Guide to the Congregation Adath Jeshurun (Boston, Mass.) Records

undated, 1916-1991

alt text


JHCI-0002


Processed by Amir Zelinger

Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS

99-101 Newbury Street

Boston, Massachusetts 02116

Phone: (617) 226-1245

Email: jhcreference@nehgs.org

Website: jewishheritagecenter.org

© 2019, Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS. All rights reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Amir Zelinger in January 2019. Finding aid was encoded by Amir Zelinger and Lindsay Sprechman in January 2019. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Congregation Adath Jeshurun (Boston, Mass.)
Title: Congregation Adath Jeshurun (Boston, Mass.) Records
Dates: undated, 1916-1991
Abstract:
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.
Languages:   The collection is in English.
Quantity: .5 linear feet (1 manuscript box)
ID:   JHCP-0002
Repository: Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS
Location: Located in Boston, Mass.

The congregation's revised constitution and bylaws from 1956.

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

Gamm, Gerald. Urban Exodus: Why the Jews Left Boston and the Catholics Stayed. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Heath, Richard. "The House of the Flock of the Righteous: The Song of Synagogue Adath Jeshurun." American Jewish Historical Society, 1991.

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. 

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.


Arrangement

The collection is arranged into a a single series as follows:

  • Series I: Congregation Adath Jeshurun (Boston, Mass.) Records, undated, 1916-1991

Access and Use

Access Restrictions

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.

Use Restrictions

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


Related Material

Abraham Kamberg Papers, P-148
Wyner Family Papers, P-803


Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Congregation Adath Jeshurun (Boston, Mass.) Records; JHCI-0002; box number; folder number; Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS, Boston, Mass.


Acquisition Information

Donated by Justin L. Wyner.


Access Points

This collection is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.

Subject Names:

Subject Organizations:

Subject Topics:

Subject Places:

Document Types:


Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Series I: Congregation Adath Jeshurun (Boston, Mass.) Records, undated, 1916-1991

Arrangement:

Arranged alphabetically.

Scope and Content:

See Collection Scope and Content Note.

Box Folder Title Date
1 1 Constitution and Bylaws 1956
1 2 Cemetery Photographs  undated
1 3 Financial Records 1961-1966
1 4 History undated
1 5 List of Officers and Directors of Cemetery Association undated
1 6 Minute Book 1946-1953
1 7 Minute Book 1953-1966
1 8 Miscellaneous 1916-1991