In 1981, The Arizona Jewish Historical Society was founded in order to preserve the rich heritage of Arizona’s Jewish communities and to educate the public about the Jewish contributions to Arizona and American life. In addition, the society seeks to promote greater awareness of our state’s diverse history through a variety of educational programs.
The society currently maintains a large archival collection with over 50,000 primary source documents, photographs, artifacts, and other memorabilia pertaining to the Jewish experience in Arizona and the American Southwest. In addition, we have conducted over 200 oral history interviews and 100 video interviews with Arizona’s Jewish residents, many of whom are no longer living. Through our oral histories and archival collections, the society enables the subjects of our history to speak directly from the past, in their own words. The society also sponsors a variety of educational programs, including lectures, genealogy seminars, book discussions, art exhibitions, theatre performances, and music and culinary events.
In 2001, the AZJHS substantially expanded its activities by acquiring the home of Phoenix’s first synagogue and restoring it as the Cutler✡Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center. The building first served as a sanctuary, religious school, and social center for the local Jewish community from 1922-1949. It later became a Chinese-speaking Baptist church and then a Spanish-speaking Baptist church. After an 8 year effort, the society raised over $3,000,000 to rehabilitate the facility as a cultural and educational center. View the Wall of Honor.
The Cutler✡Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center now serves as the headquarters for the society and its activities. The facility is available for rent by people of all faiths for functions including weddings, receptions, fundraisers, presentations, seminars, and meetings.
Call 602-241-7870 or email email@example.com for more information.
How did the Cutler✡Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center get its name?
James and Bettie Cutler
Tragically killed in an automobile accident, James and Bettie Cutler were pillars of both the Jewish and
Secular Communities in Phoenix at the time of their deaths in 1980. Jim's Parents, Harry and Minnie
Cutler, moved to Scottsdale from Chicago in 1942 and established Cutler Orchards. Jim was a World
War II veteran, serving in the Army Air Corps. As the president of Cutler Construction Company, Jim
actively contributed to the dynamic growth of the Valley, and provided temporary employment for
thousands of individuals over the years. In addition to being a devoted mother of four and an interior
decorator, Bettie worked tirelessly on behalf of many charitable causes, sitting on the Boards of
Directors of many Jewish and civic organizations. With a wide range of interests, Bettie dedicated her
efforts to organizations that included Hadassah, Hillel at ASU, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix Little
Theatre, Jewish Community Center, B’nai Brith, and Congregation Beth Israel.
Both James and Bettie were major philanthropists. However, during their lives they refused to speak
about the good deeds they performed. They believed that if they spoke about their acts of kindness,
their acts would cease to genuinely be good deeds. The Cutler✡Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center was named, in part, in memory of James and Bettie Cutler, to honor their devotion as parents, their service to the community, and their efforts to live simply as two good human beings.
Rabbi Albert Plotkin
Rabbi Albert Plotkin was the leading Jewish figure in Phoenix for over five decades, from 1955 to his death in 2010. The son of Sam and Sophie Plotkin, Albert Plotkin was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. He graduated magna cum laude from Notre Dame University, and pursued his religious studies at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, where he was ordained in 1948, the same year as the establishment of the State of Israel.
After a brief period in Seattle, where he met his beloved wife, Sylvia, Plotkin moved to Phoenix to become rabbi at Temple Beth Israel in 1955. During his 55 year tenure as Rabbi and Rabbi Emeritus, Plotkin was instrumental in promoting growth and development of the Valley's Jewish community. He also worked tirelessly to promote civil rights in Arizona, and to fight against segregation in schools and other accommodations.
Rabbi Plotkin helped develop the Jewish Studies Program at Arizona State University and was instrumental in the establishment of the first synagogue in Sedona. He also served as chaplain at Phoenix Veterans Hospital and as Rabbi-in-Residence at All Saints Episcopal Church. Rabbi Plotkin worked diligently throughout his lifetime to foster ecumenical understanding and goodwill among people of all faiths, and his efforts earned him the respect and admiration of all who had the privilege of knowing him over the years.
Rabbi Plotkin's tremendous passion for others and zest for life was evident in all he did, whether pursuing his lifelong love of music and theater, writing books or counseling or helping people. He was also an active supporter of the Arizona Jewish Historical Society and played a key role in helping the Jewish community recover and restore its very first synagogue building, which was named in his honor by Lawrence Cutler.