A History of the Jewish Community in Cambridge
by Martin Federman, former Executive Director, Temple Beth Shalom of Cambridge
In the winter of 1994, having just become Director of "the Tremont Street Shul," I attended my first meeting of the committee which plans the City of Cambridge's Holocaust Commemoration Program. I was impressed with the fact that the city, through its Peace Commission, was so serious in its tradition of sponsoring this annual event, and also with the extent of the support from a wide spectrum of city agencies and commissions. As profoundly important as Holocaust Remembrance is, it seemed to me that this should not be the sole way in which we, Jews and non-Jews, define the particular identity of the Jewish community. In talking with a number of people, the idea of having some event or program which reflected the full sense of Jewish Community surfaced. Jim Field, CMAC's Executive Director, was especially responsive and soon the seeds which have flowered in this exhibit were sown.
At the same time I noted that our stationary included a line acknowledging "a Jewish presence in Cambridge since 1896." I began to look into this history and saw that, while there were Jews in Cambridge as early as the 17th century, an organized, identified community began at the end of the 19th century, flourishing in the early years of the 20th. With the help of a great number of people, and limited written sources, I was able to put together a sense of how this community developed, thrived, consolidated and revived. I also began to find a variety of fascinating and historically valuable objects and documents beginning to surface, stored for years in boxes, closets and old files. With the help of synagogue members, long time residents and newly interested souls, the idea of a Centennial Exhibit was born.
I especially want to thank James Field and the staff at CMAC. His openness, enthusiasm and wonderful sense of both history and aesthetics were the forces that made this exhibit happen.
by James Field, Director, Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center
In viewing this collection of photographs, documents and objects, one views pieces of the history of a community. The objects reflect a group of people with a clear but fluid sense of its own identity, and an interaction with the larger community around it. It is a community which came, substantially, from other places but developed a sense of itself which reflects a particular, even peculiar Cantebrigian flavor.
We learned, as the exhibit was being planned, that only small, and often isolated, attempts have been made to chronicle the history of the Jewish Community in Cambridge. As Marty Federman and I began to collect objects and material, as we researched the sources, a sense about this project surfaced. It was clear that no exhibit at this time could be the definitive display of the subject (consequently "A History" - not "The History of the Jewish Community in Cambridge"). While this was, in some ways, frustrating, it is also very exciting. The exhibit, as it is now constructed, has become part of an ongoing process of learning and discovery. Even as the exhibit is being mounted, conversations are leading to other conversations, with more and more suggestions of people to speak to, leads to follow, explorations to be made.
We see this exhibit as an organic, evolving process. We invite you to help identify the objects and their histories. We ask you to recognize the faces of the people in the photos. We urge you to share with us any other information, photographs, objects or documents you may have. Our expectation is that this exhibit, like the community it attempts, at least in part, to document, will evolve well into the future.
Martin Federman, Executive Director, Temple Beth Shalom of Cambridge
James Field, Executive Director, Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center
This exhibit could not have happened without the help of a large number of people.
We are particularly grateful to the following people and organization:
The Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency
The Cambridge Public Library, especially Elizabeth Dickenson
The Members and Friends of Temple Beth Shalom of Cambridge, especially the following people:
The following people who provided material, documents, photographs and information
Marty Federman would like to make a special mention of Sam Glott and Michael Diament who passed away in 1995. They were themselves important parts of the history of Jews in Cambridge and I valued the insights they gave me as I spoke with them sitting in their homes and at morning Minyan.
Matting by David Herwaldt
Web page design and HTML conversion by Arnold Reinhold 3/25/96 rev 4/9/97
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