Boston Synagogue, the only remaining Synagogue in downtown Boston, is
heir to a strong and vibrant tradition of Jewish life in Boston's West
At the beginning of the twentieth century, this neighborhood teemed with
Jewish life and supported the many institutions which enriched that life.
There were at least fourteen Synagogues, settlement houses, health clinics
and a wide variety of organizations working for the betterment of the
entire Jewish community. Members of these organizations raised money for
an old age home, hospitals and a home for homeless Jews.
Out of these grass roots organizations grew the sophisticated infrastructure
of our Jewish community today.
Auxiliary North Russell Street Shul
Purim Play 1931
Salem Street Jewish North End 1891
The earliest of these many Synagogues was the Beth Jacob Synagogue founded
in 1888. As the Jewish population of the West End grew with increasing
immigration, many more shuls were founded.
The neighborhood, teeming with Jewish life, began to decline as Jews began
to move to the suburbs. By 1941 the two remaining Shuls in the West End,
Beth Jacob and the North Russell Street Shul, merged to serve the remaining
Jews who lived in the West End. By the 1940's the West End was no longer
a major center of Jewish life in Boston.
On April 25, 1958, the residents of the West End received official notices
from the city of Boston that their entire neighborhood, including houses
of worship, would be taken over by the city by eminent domain, as a first
step of an "urban renewal" to make the area a better place to
live. The remaining Jews, like all their neighbors, quickly packed up
and left and hoped that the promises of the city to provide them better
housing would materialize. However, the one remaining Synagogue was offered
meagre compensation, not enough to build a new Shul.
Without the heroic insistence of Maurice Saval, a member of the Synagogue
who fought for sufficient funds from the city to build a new building
in Charles River Park, this congregation, dating from 1888, would not
have survived. Without his continuing help and without the support of
many others of the old West End community, there would be no Synagogue
in downtown Boston today. We would not have been able to serve the new
community of Jews who have moved into our area. We would not be here to
lead the renewal of Jewish life in this most historic section of our city.
Due to their efforts, a new synagogue was erected at our current 55 Martha Road location in June 1970.