Congregation Anshe Knesset Israel Records, 1879-1889 and 1900-2022 | Illinois History and Lincoln Collections
Congregation Anshe Knesset Israel (Congregation Israel) was established as a Conservative Jewish congregation in 1916. This collection contains materials representative of the congregation's synagogues, administration, members, liturgy, holidays, organizations, and events spanning its nearly 100-year history.
Congregation Israel was incorporated as a Conservative Jewish congregation in 1916. After years of meeting in homes, storerooms, and halls, the congregation was able to purchase the former German Methodist Church at 301 East Harrison Street in 1920. This structure was the congregation's formal meeting place until 1930, when it relocated to the former First Christian Church at 949 North Walnut Street. As Danville's population began to grow, Congregation Israel became a place of worship and social events for its Conservative and Orthodox Jewish communities. By the 1950s, a religious school for children was established as well as the Sisterhood, a social organization for the women of the congregation.
Congregation Israel remained at its Walnut Street synagogue until 1991, when it relocated to the former Ridgeview Baptist Church at 14 East Ridgeview Street. Here, the congregation celebrated its 75th anniversary and supported the building's renovation by David Ascalon. However, as Danville's Jewish population began to dwindle at the end of the 20th century, so did the number of attending congregants. Congregation Israel closed its Ridgeview Street synagogue in 2012, selling the structure to a Muslim congregation who converted it into the Danville Masjid and Community Center.
The collection consists of nine series: 1. Administration, 2. Finances, 3. Buildings, 4. Members, 5. Liturgy, 6. Holidays, 7. Religious School, 8. Sisterhood, and 9. Events. These series contain records that document the life and dissolution of Congregation Anshe Knesset Israel. Records include legal documents, leadership meeting minutes and reports, correspondence, newspaper clippings that include members of the congregation, photos of the synagogue buildings and events, artifacts, and ephemera.
These materials were preserved by Sybil Mervis, and donated by Sybil Mervis, Neal Ehrlich, and John P. Wolgamot in 2021. Sybil Mervis made additional donations in 2022.
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