Scope and Contents
Administrative records, books, correspondences, news clippings, photographs, and programs document the lives of members of Temple B'nai Israel and their involvement in the Victoria Jewish community starting from its founding in 1872. Of particular interest is the original copy of the Constitution and by-laws of B'nai Israel in 1895, news clippings on famous Victoria Jewish pioneers, and a speech from Godcheaux L. Levi, a descendant of one of the early founders of B'nai Israel, to the Victoria Historical Society. This collection would be useful for researchers interested in the history of the Victorian Jewish community, early and recent publications, and the Temple B’nai Israel.
Forms part of the South Texas Jewish Archives.
Conditions Governing Use
Permission to publish material from the Lack Temple B'nai Israel [Victoria, TX] Collection must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library. The Woodson Research Center use policy is that researchers assume sole responsibility for any infringement of privacy, literary rights, copyrights, or other rights arising from their use of the archival materials. In addition to any restrictions placed by donors, certain kinds of archival materials are restricted for the life of the creator plus 50 years. These materials include, but are not limited to, student grades, transcripts, and any job applications or recommendations
Biographical / Historical
Although the Jewish population numbered around 100 individuals, Victoria lacked a formal congregation until the end of the 19th century. While they had met together informally as early as the 1850s, they did not organize until 1867, when Victoria Jews established a Hebrew Benevolent Society. The society held services and even joined the Union of American Hebrew Congregations for several years in the 1880s. In 1876, Jewish women had founded the Hebrew Ladies’ Benevolent Society, which had 17 members in 1900. They also founded a Jewish Children’s Aid Society in 1889. A chapter of B’nai B’rith, later named in honor of prominent Jewish grocer Max Bettin, was organized in 1875. Finally, in 1894, Jews in Victoria established an official congregation, which they named B’nai Israel. Abraham Levi became its first President during these founding years and the first permanent Rabbi, George Solomon, arrived in Victoria in 1905. The synagogue that stands today was built in 1923 when the Jewish population in the city peaked at around 120 people. Today, there are about 20 Jewish families in Victoria. Dr. Shira Lander, a Southern Methodist University religion professor, has lead High Holiday services as well as periodic Shabbat and education services. Despite a 2007 incident in which the Temple’s front was desecrated with anti-Semitic slurs, Victorian Jews remain welcome participants in the life of the city, and look to maintain their involvement and tradition in the coming years.
Excerpt from: https://www.isjl.org/texas-victoria-encyclopedia.html
Born in 1942, Melvin Lack grew up in Victoria, Texas. His father was from Tulsa, Oklahoma, while his mother grew up in Houston, Texas. In 1938, Melvin’s father decided to open a family business selling many goods such as toys, guns, and furniture. Growing up in Victoria, Melvin was one of only 30 Jewish kids in the community attending Sunday school at Temple B’nai Israel. As an undergraduate student, Melvin attended Rice University. While there, Melvin was heavily invested in extracurricular activities, joining the Student Council and Hillel, writing articles for The Rice Thresher, and serving as president of Weiss College. Once he received his Bachelor's degree in Economics, Melvin attended Harvard University Business School where he met his wife Janey, one of the first women to be admitted into the Business School in 1963. After convincing from his uncle, Melvin and his wife moved back to his hometown in 1969 to work for the family business. From there, the couple settled down and had three children - David, Jeffrey and Julie. For the next 40 years, the Lack Company thrived, opening 39 stores at its height. Meanwhile, Melvin became involved in the local Jewish community, serving on the Board of Directors for Congregation B’nai Israel for 35 years as well as serving several terms as president. In addition, Melvin helped raise money for the synagogue through Bingo fundraisers. This allowed for the synagogue to go through several renovations in the 1990s and establish its Endowment Fund. Today, Melvin remains in Victoria, TX, managing the real estate of the family while staying active on the stock market.