In 2013, we celebrated the 125th anniversary of the founding of the earliest of the Boston Synagogue’s predecessor shuls — Congregation Beth Jacob, founded in 1888. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the Synagogue Board formed an Archival/Historical Committee, which wrote a 260-page history book. It is the most authoritative history ever written about the synagogues of the West End. The book is available for purchase directly from the Synagogue, as well as on Amazon.com.
Much of what we have uncovered is quite fascinating and not widely known. Parts of it are funny — like the story of how some disgruntled Kosher butchers and a rejected suitor poisoned all 2,000 guests at the wedding of a rabbi’s daughter. Fortunately, no one died. We also interviewed former West End resident Leonard Nimoy, who among other things told us that the famous Vulcan salute comes from the priestly blessing that he observed as a teenager at one of our predecessor synagogue’s High Holiday services.
In some ways, the story of Boston Synagogue is the story of Boston generally: substantial growth due to immigration at the turn of the 20th century; followed by a long period of urban decline; then substantial resurgence as downtown Boston has become an increasingly attractive place for people to live. As such, we celebrate not just our synagogue, but also the entire downtown Boston community of which we are a part.
A few years ago, we established guidelines for adding artwork that complements the building’s modern design. We commissioned a new ark curtain designed by Joy Chertow, an art teacher at Solomon Schechter Day School in Newton, MA. The intricate and ornate quilting was done by Elana Schreiber, a science teacher at Schechter. The curtain was donated by Mark Schonfeld in memory of his late wife, Bobbie.
After numerous compliments about our ark curtain, we decided to commission a new wall hanging for our lobby entryway, in memory of our longstanding member Florence Wasserman. The Etz Hayim (tree of life) design with a representation of the city of Jerusalem, also designed by Joy Chertow, was chosen to represent the continuing attachment of generations of Jews worldwide to the land of Israel.
wallhangingAs part of our 125th anniversary, we created a high-resolution scan of the 1909 North Russell Street Mishna Society hand-illuminated cover page, and then created a set of enlargements from this work that now grace the sanctuary. It is a beautiful blend of the traditional and modern!