The Temple Israel Archives celebrates and commemorates the Jewish experience and universal themes of diversity and human dignity. This is accomplished by collecting, preserving, interpreting, and teaching Jewish values, culture, and history, particularly those associated with Temple Israel and the experience of Jews in Memphis.
The Archives of Temple Israel consists of personal papers and organizational records relating to Jewish life in Memphis, as well as spiritual leadership, administration, education, and support organizations at Temple Israel. These records include correspondence, minutes, diaries, journals, speeches, sermons, photographs, scrapbooks, memory books, financial records, oral histories (tapes and transcriptions), newspapers, newsletters, and bulletins. Most items in the collection date from the mid 19th century to the present. The Archives also provide safekeeping for records belonging to the Jewish Historical Society of Memphis and the Mid-South. For more information, contact the Temple Israel Archives at 901.937.2779 or by e-mail.
Research Our Records
The Archives is currently digitizing physical records to make them more easily accessible to the community. Using the program PastPerfect, we will eventually make our records public so that community members can search and obtain information about the items in our collections.
Oral History Project
The Oral History Project offers different perspectives of past experiences of Jews living and working in the Memphis community. The Jewish Historical Society of Memphis and the Mid-South (JHSMM) started the Oral History Project in 2000 with a small collection of oral interviews created by individuals interested in their family’s genealogy. The project has grown to over 220 interviews including both analog and digital formats and accompanying support material. All material is housed in the Temple Israel Archives’ vault.
Temple Israel is developing a comprehensive and interactive resource for our historic cemetery. By making these records accessible and searchable, there will be a revitalization of public interest in Temple Israel’s storied past and its role in shaping the city of Memphis.
Jewish Historical Society of Memphis and the Mid-South
The Archives has been the repository for the Jewish Historical Society of Memphis and the Mid-South since 1986. JHSMM collects, preserves, presents, and interprets the history and lives of Jews in Memphis and the Mid-South. Hadassah has been storing its organizational materials since 2009.
A Look into the Archives
Numerous volunteers come every Tuesday and Wednesday to help organize and update our collection. Volunteer projects include cataloging, article preservation, the digitization of collections, and extensive research on special projects and existing collections. We are grateful to the countless hours of support contributed by Mary Shainberg and Helga Cornell, both of blessed memory.
Our vault houses countless fascinating collections, but here are a few that might grab your attention!
These postcards were given to the Temple Archives by Ben Gabor. The cards document the correspondence between a husband (Bela) and his wife (Dusi). The two exchanged letters as Bela was transported to an internment camp. Most of the letters were postmarked from Budapest, presumably where Dusi was living, and Hungarian villages, as Bela was traveling through the area.
Rabbi Samfield’s Marriage Registry
These books document the marriages performed by Rabbi Max Samfield as early as 1871. Rabbi Samfield used these original registries to record the names and signatures of the bride and groom, date and location of the marriage, and any witnesses that were present at the time of the marriage.
Temple Israel Cemetery Registry
Historic cemeteries are among the most important archaeological sites for reconstructing past communities and their landscapes. Temple Israel’s historic cemetery (1708 Hernando Road, Memphis, TN 38106) has served as the congregation’s burial ground since 1885. These cemetery registries, from the Congregation of the Children of Israel, date back to 1875 and include valuable information such as the birth and death date, the birth location, and the cause of death for those buried in the cemetery.