Director of Cultural Resources
Temple Beth El, Michigan’s first Jewish Congregation, was founded in 1850 when twelve German immigrant families drew together in the home of Isaac and Sarah Cozens to form the Beth El Society.
Temple Beth El is home to one of the most comprehensive congregational archives in the nation and the largest such collection in Michigan. The archives is named in memory of Dr. Leo M. Franklin, Temple Beth El’s beloved rabbi from 1899-1941 and one of the leading voices of the Reform Movement nationwide. The Archives was founded in 1981 using materials collected by Leo M. Franklin and Irving Katz, noted Jewish Historian and Temple Executive Secretary from 1939 until his death in 1979. It was maintained by congregants Miriam and Aid Kushner until 1997 when the first full-time professional Archivist was hired. The Archives continues to be strengthened by donations of materials and monetary contributions from individuals and foundations.
I want to thank Dr. Robert and Joan M. Jampel for their continued support of the Jewish History Detectives Lecture series. Without them this valuable look at Jewish history at the local and state level would not be possible. I also want to thank the archives’ volunteers who helped in the research: Suzi MacWilliams, Barbara Grant, Jane Billecke, and Andrea Gallucci. Also Elayne Gross, owner of Elayne Gross Photography, who captured the evening with outstanding camerawork. Lastly, I want to thank Brenda Zales who told me about her father Irving Belinsky – owner of the Clawson and other local theatres. She provided a personal glimpse into her dad’s passion for the movie business which enriched our understanding of local theatre owners and their impact on our leisure hours.
We don’t have to tell you that this time is unprecedented or how drastically our lives have changed due to the coronavirus, but future generations will want to learn from what we are living through today.
That’s why The Rabbi Leo M. Franklin Archives of TBE and the Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archives of the Jewish Federation have teamed up to preserve the stories of life during COVID-19. We are collecting photographs, diaries/journals and audio/video recordings (personal narratives or oral history interviews) that document everyday life during the COVID pandemic. There is also a questionnaire that you can fill out to contribute your reflections of this time.
No matter your story, no matter how you want to tell it, we want to preserve it. Join this effort by visiting the COVID-19 Archives Collection website: jewishdetroit.org/Covid19-collections.
For more information, please email Laura Gottlieb.