bought a burial ground and purchased its first synagogue building. Divisions over language and ritual led to the founding of Beth El Jacob in 1841 by Jews of Polish origin. After acquiring property for a synagogue and separate burial grounds, the congregation built a new synagogue in 1847. Isaac Mayer Wise arrived in the United States from Bohemia and became Albany's first rabbi when he took over leadership of Beth El in 1846. He was the teacher at the congregation's Hebrew school, then one of only four in the United States. Wise's advocacy of changes in ritual split the congregation. By October 11, 1850, Wise and 77 supporters had organized Anshe Emeth, the fourth Reform congregation in the United States.

Assimilation and Americanization led to the merger of Beth El and Anshe Emeth in 1885 to form Beth Emeth, the only Reform congregation in Albany. Rabbi Wise returned to Albany in 1889 to dedicate the synagogue for the combined congregation. A new synagogue was again dedicated in 1957.

Recent immigrants, while Orthodox, did not feel comfortable in Beth El Jacob and formed a separate congregation, Sons of Abraham, in 1882. In 1902 another group of Russian Jews split off and established the United Brethren Society, as a separate congregation that followed a Hasidic prayer book, and the congregation incorporated in 1905. The passing of the immigrant generation, Americanization, and suburbanization led to a relocation and reorganization of the synagogues. The Orthodox synagogues merged with the United Brethren Society, joining Beth El Jacob in 1959, and Beth El Jacob merged with Sons of Abraham in 1974 to form Beth Abraham-Jacob. The combined congregation dedicated a new synagogue in 1991.

Information for the Institutional Sketch was taken from the “Albany” article in the Encyclopedia Judaica (see:


The Congregation Beth Emeth (Albany, N.Y.) Records describe the governance and activities of the various Albany congregations from 1843 until 1907. The records, all Photostat copies, consist of congregation minutes and financial records (1843-1886) for Congregation Beth El and Congregation Beth El Jacob, listing of deaths and burials (1857-1886) for Congregation Beth El, articles of incorporation (1845) of Congregation Beth Jacob, and miscellaneous congregational records including correspondence with Isaac Mayer Wise (then in Cincinnati, Ohio). The majority of the records are in German; some may be in Polish.


Box	Folder	Contents

1	1	Congregation Beth Jacob.  Constitution, Membership Lists.  1845-1848.  
	2	Congregation Beth El.  Record of Deaths.  1857-1886.
	3	Congregation Beth El.  Minutes.  1843-1855.  
	4	Unidentified synagogue/group.  Minutes.  1850-1877.  
	5	Congregation Beth El and Beth Emeth.  Minutes.  1855-1886.
	6	Congregation Bethel Jacob.  Minutes.  1857-1883.  
	7	Congregation Beth El, Congregation Beth Jacob, Congregation Beth Emeth.  Miscellaneous 		
		Correspondence and Clippings.  1860s-1907.

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