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The Sam (Simche) Katz Collection

 Item — Box: 1
Identifier: JHCP-019

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of thirty-nine (39) photographs of aron kodesh, or holy arks, built by Sam Katz, as well as several photographs of Katz and refrigerator cases made by Katz. In addition, there are five (5) architectural drawings of aron kodesh drawn by Katz during the design process. The collection also contains two (2) programs from shul, or synagogue, dedications where there are Katz arks and two (2) articles which mention the arks.


  • 1910-1933, 1981, 1984, 1986, 1991, undated

Access Restrictions

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Use Restrictions

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1 linear feet (1 1/2 Manuscript Box, 5 Oversize Folders)

Language of Materials





This collection contains photographs and architectural drawings depicting 14 of the aron kodesh, or holy arks, created by early 20th century Russian woodworker Sam Katz. Also included are dedication programs, 3 snapshot portraits of Katz, and newspaper clippings relating to several congregations which feature Katz's holy arks.

Acquisition Information

Donated by son Maurice (Katz) Kates, 1996.

Biographical Note

Sam Katz was a prolific woodworker whose work is in many early 20th century Boston-area synagogues. Sam Katz was born Simche Katz in Veshnevets, Russia on August 1, 1884. On September 9, 1905, he married Anna (née Chaie) Riter in Berschev, Russia. The couple had two children in Russia: Sydney (Simon, b. November 29, 1906) and Frances (Feiye, b. February 18, 1910). Katz left his family when his daughter was only a few months old, immigrating to the US on the SS Finland, departing from Antwerp, Belgium and arriving in Ellis Island, New York, New York on July 25, 1910. Upon arrival in the United States, Sam initially lived with a cousin in Troy, New York, where he manufactured refrigerator cases for shops and restaurants, then began working as a carpenter. In 1910, Katz designed and built the aron kodesh, or holy ark- where the Torah scrolls are stored- for a local shul in Albany, New York, and another in 1912 for Congregation Shaara Tfillein in nearby Saratoga Springs, New York.

In the summer of 1912, Anna and their two children joined Sam in Troy. The Katzes welcomed daughter Adeline in 1914 before moving to the Chelsea neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts where they had sons Maurice (b.1916) and Hyman (b.1923). The family later lived in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. Once in the Boston area, Sam Katz was hired to create arks for many congregations throughout eastern Massachusetts and one for Congregation Beth Israel in New Haven, Connecticut, including the Adam Street Shul (Agudas Achim Anshei Sfard) in Newton, Massachusetts and the Walnut Street Shul (Agudas Sholom) in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Katz arks are distinguished by their artisanship and stylistic use of exposed round bulb lighting. In 1944, Katz became a naturalized United States citizen, followed by the naturalization of wife Anna in 1945. Sam Katz died in 1953 and was laid to rest at the Boston Workmens Circle Cemetery in Melrose, Massachusetts. In 1962, he was joined by Anna, with whom he shares a headstone.

At least four of Sam Katz’s arks still survive in synagogues in eastern Massachusetts: the Adams Street Shul in Newton; the Walnut Street Shul in Chelsea; Congregation Ansha Scholem in Lawrence; and Temple Shir Tikva in Wayland, which displays an ark from now-closed Temple Tifereth Israel in Everett.

In 1957, the Anshai Poland Synagogue in Boston’s South End, home to one of Katz’s arks, was demolished. Three years later, a donor gave the Museum of Fine Arts Boston one of a pair of gilded lions from that ark.

In April 2023, Rabbi David Whiman (of Houston, TX and East Hampton, NY) gifted to the MFA the c.1920s holy ark from Shaare Zion Synagogue on Orange Street in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Shaare Zion closed in May of 1999 when the congregation gifted the Torah Ark to Rabbi Whiman.


  1. Materials from Collection.
  2. Massachusetts, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1798-1950. Accessed March 22, 2023.
  3. Museum of Fine Art Boston. "Lion Rampant." Accessed March 15, 2023.
  4. New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924. Accessed March 22, 2023.
  5. United States Census, 1920-1950. Accessed April 1, 2023
  6. U.S., Find a Grave® Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. Accessed April 5, 2023
  7. Museum of Fine Art Boston, “Lion Rampant,” by Sam Katz, 1922–23,*/sam%20 katz.
  8. Museum of Fine Art Boston, “Torah Ark,” by Sam Katz, 1920-1930,


Simche Katz born in Veshnevets, Russia.
Marries Anna (Chaie) Riter in Berchsev, Russia.
Son Sidney (Simon) Katz is born in Berchsev, Russia.
Daughter Frances (Feiye) Katz is born in Berchsev, Russia.
Simche emigrates to the United States from Antwerp, Belgium on the SS Finland destined for Ellis Island, New York, New York and begins to go by Sam.
Katz completes the aron kodesh for an unidentified synagogue in Albany, New York.
Anna (Chaie), Sidney, and Frances emigrate to the United States from Russia on the S.S. Kroonland.
Katz completes the aron kodesh for an unidentified shul in Saratoga Springs, New York
Daughter Adeline Katz is born in Troy, New York.
Son Maurice Katz (now Maurice Kates) is born in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
Katz completes the ark for the West End Congregation on Chambers Street in Boston Massachusetts.
circa 1922
Katz completes the aron kodesh for Congregation Anshai Poland of Warsaw on Oswego Street in Boston Massachusetts.
Katz completes the ark for Congregation Ahavas Achim Anshei Sfard on Walnut Street in Revere, Massachusetts
Katz completes the ark for Congregation Anshe Sfard - the "little shul" in Peabody, Massachusetts.
Son Hyman Katz is born in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
Katz completes the aron kodesh for Congregation Agudas Achim Anshei Sfard - the Adam Street Shul, on Adams Street in Newton, Massachusetts.
Katz completes the aron kodesh for Congregation Sons of Israel - the "big shul" on Park Street in Peabody, Massachusetts.
Katz completes the aron kodesh for Congregation Agudas Achim-Ezrath Israel on Bryan Street in Malden, Massachusetts.
Katz completes the ark for Congregation Tifereth Israel on Malden Street in Everett, Massachusetts.
Katz completes the ark for Congregation Agudath Israel Anshe Sfard at 220 Woodrow Avenue in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
Katz completes the ark for Congregation Ahavath Israel on Blue Hill Ave in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
Katz completes the ark for Congregation Chaim Oden on Nightingale Street in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
Sidney (Simon) Katz naturalizes.
Frances (Feiye Katz) Rutstein naturalizes.
Sam (Simche) Katz naturalizes.
Anna (Chaie Riter) Katz naturalizes.
Sam Katz dies and is buried at the Workmens Circle Cemetery in Melrose, Massachusetts.
Anna Katz dies and is buried with Sam.


Published citations should take the following form: Identification of item, date (if known); JHCP-019: Samuel Katz Collection; box number; folder number; The Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS, Boston, Mass.

Processing Information

Processed by Gabrielle Roth, 2023

Guide to the Sam (Simche)Katz Collection, JHCP-018
Gabrielle Roth
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for uncoded script

Revision Statements

  • June 9, 2023: Revised by Gabrielle Roth to include additional information on Katz Arks in Boston and the 2023 Accession of the Torah Ark by the Boston MFA.

Repository Details

Part of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at American Ancestors Repository

99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States