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Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim congregation records

Identifier: Mss 1047

Collection Overview

The records are arranged into 13 series: Board of Trustee Minutes (1838-1995) document all aspects of congregational life: hiring and firing staff, fundraising, building, etc. with some data re members, their infractions, marriages, deaths, etc. Financial records (1800-1999) document members, fines, income, salaries, pew assignments, various projects, estates, religious school finances, etc. Trustee and Rabbi Records and Correspondence (1855- 1991, bulk 1930s-1970s) including a few photocopies of 18th century documents, detail all aspects of synagogue administration. Employee, Member and Congregant records (1901-1999) contain some vital statistics, member lists, payroll, and some sermons. Special Events and Anniversaries (1887-1999) detail events at KKBE and milestones in its history, with many photographs. The series on Cemeteries (1798-1999, bulk 1887-1991) includes data on numerous KKBE cemeteries, plats, finances, and images. The Buildings series (1915-2002) contains data on KKBE synagogues (1794 and 1841); tabernacles (1838 and 1949), and office building at 86 Hasell St. with photos, and reports re damage and repairs; with photocopies of early documents. The Archives series (1931-1991) documents aspects of early history and creating and running of a museum and archives. Materials (1962-1998) on administering the religious school and various youth organizations (1962-1990) comprise the Religious School and Youth Program Series, with data on confirmations (1884-1948). Sisterhood (1869-1995) and Brotherhood (1928-1984) papers detail activities of the Congregation's men and women. Music series (ca. 1866-1967) includes mostly printed but some holograph manuscript fragments of music and related materials used in services. Audiotapes (1950-1980) of programs at synagogue, videotapes (1996), and educational phonograph discs comprise the audio video series; a small series of artifacts (1904-1976) and bound volumes (19th century) concludes the collection.


  • Creation: 1798-2002
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 20th century


Language of Material

Materials in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, and German.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice

The nature of the College of Charleston's archival holdings means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. Special Collections claims only physical ownership of most archival materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Historical Note

The Congregation was organized in 1749 in Charleston, SC, following the Sephardic ritual. In 1764, the Congregation obtained a burial ground on Coming Street. Friction with the growing number of Ashkenazic members led the Sephardic group to withdraw in 1775; they bought a separate cemetery on Hanover Street, and worshipped in a different building. By 1790, the two factions had reunited. In 1791, Beth Elohim was incorporated. In 1799, another cemetery near Hanover Street was purchased by a group of members. In 1824, several members petitioned the governing body to introduce reforms. Rebuffed, the members withdrew and created the Reformed Society of Israelites, which functioned on its own until 1833 after which date, most rejoined the congregation. In 1838, the synagogue building was lost in a fire; a temporary tabernacle was constructed on the site and a new building was finished in 1841. The installation of an organ at that time prompted a schism; many withdrew to form the orthodox Shearith Israel Congregation which bought a cemetery adjoining KKBE's Coming St. property and one at Rikersville. KKBE continued as a Reform Congregation until 1865, when the remnants of Shearith Israel rejoined and compromises in ritual were made. Another organ was introduced in 1872 and the next year, KK Beth Elohim became a charter member of the Reform Union of American Hebrew Congregations.


50 linear feet

Alternate Form of Materials

Digital reproductions available online in the Lowcountry Digital Library.

Inventory of the Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Congregation Records, 1798-2002 (20th century)
Processed by: Special Collections staff; finding aid created by: Special Collections staff
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Special Collections
College of Charleston Libraries
66 George Street
Charleston South Carolina 29424
(843) 953-8016
(843) 953-6319 (Fax)