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Congregation Agudas Achim Anshei Sfard, Adam St. Shul (Newton, Mass.) Records

Identifier: JHCI-021

Scope and Contents

This collection covers various aspects of the synagogue's history and operations. It includes documents related to governance, such as meeting minutes from the annual and monthly board meetings. It also contains materials from major events, such as the Centennial in 2012 as well as various community programs. There are records of donations and dues dating back to 1924, showcasing fundraising efforts for the Aron Kodesh and Torah Keter. The restoration of the ’90s, and its dedicated fundraising campaign, are detailed through a variety of records including interior photographs, invoices and receipts, meeting minutes, and mailers. Materials related to shul programming, such as educational and religious programming, include planning notes, pamphlets, and photographs. The shul’s newsletter, The Adams Street Bulletin, was sent monthly, and this collection includes copies from 1987-2008. The collection covers the shul's placement on the National Register of Historic Places, including the process of adding the site and events surrounding the placement, such as the unveiling of the plaque. Historical objects include Bessie Silberman's language journals, a yad, a visitors register from 1992-2005, the 1911 charter, and the original 1912 grand opening sign.


  • undated, 1912-2018, bulk 1980-2018

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for researcher use, however, some files are restricted. Please contact us to request access or to make an appointment to view this collection at

Use Restrictions

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Biographical / Historical

The Orthodox synagogue Congregation Agudas Achim Anshei Sfard (commonly known as The Adams Street Shul) is the oldest Jewish congregation in Newton, MA. The founding members were primarily Ukrainian immigrants from the turn of the 20th century who settled in the neighborhood Nonantum (previously known as the North Village) in Newton. Many were heavily involved in the community and worked as shop owners, craftsmen, and peddlers. The Jewish community met in homes and rented the old French community center on Dalby Street when in need of more space before deciding that the construction of a formal shul was necessary.

On October 6, 1911, they obtained an official charter from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and work began on the synagogue on Adams Street. It is unknown whether there was an official architect. The synagogue was built with the considerable labor of community members, many of whom were craftsmen. Three major donors helped fund the construction – two were non-Jews (a local doctor and the mayor of Newton) and the third was Jacob Schiff, a financier from New York. Constructed in a Romanesque Revival style, the design recalled traditional synagogue stylings found in Eastern Europe. Three days after the end of Chanukah in 1912, the building was opened. The ark for the Torah and the bimah (podium) were built in 1924 by Samuel Katz, a Jewish-Ukrainian craftsman, who also created the Vilna Shul ark. For years, members brought chairs until the shul acquired old school desks, which they later replaced with benches in 1956. The limited resources meant they could not afford to hire a full-time rabbi, and the shul was run entirely by volunteer members of the congregation.

Due to fluctuations in the Jewish population in Nonantum, by the 1950s, the synagogue closed for weekday services. A volunteer member of the community, Elmer Lippin, kept the synagogue running. However, by 1986, new families moved to the surrounding neighborhoods, allowing Shabbat services to restart on August 2, 1986. By 1988, plans for renovations were underway, with the bulk of the restoration taking place in the 1990s. In 1992, the Adams Street Shul was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Restorations were completed in 1995.

Community leadership was essential to the governance of the shul and remained integral after they hired their first full-time rabbi, Rabbi Zalman Gurkow. Rabbi Zalman left in 2004, and in 2005, they hired Rabbi Norbert Weinberg, who left in 2015. As of 2023, Rabbi Ahron Benmergui serves as the clergy of the Adams Street Shul.


  1. Information used in this finding aid is from the following sources:
  2. Materials from the collection.
  3. “Our History - The Adams Street Shul,” from The Adams Street Shul. Accessed July 21, 2023.


Obtained an official charter by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and work began on the synagogue on Adams Street.
Held grand opening of the synagogue during Chanukah.
Ark and bima designed and built by Samuel Katz.
Restarted consistant weekly Shabbat services.
Jackson Homestead exhibit held and booklet created.
Elmer Lippen dies.
Fundraising efforts for renovation began.
Reconstruction of the shul building started
Newsletter started.
Listed on National Registry of Historic Buildings.
Renovated the lower level of the building.
Contested election.
Swastika graffitied on side of shul
Hired first full-time rabbi: Rabbi Gurkow.
Rabbi Gurkow left.
Hired Rabbi Weinberg.
Centennial celebration
Rabbi Weinberg left.
Hired Rabbi Glass.


8.4 linear feet (16 manuscript boxes, 1 Oversize box)

Language of Materials






In 1911, Congregation Agudas Achim Anshei Sfard, more commonly known as the Adams Street Shul, was granted an official charter from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. By December of the following year, the building was opened to the public. While there was a lull in membership starting in the ’50s, by the mid to late ’80s, more young Jewish families moved to the area, spurring efforts to revitalize the building. Due to their efforts, the Adams Street Shul is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This collection consists primarily of email correspondence, board meeting minutes and agendas, and publicity material illustrating the shul’s restoration and community life.

Physical Location

Located in Boston, Mass.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Congregation Agudas Achim Anshei Sfard in 2018.

Processing Information

Processed by Nicole Zador,2023.

Guide to the Congregation Agudas Achim Anshei Sfard (Adams Street Shul) (Newton, Mass.) Records, JHCI-021
Under Revision
Processed by Nicole Zador.
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

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

99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States