Documenting Women’s Service: The Temple Rodef Sholom Sisterhood in Waco

Rodef Sholom Sisterhood yearbooks, 1951-1952, 1972-1973
Each year, the Temple Rodef Sholom Sisterhood published yearbooks that included officer and member lists, event calendars and activities completed that year. Their records at the Texas Collection include yearbooks from the 1950s-1990s. [Waco] Temple Rodef Sholom Sisterhood records, Accession #3159, Box 1, Folder 10 and Box 3, Folder 2.

By Casey Schumacher, Texas Collection graduate assistant and museum studies graduate student

Did you know that The Texas Collection has more than 20 collections documenting the Central Texas Jewish community? We recently completed processing of the Rodef Sholom Sisterhood records, and in honor of Women’s History Month, we thought we would spotlight this organization that has played a major role in the growth of McLennan County’s oldest and largest Jewish congregation.

Waco Rodef Sholom Sisterhood ledger, 1960
The most thorough records in the collection are meeting minutes and ledgers. The Sisterhood kept excellent financial records, which demonstrates their ongoing commitment to financially support the activities of their congregation and its Religious School. [Waco] Temple Rodef Sholom Sisterhood records, #3159, Box 1, Folder 12.

As early as the 1850s, Jewish settlers came to the Waco area but had no organized congregation to celebrate festivals, holy days or worship services. After the International Order of B’nai B’rith established Eureka Lodge No. 198 in 1873, forty families in the Waco area formed the Rodef Sholom congregation and began raising funds for the construction of a synagogue. Usually, when we think of early leaders of Temple Rodef Sholom, we think of Sam Sanger, Isaac A. Goldstein and Louey Migel. However, construction of the synagogue was a congregational effort, and the Jewish women of Waco certainly played their part.

In 1879, the Rodef Sholom Ladies’ Hebrew Society (LHS) decided to host a ball to raise funds for the new synagogue. The ball was a great success and thanks in part to the LHS, the first synagogue was dedicated in 1881. The LHS was not finished with their work, however. They continued to support the growth of the congregation and raise money for congregational events. In 1922, the women of the LHS joined the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods and changed their name to the Temple Rodef Sholom Sisterhood.

The construction of the first temple clearly demonstrates how women played an important role in the early history of Rodef Sholom. The Temple has constructed two other synagogues since the LHS held their ball, and the women of the temple have been consistently involved. Today, the Sisterhood’s primary mission lies in organizing cultural programs for the congregation and supporting the temple’s Religious School. Obviously, the commitment of Rodef Sholom women has not wavered over the years.

Waco Rodef Sholom Sisterhood art exhibition and auction flyer, 1974
Carrying on the mission of the original founders, the Temple Rodef Sholom Sisterhood continues to host community events, including bake sales, freezer sales and cultural programs. This flyer for an art exhibition and auction is one of many advertisements produced by the Sisterhood. [Waco] Temple Rodef Sholom Sisterhood records, #3159, Box 3, Folder 4.
Female leadership at Rodef Sholom reached new heights in 2012 when Laura Schwartz Harari became the temple’s first female rabbi. In addition to a distinguished career in education, Rabbi Harari serves as the President of the Greater Waco Interfaith Conference and is a regular instructor for Baylor University’s Lifelong Learning Program.

The Temple Rodef Sholom Sisterhood records at The Texas Collection consist primarily of the Sisterhood’s membership, financial and publicity records from 1960-1990, although there are records from as early as 1919 and as late as 2005.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s Texas Tour: The Central Texas Stop

Eleanor Roosevelt with Pat Neff, March 13, 1939
Eleanor Roosevelt and Pat Neff, likely backstage at Waco Hall, Baylor University

By Ellen Kuniyuki Brown

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re taking a look back at Eleanor Roosevelt’s visit to Waco. This excerpted article by former Texas Collection archivist and associate professor emerita Ellen Kuniyuki Brown (MA ’75) was originally published in The Baylor Line in Spring 1999. Blogging about Texas periodically features “Looking Back at Baylor” and “Timeline” selections, with hopes of sharing this historical work with a new audience.

The same day Eleanor Roosevelt and her secretary, Malvina Thompson, left Washington, D.C., to begin a lecture tour of the Southwest, Waco and McLennan County Baptists heard a scathing denunciation of the first lady from Dr. C.Y. Dosey, a Dallas-based evangelist, at the First Baptist Church of Waco. After attacking Roosevelt for a comment she had made about social drinking, Dosey said he’d be glad when President Roosevelt leaves office “so that we can get rid of his wife as first lady.”

In the meantime, ticket sales were brisk for Roosevelt’s upcoming appearance at Waco Hall on Monday, March 13. Sponsored by the Domestic Science club, the event attracted a number of clubs and organizations from the city and surrounding communities. One of the largest groups to attend was the eleventh congressional district postmasters under the leadership of Postmaster Jim Pittillo. Arrangements were also made to have local young people present and to be introduced en masse to Roosevelt. In addition, Texas Lieutenant Governor Coke Stevenson invited state senators and their spouses to be his guests at the lecture.

Eleanor Roosevelt speaking in Baylor University's Waco Hall, March 13, 1939
Eleanor Roosevelt speaking in Baylor University’s Waco Hall, March 13, 1939

The first lady’s Texas tour began in Beaumont on March 9 and included a quick series of stops at Fort Worth, Abilene, Dallas, and Sherman, where she had her first experience with a severe dust storm.

On her way to Waco, Roosevelt briefly stopped in Hillsboro to inspect the National Youth Administration (NYA) resident project for girls. Then she visited the NYA project at Rich Field in Waco, inspecting the new airport administration building and chatting with some of the working youth. Her next stop was the Girls Club at 613 South Ninth Street, where members of the state NYA advisory board had a “lively discussion” on youth problems with her. Roosevelt briefly described her NYA stops in Hillsboro and Waco in her subsequent “My Day” column.

Roosevelt’s visit to Waco in 1939 was the first full-fledged appearance in the city’s history by the wife of the incumbent president of the United States, and the Waco papers covered her Texas trip more fully than some of the larger metropolitan papers. In honor of her visit, Waco Mayor George Jones declared Monday “Our Day.” Baylor President and former Governor of Texas Pat M. Neff was given the honor of introducing Roosevelt to the nearly 2,500 Wacoans and central Texans gathered in Waco Hall that evening to hear the first lady’s presentation on “Peace.”

Roosevelt told the audience that “by working to make democracy work, we can make our most enduring contribution to the cause of peace.” She added, however, that we need to set “our own house in order” before we “seek a solution to the turbulence that threatens to engulf the world in wars.” After that, she said, we can endeavor to establish “some sort of international machinery where nations can feel free to gather and confer earnestly and trustfully on their problems without feeling the necessity of armed conflict because of those difficulties.”

Eleanor Roosevelt shaking hands at her lecture at Baylor University's Waco Hall, March 13, 1939
Eleanor Roosevelt shaking hands at her lecture at Baylor University’s Waco Hall, March 13, 1939

She warned that “we must not go to sleep in our feeling of security over our democratic privileges,” and that “it is important that we do our duty for democracy every day we live if that freedom is to be preserved.”

During a question-and-answer session with the audience, Roosevelt indicated that she did not believe the League of Nations could be revived because of earlier objections to it and current distrust with the organization. She also addressed the dangers of propaganda, saying “the best defense against any sort of propaganda was the strengthening of our own knowledge and understanding so that we may recognize such attempts to influence our opinions, however cleverly they may be disguised.”

From Waco the first lady and her party boarded the 1:00 am train to Houston, where she toured a hospital project and spoke that evening. She also visited NYA sites in Hempstead and at Prairie View College. From Houston she traveled to Edinburg, Harlingen, and San Antonio, leaving Texas on Saturday, March 22.

A sidelight to Roosevelt’s visit to Waco is that two weeks later, on March 27, Marian Anderson sang in Waco Hall. Prior to her Texas tour, the first lady had resigned her membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution because the organization had refused to allow the contralto to sing in Constitutional Hall in Washington, D.C.

The_Waco_News_Tribune_Wed__Mar_1__1939_(See a few more photos from Roosevelt’s visit in our Flickr set.)

Texas over Time: Big Bend National Park–The Window

Texas has changed quite a bit over the years, as is readily seen in our vast photograph and postcard collections. To help bring some of those changes to life, we’ve created a “Texas over Time” series of GIFs that will illustrate the construction and renovations of buildings, changing aerial views, and more. Our collections are especially strong on Waco and Baylor images, but look for some views beyond the Heart of Texas, too.


  • Being directly on the United States-Mexico border, Big Bend has been the landmark of several different disputes between Mexico and the U.S. On May 5, 1916, Mexican raiders and American soldiers fought a three-hour battle in the town of Glenn Springs, which is now a popular spot in Big Bend’s park.
  • As a part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, thousands of young men were given employment by carving out the seven-mile access road, “using only picks, shovels, rakes and a dump truck” into the Chisos Mountains Basin.
  • With only 1,409 visitors in its first year, Big Bend now has an annual record of over 300,000 visitors.
  • The Window frames panoramic views of the canyon and is a popular location at sunset. It is made from the rock canyon that cuts through the Chisos Mountains rim.


“Chihuahuan Desert.” – DesertUSA. Digital West Media Inc., n.d. Web. 05 Feb. 2016. <>.

“Texas’ Gift to the Nation.” National Park Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, n.d. Web. 5 Feb. 2016. <>.

“Big Bend National Park Mountain Hikes.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, 03 Feb. 2016. Web. 05 Feb. 2016. <>.

“Big Bend National Park.” National Geographic. National Geographic Partners, LLC., n.d. Web. 05 Feb. 2016. <>.

GIF and factoids by Haley Rodriguez, archives student assistant. See these and other images of Big Bend in our Flickr set.