Jewish Community of Peabody (Mass.) Records
Scope and Content Note
This collection contain photographs, newspaper clippings, organizational records, programs, awards, and correspondence. These materials document the Jewish community of Peabody, including its many businesses, clubs and religious organizations. Also documented are Jewish individuals and families who have lived in Peabody. Of particular interest may be the records of the Chevara Kadisha of the Maple Hill Cemetery, which lists (in Hebrew) the names and dates of bodies ritually prepared for burial. A translated copy is included. The collection was established by the Jewish Heritage Center of the North Shore through many separate donations of materials pertaining to the Peabody Jewish community.
- undated, 1906-2009
Language of Materials
The collection is in English and Hebrew.
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Peabody’s Jewish community dates back to 1896, when the town’s first Jewish settlers, Louis Karelitz and Charles Halper, arrived from Russia. By the turn of the century, there were fifteen Jewish families in Peabody, and by 1909, the population grew to 100 families. Most of these people came from Russia, Poland, Lithuania, and Germany. A group of Sephardic Jews from Turkey settled in Peabody as well, with five families arriving in 1906 and fifteen more by 1909.
The Jewish population continually increased, especially due to World War I and the Russian Revolution. About 200 Jewish families lived in Peabody in 1920, and 350 in 1940. Following World War II, the number rose to 400, and by the end of the 1960s, it grew to 1,200 families. In 2002, it was estimated that Peabody’s Jewish population was 4,500, made up of 2,000 families.
Many Jewish immigrants who had worked in the leather business in their native countries came to Peabody because of Peabody’s prominence as the largest leather manufacturing area in the United States. Jewish residents established leather shops and tanneries. Other residents opened merchant businesses, including furniture, dry goods, clothing, and shoe stores. Jewish residents also went into professional work, including law, medicine, and dentistry.
Early religious services were held on Main Street at the corner of Mill Street, and later in Red Man’s Hall on Foster Street. In 1909, Congregation Sons of Israel was established, and its building was dedicated in 1913. In 1914, Congregation Anshe Sfard was organized and built on Little’s Lane, but closed in 1978. A Sephardic congregation, Congregation Tifereth Israel, was also established. As more Jewish families arrived in Peabody, further congregations were organized. In 1958, residents established the Conservative Temple Ner Tamid, and its building was dedicated in 1965. In 1958 as well, Temple Beth Shalom, a Reform synagogue, was also organized and its building was dedicated in 1965.
The Peabody Hebrew School was opened in 1912 under the sponsorship of Congregation Sons of Israel and the Peabody Hebrew School Sisterhood, then known as the Ladies Auxiliary. In 1939, the Hebrew Community Center was opened on Washington Street. It housed the Peabody Hebrew School and provided space for the many Jewish organizations in Peabody. The Hebrew School and Community Center both closed in the 1970s due to declining membership. However, in 1979, the North Shore Jewish Community Center was established to serve the community’s needs. It was later re-named the North Suburban Jewish Community Center.
Peabody’s Jewish community formed numerous clubs and organizations. In 1907, the local branch of the Workmen’s Circle was established and remained active for many years. A local chapter of the Independent Order of B’rith Abraham was organized in 1913 and remained active until 1930. In 1916, the Maple Hill Cemetery Association was established and a burial ground on North Central Street was dedicated. In 1913, Jewish residents incorporated the Popular Credit Union – one of the first credit unions in the state – in order to provide financial assistance to new immigrants. Other charitable and religious organizations were formed, including B’nai B’rith, Hebrew Ladies Aid Society, Jewish Pioneer Women, Hadassah, Women’s ORT, and United Jewish Appeal.
- Material from the collection.
- First Jewish immigrants arrive in Peabody.
- Local chapter of Workmen’s Circle organized.
- Congregation Sons of Israel established.
- Peabody Hebrew School opens.
- Congregation Sons of Israel building dedicated.
- Local branch of Independent Order of B’rith Abraham organized.
- Popular Credit Union incorporated.
- Congregation Anshe Sfard established.
- Maple Hill Cemetery Association founded.
- Congregation Tifereth Israel chartered.
- Hebrew Community Center opens.
- Temple Beth Shalom established.
- Temple Ner Tamid established.
- Temple Beth Shalom building dedicated.
- Temple Ner Tamid building dedicated.
- Hebrew Community Center closes.
- Peabody Hebrew School closes.
- Congregation Anshe Sfrad closes.
- North Shore Jewish Community Center established.
1.25 linear feet (1 document box, 4 oversized folders )
This collection contains a range of materials documenting the Jewish community of Peabody, Mass. Included are materials on Jewish-owned businesses, Jewish individuals and families, and Jewish organizations in Peabody. The collection was established by the Jewish Heritage Center of the North Shore through many separate donations of materials relating to Peabody’s Jewish community.
Located in Boston, Mass.
Donated by the Jewish Heritage Center of the North Shore in 2013.
Processed by Lindsay Murphy, 2015
- Administrative records
- B'nai B'rith
- Clippings (information artifacts)
- Congregation Anshe Sfard (Peabody, Mass.)
- Congregation Sons of Israel (Peabody, Mass.)
- Congregation Tifereth Israel (Peabody, Mass.)
- Independent Order Brith Abraham of the United States of America
- Jewish businesspeople
- Jews -- Massachusetts -- Peabody
- Maple Hill Cemetery (Peabody, Mass.)
- North Shore (Mass. : Coast)
- Peabody (Mass.)
- Programs (documents)
- Synagogues -- Massachusetts -- Peabody
- Temple Beth Shalom (Peabody, Mass.)
- Temple Ner Tamid (Peabody, Mass.)
- Workmen’s Circle (U.S.)
- Guide to the Jewish Community of Peabody (Mass.) Records, I-581
- Processed by Lindsay Murphy
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script