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Synagogue Emanu-El records

Identifier: Mss 1141

Collection Overview

Records of Synagogue Emanu El, the first conservative synagogue of Charleston, South Carolina. Materials document the administrative, social, educational, and spiritual activities of the congregation and its members. Records contain administrative files, minutes, membership records, bulletins, High Holidays booklets, printed materials, event files, photographs, photograph albums, scrapbooks, and textiles. Also included are the records of the Sisterhood of Synagogue Emanu-El, arranged in subseries for administrative files, minutes, financial reports, statements and bills, yearbooks, High Holidays booklets, printed materials, scrapbooks, and religious school materials.

The congregation’s administrative files contain correspondence, financial information, photocopies of the original title to real estate and mortgage documents for the Gordon Street property, and governing documents including constitution, bylaws, rules, and policies, as well floor plans for the Windsor Drive synagogue. Minutes detail the deliberations of the Board of Trustees and Ritual Committee. Membership files include guestbooks, a membership ledger, and a members list. Bulletins published by Synagogue Emanu-El under various titles—Emanu-Light, The Weekly Sedra, The Bulletin, and The Scroll—are arranged chronologically. High Holidays booklets, mostly for Yom Kippur, contain honors and memorials to individuals and families associated with Synagogue Emanu-El. A variety of printed materials include an obituary file on Leon Steinberg, a biographical file on Reuben M. Greenberg, clippings regarding the congregation, brochures, and a synagogue choir book. Event files contain correspondence, brochures, fliers, service programs, newsletters, and invitations documenting activities held at Synagogue Emanu-El, including installation ceremonies for rabbis Lewis A. Weintraub (1947), Jordan I. Taxon (1964), and Alan L. Cohen (1979), the dedication ceremony for the new synagogue and the Esther Dumas Memorial Building on Gordon Street (1955), the ground breaking (1978) and dedication ceremony (1980) for the Windsor Drive synagogue, and a tribute dinner in honor of former Medical University of South Carolina president Raymond S. Greenberg. Assorted color and black and white photographs, negatives, and contact sheets document individuals, events, activities, and buildings associated with Synagogue Emanu-El throughout the congregation's history, including images of weddings, dedication ceremonies, families, children's performances, the groundbreaking ceremony for the Windsor Drive synagogue, Hurricane Hugo damage, anniversary celebrations, cantors and rabbis, dinner events, and the various places where the congregation has worshipped throughout its history. Photograph albums illustrate events such as the Emanu-El’s 25th “Silver” Anniversary at the Jewish Community Center. Scrapbooks, compiled by officials and members of the congregation, contain a wide variety of materials, including property records, correspondence, brochures, fliers, service programs, property records, bulletins, photographs, clippings, telegrams, invitations, and other printed materials. Organized chronologically, they document the activities and achievements of the congregation of the given year. Textiles include several yarmulkes and an embroidered tablecloth made for the Synagogue Emanu-El's 50th anniversary.

Materials relating to the Sisterhood of Synagogue Emanu-El are arranged in subseries: administrative files, minutes, financial reports, statements and bills, yearbooks, High Holidays booklets, printed materials, scrapbooks, and Religious School files. Administrative files contain correspondence, Sisterhood histories, membership forms, National Council of Jewish Women Charleston Section materials, and handbooks. Also included are minutes to Board of Trustees and Board of Education meetings. Financial reports provide insight into both Sisterhood and Synagogue Emanu-El activities. Also included are bank and investment statements and paid bills. Yearbooks provide contact information for staff, officers, and members. Also included are High Holidays booklets listing honors and memorials to individuals and families associated with the Sisterhood of Synagogue Emanu-El.


  • Creation: 1943-2014


Language of Material

Materials in English

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research, with the following exception: Statements and bills, 2004-2010 subseries. Access is restricted due to the presence of sensitive financial information. Materials in this sub-series are closed to researchers until October 2094.

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.

Biographical Note

Synagogue Emanu-El was founded in 1947 by members of the Kronsberg and Steinberg families, along with Nathan Goldberg, Milton Banov, Hyman Rephan, and others—73 charter members in all. Most were former congregants of Orthodox Brith Sholom. They gathered in the summer of 1947, often at the beach house of Mosey Mendelsohn on Sullivan’s Island, for the purpose of establishing the first Conservative Jewish congregation in Charleston, South Carolina. At a subsequent meeting, the Sisterhood of Synagogue Emanu-El was formed, with Anita Williams Steinberg as its president. From the beginning, the Sisterhood, affiliated with the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, provided major financial support for the congregation. Friday night services were held initially in a church at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. The congregation celebrated its first High Holidays in Charleston at the Jewish Community Center on St. Philip Street, under the spiritual leadership of Rabbi Lewis A. Weintraub and Cantor Jacob Renzer. By the end of the year, members had rebuilt a former U.S. Army chapel, contributed by the family of Matthew “Mattie” Steinberg, on a large lot on Gordon Street, purchased by Macey Kronsberg acting in his capacity as president of Synagogue Emanu-El. Gordon Street was in the northwest section of the city, whose suburban character attracted many Jewish families from downtown. In 1949, the synagogue founded a kindergarten which, along with the Hebrew school, was managed and funded by the Sisterhood. By the early 1950s, recognizing that the congregation had outgrown its quarters, synagogue members formed a fundraising committee to erect a new synagogue on the Gordon Street property. In 1955, Synagogue Emanu-El moved into a spacious sanctuary built to accommodate 600 worshipers. Later that year, the old chapel was refitted as the Esther Dumas Memorial Building and a room in the new synagogue was designated the Kronsberg Library. In 1977, the Gordon Street property was sold, and the congregation met temporarily at the Jewish Community Center, using the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium for High Holidays and Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim’s temple for events such as bar and bat mitzvahs. In 1978, members broke ground for a new synagogue on Windsor Drive in West Ashley. In 1979, the construction was completed and the congregation began holding services there. In September 1989, Hurricane Hugo struck Charleston, damaging the roof of the synagogue and downing 179 trees on the property. In 2008, the Windsor Drive synagogue underwent renovations, including the construction of a new lobby, offices, and library space.


10.67 linear feet (8 cartons, 1 document box, 1 flat box, 1 object box, 23 scrapbooks, 6 volumes, 2 framed items, 3 oversize paper folders, 2 floppy disks, 1 CD)


Records of Synagogue Emanu-El, the first conservative synagogue in Charleston, South Carolina. Materials document the administrative, social, educational, and spiritual activities of the congregation and its members. Also included are the records of Emanu-El’s Sisterhood, which provides major financial support for the synagogue.

Collection Arrangement

  1. Administrative files, 1947-2014
  2. Minutes, 1949-2006
  3. Membership files, 1979-2002
  4. Bulletins, 1947-2003
  5. High Holidays booklets, 1978-1997
  6. Printed materials, 1943-2005
  7. Event files, 1947-2007
  8. Photographs, 1947-2007
  9. Photograph albums, 1972-1988
  10. Scrapbooks, 1947-1975
  11. Textiles, 1997, undated
  12. Sisterhood of Synagogue Emanu-El, 1947-2013

Acquisitions Information

Materials were donated in 2012 and 2015 by Synagogue Emanu-El.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Materials

Related materials in Special Collections include the Synagogue Emanu-El, Maryville Cemetery stock certificate, 1949 (Mss 1034-021), Jewish Heritage Collection Panel Discussion: The Founding of Synagogue Emanu-El (Mss 1035-112), and The Sisterhood of Synagogue Emanu-El Ladies Night Out scrapbooks, 2000-2010 (Mss 1108).

Processing Information

Processed by Sam Sfirri, October 2019.

Inventory of the Synagogue Emanu-El Records, 1943-2014
Processed by: Sam Sfirri; finding aid created by: Sam Sfirri
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)