Our Featured Member synagogue for June 2007 is Congregation Agudas Achim-Anshe Sfard (the Adams Street Shul), an Orthodox congregation in Newton. We are pleased to recognize the Adams Street Shul in honor of its 95th anniversary.
The Adams Street Shul is an independent, historic Orthodox synagogue in the Nonantum section of Newton serving a diverse congregation and the broader community. The oldest synagogue in Newton, the Adams Street Shul has a rich and interesting history. It is the third oldest synagogue in New England (some congregations may be older, but they have moved from town to town, and into new buildings). For generations, the small neighborhoo of Nonantum attracted a religious and ethnic mix which has given it a character all its own, a character cherished by its residents.
From 1880 to 1920, worsening pogroms throughout Eastern Europe sparked massive Jewish immigration to America. Jews came to New York and to New England from Russia, the Ukraine, and the old Austro-Hungarian Empire.
It was not long after the first Jewish families arrived in Nonantum that there were enough of them within walking distance of one another for a Minyan. They had come to America as refugees, with nothing, and could not afford to build a synagogue. To hold religious services, they met in each other's homes for over a decade.
In 1909, the "Hungarians," a group composed predominantly but not exclusively of the store owners, incorporated Knesses Israel Anshei Sfard. They bought the house at 97 Dalby Street (the house next door to Lafayette Hall) and used it as a synagogue. This was the first synagogue in Newton, but it lasted only a few years, and in 1914 the house was sold and the remaining members joined Agudas Achim Anshei Sfard, the Adams Street Shul, which had been incorporated in 1911.
The leaders of the newly chartered congregation circulated a pledge book which began with a fascinating handwritten "History of the Community and Statement of Purpose". Construction began on August 4, 1912. As far as we know, there was no architect, and no one can remember the name of the building contractor, but he seems to have come from outside Newton. The completed Adams Street Shul was opened with much public celebration on Chanukah of 1912. So our annual Chanukah party is also our birthday party!
Today, we provide a place for learning and spiritual growth, and a social environment where we celebrate life-cycle events. We are building on the traditions of our founders and providing a link to the Jewish past. We are a haimish , warm, caring, welcoming community, where everyone can contribute and be active in the life of the congregation.
For additional information, contact the synagogue office at 617-630-0226 or visit us at www.adamsstreet.org.
168 Adams Street