600 Lake Hollingsworth Dr. Lakeland, FL 33803


Temple Archives

Temple Emanuel Archive Mission Statement

The Archives of Temple Emanuel seeks to preserve the historical heritage of Temple Emanuel and the Jewish community of Lakeland and Polk County, FL more generally. To do this, the Archives solicits, collects, arranges, and describes the personal papers, photographs, and ephemera of Temple members, past members, professional staff, and volunteers; Polk County Jewish community members; and the official records of the Temple and related organizations. We are also actively engaged in collecting oral histories from members (past and present) of the Jewish community of Polk County (including Temple Emanuel, Temple Beth Shalom, B’nai B’rith [Lodge 1515], Hadassah, or unaffiliated Jews).

Our Collection

The Electronic Image Archives includes a Temple General Collection as well as individual, and family collections. See below for names and content descriptions. More information, detailed content descriptions and access solicitations can be directed to the TEA archivist or the Temple Office (863/682-8616).

The Oral History Collection includes a wide variety of narrators. Individual narrators are listed in alphabetical order by last name (using married names in most cases, some maiden names are included). Not all transcripts are available at this time—please note that transcript availability is noted by the listing. All requests for transcripts should be made to the TEA archivist or the Temple Office (863/682-8616).

Collection Development Policy

The Archives seeks to document the history of Polk County Jewry from its very beginnings to the present. While the collections include the papers of key families with a long history in the county or the synagogue, we welcome materials from related groups who have interacted with or been involved in Jewish activities in Polk County since its inception.

Recognizing the nature and scope of the Jewish community in a predominantly Christian area, the Archives does not seek to document only the synagogue-active. Those Jews who lived in the farther reaches of the county and practiced in isolation are strongly encouraged to contribute to the collections.


The Archives does not operate alone. Our collections overlap with other important archival organizations, so if you do not find what you are looking for in our listings, please check out any of the national, state and local repositories that are available on-line:

*Special thanks to Florida Southern College for its support of this project, including student workers (through service learning courses and volunteering), administrative, technological, and intellectual contributions. Thanks, too, to the Southern Jewish Historical Society’s generous Scott and Donna Langston Archival Grant (2015-2016) which will make possible at least 18 transcriptions.

Donations to support the Temple Emanuel Archive are gratefully appreciated and valued.

Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities – Lakeland, FL

Overview >> Florida >>  Lakeland
This history of Jewish life in Lakeland and Polk County has benefited from the advice and assistance of local expert Dr. Catherine Eskin, Associate Professor of English at Florida Southern College and curator of the Temple Emanuel Archive
Lakeland sits at the western edge of Polk County in Central Florida, and although Lakeland and nearby Winter Haven are sometimes counted as part of greater Tampa, the area has its own Jewish history, which dates back to the early 20th century. Prior to that, European settlements in the area began in the mid-1800s and grew slowly until the arrival of railroad lines in the 1880s. A handful of Jews may have lived in and around Polk County prior to 1900, but the current community traces its roots to Cy Wolfson’s arrival in 1909. In the following decades, Lakeland developed a small but active Jewish community which attracted participants from a number of surrounding towns and continues to serve the local Jewish population in the early 21st century.  Read article here: https://www.isjl.org/florida-lakeland-encyclopedia.html

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