About   |   Contact   |   Facebook


Starting From Scratch: Creating Synagogue Archives | Publications

I. Authorization and Support

An archives is responsible for selecting, preserving, and making available records determined to have permanent or continuing value.

Mission Statement

The first step in establishing an archives is obtaining formal authorization and support from the parent organization's governing body. For most congregations this is the synagogue board. Such authorization is vital. It validates the archives' existence as an official part of the congregation and, usually, guarantees some level of financial support. It places the official support and weight of the congregation behind the archives, providing the foundation upon which all work can begin.

This authorization should be a formal, one page, document—called a mission statement—that establishes the archives by name and designates the position of archivist as a member (paid or volunteer) of the synagogue staff. The mission statement should contain a brief passage clearly laying out the scope, purpose, function and goals of the archives. It should establish the archives' governance, creating clear lines of authority and placing the archives within the synagogue's governing hierarchy. It should also contain a brief history of the archives' origin and development.

This document should be presented to the synagogue board, voted upon, and approved. With the board's approval, the mission statement will become the archives' charter and operating policy.


In establishing governance the synagogue board should consider the creation of an archives committee. This committee might consist of only three or four members, with the archivist serving either as a full or ex-officio member. The archives committee would be responsible for setting broad policies overseeing the operation of the archives. The archivist would oversee the day to day operation of the archives, implementing policies established by the archives committee. The archives committee would govern administration: finances, budgets, guidelines for donor relations, collection guidelines, etc.

The archives committee should also focus on furthering public relations: promoting the work and goals of the archives both in the congregational and surrounding communities.

The exact responsibilities of the archives committee—as with all rules and procedures—should be laid out in writing to avoid confusion or problems. These responsibilities will be determined by the goals and resources of the congregation and cannot be mandated in this manual. It is important, however, that all involved—particularly the board and the archivist—are comfortable with the arrangements and that they promote and further the work of the archives.