בית הכנסת בוילנה, בוסטון המרכז לתרבות יהודית, The Vilna Shul, Boston's Center for Jewish Culture

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The Vilna Shul, Boston's Center for Jewish Culture.jpg
The Vilna Shul, Boston's Center for Jewish Culture.jpg
The Vilna Shul, Boston's Center for Jewish Culture.jpg
4.50 (1 review)
18 Phillips St, Boston, MA 02114, United States
18 Phillips Street Boston Massachusetts 02114 US

Our Rich History

Eastern European Jewish immigrants arrived to the city of Boston in large numbers beginning in the 1880s. With little or no income, they looked to rebuild their old communities anew in the United States. Many Jews decided to settle in crowded, undesirable tenement neighborhoods like the North and West Ends of Boston where cheaper housing was available. There Jews often formed a landsmanschaft – an organization of re-settled people originally from the same area in Europe.
This was the case for a group of Jewish immigrants from Vilna Guberniya – the county outside of present-day Vilnius, Lithuania – who formed a landsmanschaft in 1893 on the north slope of Beacon Hill in Boston's West End. They prayed together, gathering a minyan – ten men needed to hold a complete Jewish prayer service – in the homes of their members. As their membership increased and they formed a traditional Jewish congregation, they needed a permanent synagogue. They called themselves Anshei Vilner or “the People of Vilnius" and sought a new home for their group.
As the number of immigrants moving to Beacon Hill increased and landowners built tenements to house them, the 150 year-old African American community living there began to move away. Buildings emerged on the market and in 1909, Anshei Vilner purchased the former 12th Baptist Church (est. 1848) at 45 Phillips Street and turned it into their synagogue. After ten years of worship at 45 Phillips Street, the city of Boston purchased the synagogue from Anshei Vilner for $20,000 and demolished the building to make way for the expansion of the Wendell Phillips School.
On December 11, 1919, Anshei Vilner laid the cornerstone for its new building at 18 Phillips Street. The congregation employed the only Jewish architect in the city, Max Kalman, and young men in the community helped with the construction. Vilner congregants painted the walls and ceiling of their new synagogue with decorative murals, a long-standing tradition of Eastern European Jews. Three distinct sets of murals covered the walls of the Vilna Shul, although these paintings were later covered over with beige paint. Today they are some of the only examples of pre-war Jewish mural art in the United States.
For 65 years, the congregation prayed at 18 Phillips Street, but in 1950 life rapidly changed in the West End. The city destroyed the West End in an urban renew project, leaving places like the Vilna as one of the only synagogues in the area. As most of the Jewish community had long since left Beacon Hill for more desirable neighborhoods and open space, the Vilner became a synagogue for those "left" on the Hill. The last remaining member of Anshei Vilner, Mendel Miller, held a Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) service in the synagogue for the last time in 1985.
Today the Shul is a little different. We are a cultural center, a place where the history of Boston's Jews can be shared and enjoyed by everyone and where Boston Jewish life thrives once again.

לחנים מיוחדים
4.5

Barnet KesselBarnet brings over twenty-four years of managerial experience and exceptional leadership in the Jewish community to the Vilna Shul. Before coming to the Vilna, Barnet was vice president of commercial products at Mantua Manufacturing Company. He has also volunteered at CJP for nearly a decade as well as for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Barnet currently sits on the board of directors of Jewish Community Relations Council and of the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts. He holds a B.S. from Syracuse University's School of Management and lives in Newton with his wife Nava and two children.

  • ספרים למנויים
    Great place. Peggy – the local guide, showed us the place and explained a lot. She was very responsive to all of our questions. As a causal Jewish male, i highly recommend this place.!
  • ספרים למנויים
    friends of mine got married here a while ago. it is absolutely gorgeous. definitely go and visit!
  • ספרים למנויים
    Some of the plaster has been chipped away and the paint is peeling. Remnants of once ornate, beautiful and colorful murals can be seen dancing across the walls. The counter weighted windows are old and sometimes hard to operate. There are quick-fix patches adorning the walls and ceiling. The benches pre-date the building, are wooden and mildly uncomfortable after a while. Lanterns line the bimmah and surround the platform from where the service is conducted. The ornately carved wooden arch spans between two windows at the front of the room. The eternal light shines through two hands, each forming the letter shin as the Kohanim would. (picture "live long and prosper") With 15'-20' ceilings, the ancient text soars and resonates throughout the room. A large skylight over the platform allows natural light to pour in and highlight those leading the service. If it weren't for the attire of yourself and those around you, you could think yourself back 100 years ago. There is no actual congregation anymore. As it stands now, all efforts surrounding Vilna are entirely community based. They hold Friday night services about once a month. The service is fairly traditional with very little English, but is fully egal. After the service, they have a speaker followed by dinner. The speakers range in topics and often pull from personal experience that, typically and not unexpectedly, are connected to Judaism. Last year was the first time in about 20 years that they offered services on Yom Kippur. This year they held services for both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. They ask a donation for all services attended…this money goes towards covering costs and rejuvenating the building. Even if you're not Jewish, I strongly encourage paying Vilna a visit…be it for the architecture, its place in Boston History, the installations downstairs or just to broaden your horizon. The only reason I give 4 stars instead of 5 is because I wish they had services more than once a month…. unfortunately, I'm usually busy that week.
  • ספרים למנויים
    One of Boston's hidden gems! Enjoy a personalized tour of this historic synagogue with beautiful murals being discovered and immigrant stories being told, attend one of their many FREE events, or gather for one of the worship and spiritual services offered monthly. A great destination for anyone, Bostonians or tourists alike, to learn more about Boston, immigration, history, and Judaism. Very welcome to everyone, including non-English speakers. For a suggested donation of $3-$5 (free most events and for those who don't have that much), it is a unique and wonderful place which is well worth a visit!
  • ספרים למנויים
    The Vilna Shul is the last remaining immigrant era synagogue in Boston. It's a beacon of Bostonian Jewish History in what little remains of the original West End neighborhood. Once a synagogue (where my grandfather was bar mitzvahed!), it's now an awesome museum. Rachel, the Program Director, puts on great events ranging from Yiddish film series to lectures about social entrepreneurship – pretty cool! Once a month, there's a Shabbat service you can attend known as Havurah on a Hill. It's pretty interesting to see such a young crowd (generally congregants are in their twenties and thirties) in such an old building. While I've only gone to HOH once, it was really fun and everyone was so nice. It's also a really neat architectural structure in itself – from the lightbulb-laden chandeliers to the layers of murals painted over one another (they just won a huge grant to uncover the murals from American Express!), it's definitely a trip back in time.
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