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Temple Sinai (Sumter, S.C.) records

Identifier: Mss 1083

Collection Overview

The collection consists of the records of Temple Sinai, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Sumter, South Carolina. The administrative, financial, religious, and charitable activities of the congregation are well documented by the correspondence, meeting minutes, ledgers, and annual reports of the congregation's various committees and officers. In addition, a substantial portion of material relates to the activities of the temple's sisterhood, men's club, youth group, and religious school. The collection also includes papers and artifacts that document prominent Jewish families of Sumter in the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as the Moïse and Moses families. Of particular note are the scrapbooks, correspondence, and published poems of Penina Moïse, one of America's earliest Jewish woman poets and hymnists.


  • Creation: 1789-2012
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1920-1996


Language of Material

Materials in English and Hebrew

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

Temple Sinai, a Reform Jewish congregation located in Sumter, South Carolina, was established in 1895; however, the history of Sumter's Jewish population dates from the early 19th century. The first sign of a Jewish organization in Sumter appeared in 1874 with the purchase of land for a cemetery by the Sumter Hebrew Cemetery Society. Some time later, another group founded the Sumter Hebrew Benevolent Society, which merged with the Hebrew Cemetery Society in 1881 under the Benevolent Society name. In 1895, the Benevolent Society merged once again, this time with the recently formed Sumter Society of Israelites, the official name of Temple Sinai.

The congregation, consisting largely of members of the Phelps, Moïse, Moses, Ryttenberg, and Barnett families, met at the local Masonic hall on the northwest corner of Main and Liberty Streets until the first temple was constructed on the southeast corner of Hampton Avenue and Church Street. The original wooden synagogue was replaced in 1912 by a brick building with ten stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Old Testament. Several major additions to the synagogue were built over the 20th century, including an auditorium, banquet hall, classrooms, and offices in 1932 funded by the Barnett Memorial; the Hyman Brody building consisting of a kitchen and additional classrooms and offices in 1957; and a substantial remodeling of the sanctuary in 1969. In 1999, the synagogue was added to the National Register of Historic Places and, in 2009, a South Carolina State Historical Marker was placed outside the temple.

Temple Sinai was served by visiting rabbis from Charleston and Augusta, Georgia, until 1904, when Rabbi Jacob Klein settled in Sumter. Tenures were also held by Rabbi Ferdinand Hirsch (1920s), Rabbi Hirsch Freund (late 1920s-early 1930s), Rabbi Samuel Shillman (1930s-1940s), Rabbi Jacob Aaron Levy (1950s-1970s), Rabbi Edward Miskin (early 1970s), Rabbi Avshalom Magidovitch (1970s), Rabbi Milton Schlager (1980s), and Rabbi Richard Leviton (1990s).

Besides providing regular services, Temple Sinai offered religious education courses for all ages, maintained a cemetery, and supported an active sisterhood, men's club, and youth group. Members were involved in numerous charitable organizations, including the Jewish Welfare Fund of Sumter, the United Jewish Appeal for Refugees and Overseas Needs, and Sumter's Covenant Place senior living community. Synagogue attendance peaked in the 1970s. With its membership aging and declining in numbers, the congregation partnered with Charleston's Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in 2011 to prepare for its eventual closing.


23 linear feet (42 document boxes, 3 cartons, 3 flat boxes, 1 rolled item, 3 audiocassette tapes)


Records of Temple Sinai, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Sumter, South Carolina. Materials document the administrative, financial, social, educational, charitable, and spiritual activities of the congregation and its members. Also included are materials documenting prominent Jewish individuals and families of Sumter, including Penina Moïse and the Moses family.

Collection Arrangement

Materials are arranged in ten series:

  1. Administrative Records, 1881-2022
  2. History, 1821-2011
  3. Publications, 1929-2012
  4. Financial Records, 1881-1999
  5. Facilities, circa 1865-2008
  6. Events and Worship Services, 1918-2000
  7. Projects and Charitable Donations, 1926-2001
  8. Organizations, 1901-2001
  9. Resources and Topical Files, 1891-2001
  10. Artifacts, 1789-circa 1985

Acquisitions Information

Materials donated in 2007 and 2008 by Robert Moses, Irving Schulman, and Josephine Kramer on behalf of Temple Sinai.

Alternate Form of Materials

Digital reproductions available online in the Lowcountry Digital Library.

Related Material

Related materials housed in Special Collections include a copy of Can Do Too Cookery, a Temple Sinai Sisterhood cookbook; several publications and manuscript collections relating to the Moïse family; and over a dozen oral history interviews with members of Temple Sinai.

Processing Information

Processed by Sarah Dorpinghaus, February 2012.



Inventory of the Temple Sinai (Sumter, S.C.) Records, 1789-2012
Processed by: Sarah Dorpinghaus; machine-readable finding aid created by: Sarah Dorpinghaus and Martha McTear
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description
Funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources supported the processing of this collection and encoding of the finding aid.

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)