Skip to main content

Congregation Beth Hillel Collection

Identifier: AR 25765

Scope and Contents

The collection holds community newsletters from the 1940s to the 1970s as well as documents about the 10th and 25th anniversary celebration of the congregation. It further holds memorial editions on the destruction of synagogues in Germany.

Additionally, the collection includes printings in connection to high holidays, such as Remembrance lists for Yom Kippur. The collection further holds some prayer-related printings, such as a Machzor and lists of prayers for Yom Kippur.

The collection further holds documents on the merger of congregation Beth Hillel and Beth Israel in 1981.

This collection consists of one series. The first folder of the collection holds newsletters of the newly founded Congregation Beth Hillel in Washington Heights. In 1940, the congregation had set up an improvised synagogue at the Paramount Hall. The first newsletter holds information on religious matters, such as the congregation’s first Bar Mitzvah and further classes for children in preparation for their Bar Mitzvah as well as social aid within the community. A judicial, medical, and educational support network that was based on the work of community members is also mentioned. While the first newsletter ends on the notion “Lernt Englisch, Sprecht Englisch” [“Learn and Speak English”], later editions feature reports and advertisements in both English and German. By 1948, the congregation had opened its own synagogue on 182nd street.

By the 1960s the newsletter was predominantly English. Folder one further holds a speech titled “On your Retirement” from 1961, although it’s uncertain who was retiring. The folder also holds a memorial edition of the newsletter from 1963, remembering the 1938 destruction of German synagogues. This collection holds the following newsletters of congregation Beth Hillel in folder 1/1: Nr.1/ October 1940, Nr.11/ December 1941, Nr.28/ Mai 1944, Nr.50/ Mai 1947, Nr.64/ September 1948, Nr.148/ June-July 1958, Nr.150/ September 1958, Nr.176/ June-July 1962, Nr.263/ March-April 1975.

Folder two holds additional newsletters after the merge of Beth Hillel with Beth Israel in 1980. These newsletters are named “Habayit” starting in the early 1980s. This folder also holds two “Rolls of Remembrance” with the names of deceased members of the congregation. These documents from 1989 and 1997 were specifically designed for certain prayers of Yom Kippur. Folder 3 holds a list of attendees to the “25th Anniversary Dinner Dance” of 1966. Around 200 members of the congregation had attended this event at the Delmonico Hotel. A commemoration book was printed in order to honor both donors and former members of the congregation. The book further holds two pictures of the congregation’s synagogue.

Folder 4 holds a picture of the 1943 Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur celebrations of Congregation Beth Hillel. The folder further holds a “Gebetordnung” (Order of prayers) for Yom Kippur, printed before 1981, as well as another order of prayers and a Companion to the Yom Kippur Machzor from after 1981.

Folder 4 also holds a handwritten chronicle of the history of the congregation from 1940-1952, which describes some of the individual services as well as the founding of groups, such as the women’s and the youth club. The folder also holds a “Souvenir Journal” celebrating the merger of Congregation Beth Hillel and Beth Israel during Chanukah of 1981. The journal goes into detail about the history of both congregations. An article on the history of congregation Beth Hillel was written by Dr. Eric Bloch.


  • 1940-1997

Language of Materials

The collection is in English and German.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact: Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011 email:

Historical Note

When it was founded in 1940, Congregation Beth Hillel of Washington Heights very clearly stood in the traditions of the former Main Synagogue of Munich. Beth Hillel was founded by Dr. Hermann Schuelein, Dr. Leo Baerwald, Samson Schmidt, Felix Wassermann, Gustav Amerikaner, Dr. Eugen Schmidt, Hermine Ellinger, Dr. Otto Weiler, Cantor Hermann Silbermann and Irene Steinberg. The founders and first members of Beth Hillel were entirely made up of former congregants of Munich’s Main Synagogue. After World War II former congregants of the Nuremberg Synagogue also joined. Later on, further congregants from other predominantly southern German cities joined Beth Hillel, which followed a specific rite and traditions of southern German Jewish communities. From 1940-1948 Congregation Beth Hillel was located at the Paramount Hall at 603 West 183 St. in Washington Heights.

The congregation’s chief rabbi, Dr. Leo Baerwald, had been the chief rabbi of Munich’s largest synagogue from 1918 up to his emigration in 1940. At its peak in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the congregation had as many as 700-800 members. After an initial period of services being held in German and Hebrew, the congregation slowly adopted English as its common language, although some parts of the congregations’ newsletters and official papers were still published in German until the mid-1970s.

By 1981 Beth Hillel had merged with Beth Israel of Washington Heights due to the decline of membership in both communities. Beth Hillel had approximately 400-450 members by the early 1970s with very little youth left. Around 2000/2001 Beth Hillel and Beth Israel once more merged with an existing community into “Congregation Mount Sinai Anshe Emeth and Emes Wozedek of Washington Heights Inc., and Congregation Beth Hillel & Beth Israel”.

Interestingly, throughout the period of sixty years, Congregation Beth Hillel underwent a change from the liberal Judaism practiced at the original congregation in Munich to a more conservative and unified approach in the 1940s-1970s and eventually ended up in modern orthodoxy. The congregation left its former synagogue on 182nd street and moved in at Mount Sinai Jewish Center of Washington Heights (187th St.) by 2000/2001.


0.25 Linear Feet


The collection holds official paperwork and publications of Congregation Beth Hillel in Washington Heights. The majority of this congregation had emigrated from Munich, with an additional number of émigrés from Nuremberg. Prominent members of this congregation included the former leading Rabbi of the Munich Main Synagogue, Rabbi Leo Baerwald, as well as businessman and president of the congregation, Hermann Schuelein.


The collection consists of one series.

Related Materials

The LBI Library includes the following related items: Festschrift in honor of the 36th anniversary of Congregation Beth Hillel of Washington Heights, New York, 1940-1976 (call number BM 225 N5 B4 1976)

Tenth anniversary, 1948-1958; dinner dance of Congregation Beth Hillel of Washington Heights, Inc. Hotel Roosevelt, Nov. 15th, 1958 (call number BM 225 N5 B4)

The LBI Archives includes the following related collections:

Hugo Stransky Collection (call number AR 7039) Leo Baerwald Collection (call number AR 3677/ MF 699) Steven M. Lowenstein Collection (call number AR 25335, at the Leo Baeck Institute)

Guide to the Papers of Congregation Beth Hillel
Processed by Moritz Rinaldo
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States