Guide to the Records of Temple Sinai, Swampscott (Mass.), undated, 1953-2005

Processed by Sarah Raykhtsaum

Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS

99-101 Newbury St.

Boston, MA 02116



© 2019  Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS, Boston, MA. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Sarah Raykhtsaum as MS Word document, July 2, 2014. Finding aid was encoded by Christine McEvilly on December 19, 2014. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Temple Sinai, Swampscott (Mass.)
Title: Temple Sinai, Swampscott (Mass.) Records
Dates:undated, 1953-2005
Abstract: Temple Sinai was founded in 1953 and became a hub of vibrant Jewish life on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Rabbi Meyer Strassfeld served as the congregation's spiritual leader from 1965-1989, and during this time he involved the community in the Soviet Jewry movement and led the dedication of a Torah scroll saved during the Holocaust. The collection contains many event flyers, booklets, and newspaper clippings that illustrate Temple Sinai's active community.
Languages: The collection is in English.
Quantity: .5 linear feet (1 manuscript box)
Identification: I-565
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
Location: Located in AJHS Boston, MA
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Historical Note

As vibrant Jewish communities began to emerge in the North Shore suburbs of Massachusetts, the Swampscott-Marblehead region became a significant hub of Jewish life, attracting many Jews from the nearby urban areas. Temple Israel of Swampscott had already been established by 1950, but as the Jewish population continued to increase, Temple Emmanuel, Temple Beth-El, and Temple Sinai were founded to accommodate the growing community.

Temple Sinai initially began solely as a religious school housed in a dilapidated building, but families wanted a better space for education and a stronger community, and the religious school grew into a congregation. In 1953, Dr. Louis Barron, Harold W. Cohen, Dr. Morris Cohen, Adrian Comins, and Harry Weinstein founded the new Temple Sinai building, housing the new congregation, which was comprised of only twenty families. That year was a big year: the Temple's Sisterhood held their first fundraising event, “Dancing under the Stars”; the first High Holiday services were held in September; membership doubled throughout the year; and the formal dedication ceremony was held in December. In 1954, the Temple held its first religious school graduation ceremony and in 1954, Rabbi Dov Zlotnick and Cantor Charles Law were hired. In 1957, Rabbi Jack Reimer and Cantor Henry Hearst replaced Rabbi Zlotnick and Cantor Law, and the Temple's Brotherhood was established. The congregation continued to grow, eventually outgrowing the building. In 1960, a decision was made to build a new building in Marblehead. Rabbi Aaron Weinberg took over in 1962. In the early 1960s, the Temple received a visit from Boston's Cardinal Robert Cushing, who publicly apologized for the Catholic Church's wrongdoings towards the Jews. Rabbi Meyer Strassfeld came to the congregation in 1965 and by the mid-sixties membership reached 230 families. In the 1960s, the Temple had its first service in remembrance of the Shoah during a Yom Kippur Yitzkor.

The following decade presented financial challenges for the congregation. In 1973 a bingo game night was introduced in the hopes that it would provide some income to help maintain the budget. The maintenance of the Hebrew School was costly, especially with declining enrollment. In 1975, Temple Sinai's religious school merged with the religious school of Ahabat Shalom in Lynn, followed by Temple Israel in Swampscott. That same year, the Temple implemented its Redemption Loan Plan which was ultimately successful in 1989. The seventies also brought a new debate for Conservative Judaism: the question of the roles of women in Jewish religious life. The Rabbinical Association of the Conservative Movement announced that each Conservative congregation was free to decide on their own rules for women, and following the trends of the time, Temple Sinai allowed women to be counted in a minyan and to participate in aliyot.1


1953 Temple Sinai is founded as a Hebrew School and becomes a congregation in July; first High Holiday services in September; Formal dedication in December.
1954 Temple gets their first Rabbi and Cantor–Rabbi Dov Zlotnick and Cantor Charles Law.
1957 New Rabbi and Cantor–Rabbi Jack Reimer and Cantor Henry Hearst.
1957 Temple Brotherhood established.
1960 Decision to build new building in Marblehead.
1962 Rabbi Aaron Weinberg replaces Rabbi Reimer.
Early 1960s Boston’s Cardinal Richard Cushing visits Temple Sinai and apologizes for what the Catholic Church had done to Jews in the past.
1965 Rabbi Meyer Strassfeld elected as spiritual leader.
1960s First service in remembrance of the Holocaust during Yom Kippur Yitzkor.
1973 Temple introduces a bingo game night to help raise money for the budget.
1975 Temple Sinai merges with Ahabat Shalom in Lynn, Temple Israel of Swampscott later joins as well; Temple Sinai Redemption Loan Plan is implemented.
1970s Debate on the role of women in Judaism. Temple Sinai allows women to participate in minyanim and aliyot.
1989 Rabbi and Ruth Strassfeld move to Florida.
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Scope and Content Note

This collection contains documents from various aspects of Temple Sinai's community life from 1953-2003. These documents include High Holiday prayer supplement booklets, religious school brochures, various event invitations and programs, dedication booklets, photographs, and a comprehensive summary of the Temple's history. The collection also contains newspaper clippings about Rabbi Strassfeld and his and his wife's activism during the Soviet Jewry movement and about the Temple's dedication of a Torah scroll saved during the Holocaust.

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The collection is arranged into a single series as follows:

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Collections and Engagement of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011

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Related Material

Ahabat Shalom, Lynn (Mass.) Records, I-568

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Temple Sinai, Swampscott (Mass.) Records; I-565; box number; folder number; Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS.

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Acquisition Information

Donated by the Jewish Heritage Center of the North Shore in 2013.

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Access Points

This collection is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Click the box in the request column to learn more about viewing materials at the Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS.


Series I: Temple Sinai, Swampscott (Mass.) Records, 1953-2003

Box 1, Folders 1-13.

Arranged alphabetically by type of material.

Scope and Content:

See Collection Scope and Content Note.

1 1 Bar Mitzvah Journal 1966 request_box
1 2 Dedication Ceremonies and Booklets 1953, 1962, 1974, 1990 request_box
1 3 Event invitations and programs 1960-1962, 1977, 1983. 1999 request_box
1 4 General Information Booklet and Temple History 1953, 1990 request_box
1 5 High Holiday Prayer Supplement and Booklets 1971, 1983-1996 request_box
1 6 Holocaust Torah Dedication—News Clippings 1981 request_box
1 7 Miscellaneous 1998, 2005 request_box
1 8 Photographs 1980-1981 request_box
1 9 Rabbi Strassfeld and Family 1976-1983 request_box
1 10 Religious School Brochures and Graduation Program 1954-1956, 1961 request_box
1 11 Services 1962, 1964 request_box
1 12 Silver Anniversary Journals 1978 request_box
1 13 Temple Sinai’s 50th Anniversary 2003 request_box
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