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Temple Rodef Shalom

Safeguarding Treasured Congregational Memories

Temple Rodef Shalom embarks on their groundbreaking journey with the Preservica Starter Plus Grant — preserving legacy, pioneering digital engagement and setting the standard for non-profits venturing into Digital Preservation.

Executive Summary

Temple Rodef Shalom (TRS), a prominent Reform Jewish synagogue in Falls Church, VA, became the inaugural grant recipient of the Preservica Starter Plus Grant Program in 2023. Motivated by a commitment to foster the study of Reform Judaism and safeguard the narratives of Holocaust survivors and community founders, TRS leadership embarked on a mission to inspire its congregation and boost community engagement. This involved digitizing and preserving the synagogue's extensive 60-year archive, intending to make historical resources easily accessible to congregants, staff, clergy and researchers.

Safeguarding Treasured Congregational Memories

The synagogue has an extensive collection of both physical and digital materials, including over 120 physical scrapbooks, hundreds of hours of video, dozens of audio tapes, and tens of thousands of photographs, written sermons, papers and other documents. In addition to many square meters of physical material, TRS has over 10TB of analog and digital data (much of that video) that are treasured congregational memories and could be of value to historians and researchers.

Preserving notable figures in the Reform Judaism movement was imperative for TRS. Their founding rabbi, Rabbi Laszlo Berkowits (of blessed memory), a Holocaust survivor, and their current senior rabbi, Rabbi Amy Schwartzman, a respected scholar and leading voice in modern Reform Judaism, are figures of significant scholarly interest locally, nationally and internationally.

As a non-profit religious institution, TRS encountered common challenges such as budget limitations, reliance on volunteers and data security concerns. Given the escalating antisemitism worldwide, the synagogue sought to enhance security measures for its public portal while still sharing its community's stories online. The pressing need for improved security underscores the importance of selecting a Digital Preservation partner to assist TRS in safeguarding its valuable archives.

Selecting a Sustainable Solution for Digital Preservation

The TRS team realized that safeguarding their history isn't merely a one-time endeavor; it's an ongoing commitment to ensuring these records remain alive and accessible.

As new material is continuously generated, it should be preserved for future access, allowing individuals to revisit past work and memories while also serving as inspiration for those currently facing similar challenges. When the TRS team launched its search for a Digital Preservation platform, they used four criteria:

  • Infrastructure support

  • Long-term viability of the partner

  • Commitment to information security and feature enhancement

  • Advanced metadata search and automatic text recognition capabilities

After a thorough analysis conducted by their archivists, Preservica emerged as the ideal solution for TRS with its comprehensive features, robust security measures and user-friendly interface. The platform's versatility allows the TRS team to efficiently train volunteers in ingesting archive items, adding metadata and organizing collections within the Preservica interface.

"We found the Preservica Starter interface to be straightforward to use out of the box. Creating folders for collections and ingesting them was easy to figure out, and we knew we were supported by the Preservica Community Hub and Knowledge Center should we need any support.”

–Chris Gardner, co-chair, the TRS Digital Archives program

Collaborative Development: From Dialogue to Grant Program Inception

Temple Rodef Shalom (TRS) played a pivotal role in founding the Preservica grant program due to concerns about preserving physical materials during digitization and the lack of an affordable long-term preservation platform. TRS initiated discussions with Preservica to develop a solution tailored to the needs and budget limitations of non-profit organizations. The collaboration led to establishing a grant program to assist novice archivists in their Digital Preservation endeavors.

TRS was the first recipient of Preservica's Starter Plus grant, which provided a fully funded account for two years, including 250GB of preservation storage. This grant also offered essential features like customized public portals and bulk metadata editing capabilities. With this support, TRS had the opportunity to secure funding, create a test environment for stakeholders and establish themselves as pioneers in the field of Digital Preservation. With the support of the grant, TRS achieved significant advancements in preserving and accessing its archival materials. This initiative allowed:

  • Enhanced accessibility to TRS's archival materials

  • Long-term preservation of the materials, reducing the risk of data loss

  • Digitization of archival treasures, paving the way for future expansion

  • Time-saving benefits archivists compared to manual examination

  • Quick access to information for various stakeholders through metadata.

  • Password-protected public portal to restrict portions of the online archives by class of viewer

"At a time when the need for Digital Preservation is more critical than ever, Temple Rodef Shalom's commitment to safeguarding their historical records aligns perfectly with Preservica’s mission," stated Stuart Reed, Chief Product Officer at Preservica. "We are proud to support such a commendable initiative that not only enhances public access to invaluable cultural heritage but also enriches scholarly discourse and fosters community engagement.”

Migration and Impact on Temple Rodef Shalom and the Community

In addition to the video, audio and documents that have already been digitized or are born digital, TRS is digitizing over 100 VHS tapes, over 50 audio tapes, 16mm film and numerous paper documents both through professional services and in-house efforts. Moving forward, the synagogue expects that the majority of new archival material will be born digital and is establishing procedures and policies to ensure these materials make their way into the archives smoothly.

TRS has dedicated resources to support its digital archiving efforts, including a file server (45TB of storage space) and a cadre of volunteers. While none of these volunteers are professional archivists, their dedication and involvement have been crucial to the project's advancement.

Sharing the Impact of Digital Preservation

TRS Archivists are sharing their experience and knowledge with other entities in the Reform movement and anyone else interested in learning how they have incorporated Preservica into their work. Their archivists feel lucky to have the ability to ingest multiple files in virtually any format quickly and easily and add metadata before and after ingesting into Preservica.

Looking ahead, TRS plans to collaborate with organizations such as the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the American Jewish Archives, as well as other Reform Jewish congregations, to share what they have learned and hopefully inspire others to consider the value and impact of a digital archive platform.

"With the invaluable support of the Preservica grant, we have charted a transformative journey towards digitizing our archival treasures. Over the past year, we've made significant strides in preserving our history and paving the way for future expansion. This grant has been instrumental in garnering interest and funding, propelling us beyond the initial constraints. We are immensely grateful for this opportunity and are committed to continuing our mission of safeguarding our assets for generations to come."

–Chris Gardner, co-chair, the TRS Digital Archives program