Guide to Researching Massachusetts Synagogues in Our Collections

The ark at Cambridge's Congregation Beth Israel, May 21, 1939. From the Congregation Beth Israel (Cambridge, Mass.) Records.

Compared to other states and regions of colonial America, the Massachusetts Jewish community formed relatively late. Though various Jewish individuals came and went through Massachusetts in the late 1600s and early 1700s, one of the first—though temporary—Jewish communities in the state was formed in 1777 in Leicester by Aaron Lopez, Jacob Rodriguez Rivera, and their families, who fled Newport, Rhode Island during the American Revolution. As the Jewish population grew and a permanent Jewish community began to form in the state, congregations were formed. The first Jewish congregation in Massachusetts—and the third oldest in New England—was Temple Ohabei Shalom, founded in 1842 in Boston (later relocating to Brookline). Massachusetts’ second Jewish congregation, Boston's Temple Israel, was founded in 1854 as a breakaway from Temple Ohabei Shalom. By the late 19th century and early 20th century, due to an influx of Jewish immigration to the United States—including Massachusetts—and the dispersal of the Jewish community throughout the state, hundreds of congregations were formed, catering to different communities, immigrant groups, and denominations. While many of these synagogues dissolved or merged throughout the years, today there are approximately 160 congregations serving Massachusetts’ nearly 300,000 Jewish residents. To view a list of all Massachusetts synagogues that have been recorded, please see Massachusetts Synagogues and Their Records, Past and Present by Carol Clingan of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston.

Our Collections

Beth Hamidrash Hagodol (Crawford Street Shul) (Roxbury, Boston, Mass.) Records, I-239
Beth Hamidrash Hagodol (known colloquially as the Crawford Street Shul), was founded in 1913 in a small house on Harold Street in Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts. In 1915, the cornerstone of the synagogue was placed at 105 Crawford Street in the Elm Hill District of Roxbury. The congregation elected Louis M. Epstein as their first Rabbi in 1918. This collection contains the business, activity and social records of Beth Hamidrash Hagodol, including correspondence, financial records, ledgers, yearbooks, souvenir books, and meeting minutes.  
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Congregation Adath Jeshurun (Boston, Mass.) Records, JHCI-002
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.

Congregation Ahabot Sholom (Lynn, Mass.) Records, I-568
Incorporated in 1901, Congregation Ahabat Sholom constructed a German Romanesque synagogue on Church Street, which was dedicated in 1905 during a ceremony lead by the congregation's first cantor, Benjamin Gordon. The congregation was one of Lynn’s several Jewish Orthodox congregations in the early 1900s. This collection contains administrative records, photographs, scrapbooks, and programmatic materials.
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Congregation Ahaveth Achim Anshe Sphard (Chelsea, Mass.) Records, I-222
Congregation Ahaveth Achim Anshe Sphard (also known as the Elm Street Synagogue) was an orthodox synagogue in Chelsea, Massachusetts. This collection contains a ledger with the congregation’s constitution, bylaws, and the minutes of two meetings. It also contains mortgage records and establishment of association forms for the congregation.

Congregation Anshai Sfard (Lynn, Mass.) Records, I-556
Congregation Anshai Sfard (Anshei, Anshe, Anshi) was a Hasidic, conservative Jewish Synagogue established by Jewish immigrants in Lynn, Massachusetts from 1888 to December 1999. This collection contains a letterpress printing block used to print the incorporation papers, a large "Golden Book of Congregation Anshei Sfard," which includes an illuminated manuscript with hand-painted and gold-leafed elements, a donor list, newspaper clippings, and photographs; meeting minutes, several family history scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, purchase and sales agreements, and photographs.
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Congregation Anshei Libovitz (Boston, Mass.) Records, I-103
Congregation Anshei Libovitz (alternatively referred to as Lebowitz, Libawitz, Libavitz, and Lebavitz) was founded in 1890 in Downtown Boston. The collection contains meeting minutes and financial records that provide information on the congregation’s membership and the day-to-day management of the synagogue.

Congregation Beth El-Atereth Israel (Newton, Mass.) Records, JHCI-007
Congregation Beth El-Atereth Israel is an Orthodox synagogue located in Newton, Massachusetts. The congregation was a joining of Congregation Beth El (also known as the Fowler Street Shul) in Dorchester and Congregation Atereth Israel in Roxbury. This collection contains banquet programs, yearbooks, and invitations.

Congregation Beth Israel (Baldwin Place Shul) (North End, Boston, Mass.) Records, I-131
Congregation Beth Israel began in 1888 when a group of young men spilt from Shomre Beth Abraham to form their own congregation. A year later they relocated to an old Baptist Church located on Baldwin Place in Boston's North End. The Baldwin Place synagogue housed a sanctuary on the ground floor as well as schools and meeting rooms in the space above. It was the largest shul in the North End and was considered the center of Boston Orthodoxy. Rabbi Moshe Zevulun Margolies presided over it and was considered to be the chief rabbi of Boston's Orthodox community. In 1920 it was disbanded. This collection contains records of the Congregation Beth Israel, 1887 and 1890. It includes a constitution booklet from 1887. Also in the collection is a deed of sale from 1890 and an indenture that pertains to the deed.

Congregation Beth Israel (Cambridge, Mass.) Records, I-51
Includes a copy of the constitution and a short history of the congregation; the minute books (1911-1923; 1939-1945) and financial records (1925-1937) of various activities of the synagogue and its relation with local, national and international Jewish events. Of special interest are the synagogue’s involvement in the providing of kosher meat in the Cambridge area, and its relation with the Cambridge and Somerville Hebrew Literary Association which maintained a Hebrew Free School. Minute book from the WWII period contains material on the congregation’s war effort and anti-Nazi and Zionist activities.
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Congregation B’nai Moshe (Brighton, Boston, Mass.) Records, JHCI-014
Congregation B’nai Moshe is a congregation located in Brighton, Boston, Massachusetts, formed in 1933. The congregation grew quickly and underwent several construction projects during its first two decades, moving from Chestnut Hill Avenue to Commonwealth Avenue, both in Brighton. This collection contains a souvenir booklet and dedication booklets produced by the congregation.

Congregation Mishkan Israel (Dorchester, Boston, Mass.) Records, I-114
This collection contains meeting minutes, financial records, mailing lists, stationary, programs, and invitations created by Congregation Mishkan Israel and its Ladies Auxiliary.

Congregation Mishkan Tefila (Chestnut Hill, Mass.) Records, I-462
Congregation Mishkan Tefila was founded in 1858 as Mishkan Israel, and is considered to be the oldest conservative synagogue in New England. Its founding members were East Prussian Jews who separated from Ohabei Shalom, which was predominately Polish at the time. In 1894, Mishkan Israel and another conservative synagogue, Shaarei Tefila, merged to form Congregation Mishkan Tefila. The synagogue moved its religious school to Walnut Street in Newton in 1955, and began planning for a new building in Chestnut Hill on Hammond Pond Parkway. The groundbreaking ceremony was on November 13, 1955. In 1958, services were held for the first time in the new synagogue building. This collection contains plays, annual reports, programs for events and dinners, and newsletters.

Congregation Ohave Sholom (Gardner, Mass.) Records, I-492
Congregation Ohave Sholom was formed on January 20, 1910 in Gardner, Massachuesetts. At the time the synagogue was built, Ohave Sholom had 20 families as members, but during World War I the population peaked, and 60 families held membership. However, by the 1970s membership began to decline and in 1998, with only 12 members remaining, the congregation dissolved.
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Congregation Tifereth Israel and Community Center Records (Everett, Mass.) Records, I-592
Congregation Tifereth Israel was founded in Everett in 1910 and dedicated their first synagogue in 1912. After working in close partnership for nearly 30 years, Congregation Tifereth Israel merged with Everett Hebrew School and Community School to become Congregation Tifereth Israel and Community Center in 1955. In 2016, Congregation Tifereth Israel and Community Center merged with the North Shore Chabad Lubavitch. This collection contains meeting minutes, news clippings, photographs, newsletters, and programs documenting the activities and operations of the synagogue, community center, and Hebrew school.

Hebrew Educational Alliance and Congregation Toras Moshe (Boston, Mass.) Records, I-231
The Hebrew Educational Alliance was formed in Roxbury, Massachusetts and built a community hall there in 1921, establishing an orthodox synagogue, Congregation Toras Moshe, soon after. The Congregation sold the land and merged with Congregation Kadimah of Brighton, MA in 1964 to form Congregation Kadimah-Toras Moshe. The collection contains administrative records, such as ledgers, insurance records, correspondence, and membership lists, as well as documents sent to members of the Congregation, including notices and souvenir booklets. There is also one small group of photographs.
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Jewish Historical Society of Western Massachusetts Records, I-600
The Jewish Historical Society of Western Massachusetts Records contain materials collected by the society that document the Jewish community of Western Massachusetts. Included are materials on Jewish organizations, families, individuals, schools, arts and cultural institutions, and synagogues; publications written about or by the Jewish community; and information on the Jewish Historical Society of Western Massachusetts itself. Synagogues in the collections include Beis Medrash Lubavitch (Longmeadow), Beit Ahavah (Florence), Congregation Ahavas Achim (Westfield), Congregation Beth Israel (Springfield), Congregation B’nai Israel (Northampton), Congregation B’nai Jacob (Springfield), Congregation Rodphey Sholom (Holyoke), Congregation Sons of Israel (Springfield), Congregation Sons of Zion (Holyoke), Jewish Community of Amherst (Amherst), Sinai Temple (Springfield), Temple Beth El (Springfield), and Temple Israel (Greenfield), as well as Congregation Beth Israel, Congregation Kesser Israel, and Congregation Kodimoh, which in 2008 all merged to form Congregation B’nai Torah (Springfield).

Kehillath Israel Synagogue (Brookline, Mass.) Records, I-488
Includes a copy of the constitution and a short history of the congregation; the minute books (1911-1923; 1939-1945) and financial records (1925-1937) of various activities of the synagogue and its relation with local, national and international Jewish events. Of special interest are the synagogue’s involvement in the providing of kosher meat in the Cambridge area, and its relation with the Cambridge and Somerville Hebrew Literary Association which maintained a Hebrew Free School. Minute book from the WWII period contains material on the congregation’s war effort and anti-Nazi and Zionist activities.
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Morris Finkelstein and Temple Emanuel (Newton, Mass.) Papers, P-859
Temple Emanuel Congregation was founded in Newton, Massachusetts in 1935. It is part of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), and has over 1,100 families in its congregation. Morris Finkelstein became president of the Congregation in 1972 and served until 1975. Main material types include correspondence, governance, membership lists and speeches.
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Steven Kellerman Synagogue Photographs Collection, P-931
At the time these photographs were taken in 1981 and 1985, Steven Kellerman was a machinist with an interest in synagogue history. This particular collection of photographs started with Kellerman’s visits to former synagogues in Dorchester and Roxbury, Massachusetts; the project expanded to include most of Massachusetts and other states.
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Synagogue Council of Massachusetts Records, I-454 
The Synagogue Council of Massachusetts was founded in 1941 as the Associated Synagogues of Greater Boston (and later the Associated Synagogues of Massachusetts). The documents in this collection describe the proceedings and activities of the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts, as well as those of its affiliated organizations, including the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, the Rabbinical Association of Greater Boston, the Kashruth Commission, the Beth Din, and the Jewish Chaplaincy Council. This collection contains meeting minutes, correspondence, flyers, brochures, pamphlets, reports, financial documents, photographs, scrapbooks, news clippings, directories, and newsletters. 

Temple Israel of Swampscott and Marblehead (Mass.) Records, I-574
Temple Beth El was founded in Lynn in 1924. In 1946, members of the congregation split off to form Temple Israel, and in 1968, Temple Beth El expanded from its Lynn location to Swampscott. The two temples reunited in 2005 to become Congregation Shirat Hiyam. This collection contains documents related to many areas of synagogue life, including general membership, the music program, the Religious School, temple governance, and the Sisterhood.

Temple B'nai Abraham (Beverly, Mass.) Records, I-573
Temple B’nai Abraham is a Conservative congregation, originally founded in Beverly, Massachusetts in 1908 as the Sons of Abraham. The Hebrew Community Center was annexed to the synagogue in 1930 and incorporated social groups, such as the Sisterhood and the Beverly Lodge of B’nai B’rith. The congregation expanded to a new location in 1962 and officially changed their name to Temple B’nai Abraham. The collection was formed by a former president of the Sisterhood and contains Temple B’nai Abraham programs and announcements, Sisterhood newsletters, and photographs.

Temple B'nai Israel (Revere, Mass.) Records, I-221
Temple B’nai Israel is a synagogue, established in the Beachmont neighborhood of Revere, Massachusetts in 1906. The congregation’s associated cemetery is located on Fuller Street in Everett. The collection consists of minutes from meetings of the congregation, Board of Directors, and miscellaneous other groups and committees, along with correspondence related to the synagogue and the Temple Israel Burial Society.

Temple B'nai Jacob (Lexington, Mass.) Records, I-102
Temple B'nai Jacob was an Orthodox synagogue on Sylvia Street in Lexington, Massachusetts. Their first service was held on Passover in 1916. Although this congregation is no longer operational, two synagogues in Lexington—Temple Emunah (Conservative) and Temple Isaiah (Reform)—have their roots in Temple B'nai Jacob. This collection contains one financial ledger in English and Yiddish.

Temple Emanuel (Andover, Mass.) Records, I-442 and I-422A
Temple Emanuel was founded in 1920 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. It began by serving a small immigrant Jewish community that has since grown to an affluent and lively congregation of about 600 families. This growth occurred largely under the tenure of Rabbi Harry A. Roth, who lead the congregation from 1962 until 1990 and oversaw the temple’s move to Andover, Massachusetts. This collection includes correspondence, photographs, and sermons.

Temple Israel (Boston, Mass.) Records, I-458
Temple Israel was founded as Congregation Adath Israel in 1854 when a group of German Jews broke from Congregation Ohabei Shalom. The congregation was also known as the Pleasant Street Synagogue. In 1859, the congregation purchased cemetery land in Wakefield, Massachusetts. The synagogue was, and remains, a Reform congregation, and has been home to well known Rabbis, including Joshua Loth Liebman and Roland B. Gittelsohn. This collection contains flyers, newsletters, pamphlets, sermons and a yearbook.

Temple Israel of Swampscott and Marblehead (Mass.) Records, I-597
Temple Israel of Swampscott and Marblehead was founded in 1946 by former members of Temple Beth El in Lynn. The new congregation purchased land at 837 Humphrey Street in Swampscott in 1947, and the synagogue and school stood at this location until the unification of Temple Israel and Temple Beth El in 2005. The collection contains administrative documents, records from the Brotherhood and Sisterhood organizations and the Hebrew School, publications, photographs of the synagogue and its membership, and documents related to the groundbreaking ceremony for the new temple building in 1955.

Temple New Tamid (Peabody, Mass.) Records, I-561
Temple Ner Tamid was founded in 1959 by local Jewish families who wanted a conservative synagogue in their home town of Peabody, Mass. Following its inception the congregation was able to buy a tract of land and raise money for construction of the temple, which was completed in 1965. Included are correspondence and other mailings, event programs, seating charts, temple by-laws, a Landscaping Committee record book, meeting and expense reports, and membership lists.
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Temple Ohabei Shalom (Brookline, Mass.) Records, I-459
Temple Ohabei Shalom was founded on February 26, 1843 by several Boston Jewish families, and is the first synagogue established in Massachusetts. After meeting in the homes of both a founding congregant and the first elected Rabbi, Abraham Saling, Ohabei Shalom dedicated its first building on Warren (now Warrenton) Street in Boston in 1852. In 1855, the German Jewish congregants left Ohabei Shalom and founded Congregation Adath Israel (now Temple Israel in Boston.) The Polish Jewish congregants maintained the name Ohabei Shalom and the cemetery land in East Boston. In 1858, East Prussian Jews also left the congregation, forming Die Israelitische Gemeinde Mishkan Israel (now Miskhan Tefila in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.) This collection contains flyers, programs and tickets for events as well as copies of bulletins and newsletters, such as Brotherhood Bulletin, Stars and Stripes, Temple Bulletin and Temple Tidings.
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Temple Shalom of the Congregation Sons of Jacob (Salem, Mass.) Records, I-553
Temple Shalom is an Egalitarian Conservative Synagogue in Salem, Massachusetts, formerly called the Sons of Jacob. The congregation was formed by European Jewish immigrants in the Salem area in 1898. This collection includes photographs of congregation members and activities, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, meeting minutes, and various publications.
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Temple Sinai (Swampscott, Mass.) Records, I-565
Temple Sinai was founded in 1953 and became a hub of vibrant Jewish life on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Rabbi Meyer Strassfeld served as the congregation's spiritual leader from 1965-1989, and during this time he involved the community in the Soviet Jewry movement and led the dedication of a Torah scroll saved during the Holocaust. The collection contains many event flyers, booklets, and newspaper clippings that illustrate Temple Sinai's active community.
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Vilna Shul (Boston, Mass.) Records, I-598
The Vilna Shul is the last immigrant-era synagogue building in Boston and currently operates as a cultural center. This collection contains correspondence, meeting minutes, reports, proposals, photographs, notes, publications, financial records, legal documents, architectural plans, and audiovisual materials relating to the activities, internal proceedings, finances, early history, building renovations, and legal disputes of the Vilna Shul.

Other Resources

Jewish Virtual Library - Massachusetts Jewish History

Jewish Historical Society of Western Massachusetts

Jewish Heritage Center of the North Shore

Massachusetts Synagogues and Their Records, Past and Present

Temple Israel of Boston Archives

West End Museum