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Congregation Adath Jeshurun (Boston, Mass.) Records

 Collection
Identifier: JHCI-002

Scope and Content Note

The main part of the collection consists of two minute books of meetings of the Board of Directors and of the general membership of the congregation. Discussions in the minute books address two main issues: the congregation’s finances, especially regarding renovation works at the synagogue, and the activities of the different committees of the congregation, such as the Good and Welfare, Ways and Means, Sick, and Moeth Chitim (poor relief) Committees. The discussions also contain information about the congregation’s school, the Menorah Institute, as well as its involvement, together with the Bureau of Jewish Education and the United Hebrew Schools of Greater Boston, in an initiative to establish a new community Hebrew school in Roxbury. Another focus is the relations between the congregation and other Jewish institutions like the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Associated Jewish Philanthropies, and the National Council of Jewish Women. A question raised multiple times during the discussions addresses the idea of men and women sitting together on the same floor in the temple. The minute books also contain information about the appointment of Eliezer Berkovits, a prominent philosopher of Orthodox Judaism, as the congregation’s rabbi (1950-1956) and about the popularity of his services and his role in helping to draw greater attendance to the synagogue. Also documented is his ruling that the proceeding of men and women sitting together on the same floor was “not in accordance with Orthodox principles.” The last meeting protocols provide details about plans to relocate the congregation to Brookline and negotiations with non-Jewish institutions in Roxbury regarding the sale of the synagogue. The financial records of receipts and disbursements for the years 1961-1966 reveal a steady decline in the congregation’s funds during this time span.

Dates

  • undated, 1916-1991

Creator

Language of Materials

This collection is in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for researcher use. Please contact us to request access or to make an appointment to view this collection at jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Conditions Governing Use

There may be some restrictions on the use of this collection. For more information contact jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Historical Note

Congregation Adath Jeshurun, the first Jewish institution in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, was established in 1894 to serve the first few Jews that relocated from Boston’s North End, and it soon became the center of the emergence of a thriving Jewish community in the neighborhood. The congregation’s first synagogue was located at the corner of Dudley Street and Washington Street, and in 1900 it moved to a former chapel at the corner of Blue Hill Avenue and Lawrence Avenue, serving the few hundred prosperous and middle-class Jews living in Roxbury and neighboring Dorchester. In 1905, the congregation started a campaign for a new and larger synagogue to be built on Blue Hill Avenue at the corner of Brunswick Street. Upon its dedication in the following year, the new synagogue helped to attract numerous new Jews into the neighborhood and reflected the leading role assumed by the congregation in Boston’s Jewish community. A center of Conservative Judaism, the congregation promoted many liberal reforms and embraced non-traditional activities like English-language hymnals, children services, cultural evenings, and mixed choirs. Already struggling with financial difficulties during the Depression years, the congregation’s membership dramatically shrank in the postwar period, as more and more Jews left Roxbury and Dorchester and relocated to Brookline and Newton. Starting in 1956, the congregation was unable afford the hiring of rabbi. In the last years of its existence, the synagogue served only a few dozen elderly congregants who still lived in Roxbury. After the synagogue had been repeatedly vandalized, it was finally sold in 1967 to a Spanish-speaking Christian congregation. Since 1978, it has served as the home of the First Haitian Baptist Church of Boston.

References

  1. Gamm, Gerald. Urban Exodus: Why the Jews Left Boston and the Catholics Stayed. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1999.
  2. Heath, Richard. "The House of the Flock of the Righteous: The Song of Synagogue Adath Jeshurun." American Jewish Historical Society, 1991.
  3. Kaufman, Louis. "Adath Jeshurun May Merge: Once-proud Synagogue Victim of Vandalism." Boston Globe. May 8, 1966, 42.

Chronology

1894
Congregation Adath Jeshurun is established.
1900
The congregation moves to a former chapel at the corner of Blue Hill Avenue and Lawrence Avenue.
1905
The congregation begins a campaign for a new synagogue building at the corner of Blue Hill Avenue and Brunswick Street.
1906
The congregation dedicates its new building.
1967
The congregation closes and sells its building.

Extent

0.5 linear feet (1 manuscript box)

Overview

This collection contains materials of the Congregation Adath Jeshurun, the founding institution of the Jewish community in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. The main materials cover the last twenty years of the congregation’s existence, a period marked by the decline of the Jewish population of Roxbury which ultimately resulted in the congregation’s demise. The main part of the collection consists of minute books that record the activities of the congregation during this period as well as the steps taken towards its eventual dissolution.

Physical Location

Located in Boston, Mass.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Justin L. Wyner.

Processing Information

Processed by Amir Zelinger, 2019
Title
Guide to the Congregation Adath Jeshurun (Boston, Mass.) Records, JHCI-002
Author
Processed by Amir Zelinger
Date
2019
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at New England Historic Genealogical Society Repository

Contact:
99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States
617-226-1245