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Congregation Beth Am (Or Ami) Records

Identifier: MS 0733
Finding aid note: Forms part of the Houston Jewish History Archive. Stored off-site at the Library Service Center. Please request this material via or call 713-348-2586.

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, event materials, meeting minutes, written histories of the congregation, an oral history with Rabbi Gideon Estes, newsletters, news clippings, speeches, and a directory document some of the events and activities undertaken by members of Congregation Beth Am -- including Sandra Block while she was president of the Congregation -- from 1978 to 2022. Of particular interest are the written histories of the congregation in materials donated by both Sandra Block and the institution.


  • Creation: 1978 - 2022


Conditions Governing Access

This material is open for research.

Stored off-site at the Library Service Center. Please request this material via or call 713-348-2586.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from the Congregation Beth Am (Or Ami) Records 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

On October 12, 1972, a group of young Jewish people met for the first time in the Kendall Branch Public Library on Memorial Drive to discuss the possibility of starting a Congregation to serve the needs of the increasing number of Jewish families settling in the Memorial-Northwest area of Houston. The need for a West Houston synagogue was recognized at that first meeting.

Interest in forming a synagogue spread quickly and by January 1973, seventy people had already formed committees, held a Hanukkah service and agreed that a religious school was a necessity.

the first Board election was held in April 1973, and that month the members voted to become a conservative congregation. Within a six-month period both a Sisterhood and a Men's Club were formed, an ark was built to house the newly acquired Torah and Rabbi Irwin Halpern became the congregation's first spiritual leader and school administrator. Jerard Y. Cohen became the first President of the congregation.

In 1975 Beth Am purchased a facility on Brittmoore Road. As the membership continued to grow a new sanctuary, kitchen, and offices were added. The youth group, Beth Am Synagogue Youth, was also created around this time.

As the years passed the members decided that further growth was hampered by the somewhat industrial location of the synagogue. As a part of that decision, Congregation Beth Am merged with Congregation Or Hadash in 2001 and became Congregation Or Ami.

Sandra Block was elected president of Congregation Beth Am in the 1979.


1.75 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



The collection consists of one box of correspondence, event materials, news clippings, newsletters, and institutional records such as, committee meeting minutes, speeches, and fundraising materials from Congregation Beth Am between 1978 and 2022 and an oral history with Rabbi Gideon Estes in 2020.


The materials in this collection were donated by the institution and by Sandra Block and have been arranged in two series as follows:

Series I: Institutional Materials; Series II: Sandra Block institution records; Series III: Oral Histories; Series IV: Addenda

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials donated by Sandra Block March 2018, and Rabbi Gideon Estes May 2019 and 2020.

Guide to the Congregation Beth Am (Or Ami) records, 1978-2022
Traci Patterson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Woodson Research Center, Rice University, Houston, Texas Repository

Fondren Library MS-44, Rice University
6100 Main St.
Houston Texas 77005 USA