A Century of Shalom

An Exhibit on The History of the Jewish Community in Cambridge

Sponsored by The Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center and the Cambridge Jewish Community

In February, 1996, A Century of Shalom, an exhibit highlighting the history of the organized Jewish Community in Cambridge, Massachusetts was shown at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center at 41 Second Street.

While Jews settled in Cambridge as early as the 17th or early 18th century, and some informal meetings for worship are recorded in the early 1890's, discussions of a formal congregation began in 1896. This led to the formation of at least three synagogues and a number of other institutions around the turn of the century. Congregation Anshai Sfard was chartered in 1898 as was the Cambridge Hebrew Ladies Educational Society (later the Cambridge Hebrew Women's Aid Society). By 1900 Congregation Beth Israel had been founded, followed in 1901 by groundbreaking for Cambridge's first synagogue, dedicated in 1903, as was the Cambridge/ Somerville Gemeleth Chesed Benevolent Society was founded to give interest-free loans. By 1906 Anshai Sfard began construction of a building and, in 1908, a group split from Congr. Beth Israel (in a dispute over modes of worship) and formed Temple Ashenaz.

Over the next decades the Jewish community thrived, with the creation of the Hebrew Literary Association (a private Hebrew School) in 1910, a group for Jewish men at MIT in 1914, the charter of Congregation Yavna in 1918, and the founding of a Jewish Tuberculosis Sanatorium (1927), Youth Group (early '30s), Jewish War Veterans Post (1932), and Hadassah Chapter (1937). In the mid-1940's both MIT and Harvard-Radcliffe instituted Hillel Foundations and by the early 1950's the need for a Jewish Community Center was identified, and a building was purchased in 1952. At the same time, numbers were dropping in the community and in 1957 Anshai Sfard merged into Beth Israel. This consolidation was completed in 1962 when Beth Israel and Temple Ashkenaz merged into the newly formed Temple Beth Shalom of Cambridge.

Today, following a revival of the community in the mid-1980's we have seen the creation of the Alef-Bet Child Care Center (housed at Temple Beth Shalom), the evolution of the Harvard Hillel Children's School into Congregation Eitz Chayim, the start of Kesher, the After-school Hebrew School of Cambridge and Havurah Or Chadash.

The exhibit highlighted this history through photos, documents,and objects. Material was gathered from a variety of sources, particularly Temple Beth Shalom and the Cambridge Historical Commission.

Narrative History of the Cambridge Jewish Community

Time Line of the Cambridge Jewish Community

Outline History of Temple Beth Shalom

Photos of the Exhibit

Exhibit Catalog


On-line version Arnold Reinhold 3/25/96
Rev. 2003-11-11