Guide to the Records of the Congregation Beth Israel-Cambridge, MA,
undated, 1911-1946, 1951 (bulk 1911-1946)

Reprocessed by Judith Garner and Stephanie Call

Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS

99-101 Newbury St.

Boston, MA 02116



© 2020  Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS, Boston, MA. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Marvin Rusinek as MS Word document, October 27, 2008. Finding aid was encoded by Marvin Rusinek on October 29, 2008. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Congregation Beth Israel-Cambridge, MA
Title: Congregation Beth Israel-Cambridge, MA, records
Dates:1911-1945, 1951 (bulk 1911-1945)
Abstract: Includes a copy of the constitution and a short history of the congregation; the minute books (1911-1923; 1939-1945) and financial records (1925-1937) of various activities of the synagogue and its relation with local, national and international Jewish events. Of special interest are the synagogue’s involvement in the providing of kosher meat in the Cambridge area, and its relation with the Cambridge and Somerville Hebrew Literary Association which maintained a Hebrew Free School. Minute book from the WWII period contains material on the congregation’s war effort and anti-Nazi and Zionist activities.
Languages: The collection is in English.
Quantity: 1.75 linear feet (3 manuscript boxes, 1 1/2 manuscript box)
Identification: I-51
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
Location: Located at AJHS, Boston, MA.
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Historical Note1

Congregation Beth Israel, an Orthodox synagogue, was founded in 1901 and was once considered the oldest synagogue in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was founded by Israel Nesson, who was the Congregation's first president, serving from 1901-1905. In 1934, Mrs. Edward Shain organized the Sisterhood of the Congregation.

In 1939, the Congregation was renovated under the chairmanship of Harry Bond. The synagogue was re-dedicated on May 21st of that year. One year later they celebrated their 40th anniversary with a burning of the mortgage. In 1962, the Congregation merged with Anshe Sfard of Somerville to become Congregation Beth Shalom. The former site of Congregation Beth Israel is now home to condominiums.

1 Historical Note based on documents in the Congregation Beth Israel-Cambridge, MA papers and the website, "On the First Cambridge Synagogue", published September 9, 2002 and located at


1901Israel Nesson becomes the founding president of Congregation Beth Israel.
1934The Sisterhood of the Congregation is started by Mrs. Edward Shain.
1939Renovations are completed on the building.
1940Congregation Beth Israel celebrates its 40th anniversary.
1962Congregation Beth Israel and Anshe Sfard merge to become Congregation Beth Shalom.
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Scope and Content Note

This collection primarily includes minutes of Directors meetings and financial records of the Congregation, which provide some details on its short history. Miscellaneous materials, including a single photograph of the Temple's interior and a brief history written to celebrate the merging of the two synagogues, rounds out the collection.

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The collection is arranged in three series, as described below:

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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 Executive Director 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

Cambridge Hebrew Women's Aid Society

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Congregation Beth Israel-Cambridge, MA, records; I-51; box number; folder number; Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS.

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Acquisition Information

Gift of Congregation Beth Israel and Meyer H. Goldman.

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Access Points

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: Governance, undated, 1911-1946

The Series is in English.
.5 linear feet. Box 1.

Alphabetical by sub-series and chronological.

Scope and Content:

This series contains records on Congregation Beth Israel’s constitution and by-laws, as well as original and copies of minutes from Directors’ meetings. A list of officers from an unspecified date is also included.

1 1 Constitution and By-Laws undated request_box
1 2-5 Directors Meetings/Minutes 1911-1946 request_box
1 6-7 Directors Meetings/Minutes: Copies 1939-1946 request_box
1 8 Officers/Board of Directors undated request_box
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Series II: Financial Records, 1925-1945

The Series is in English.
1 linear foot. Boxes 2-3.

Alphabetical by sub-series and chronological.

Scope and Content:

This series contains the financial ledgers detailing receipts and disbursements and general accounts for the Congregation. A financial annual report from 1945 is also included.

2 1 Annual Report & Accounts 1945 request_box
2 2-4 Ledgers/Receipts & Disbursements 1925-1939, 1935-1937 request_box
3 1-4 Ledgers/General 1929-1936 request_box
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Series III: General, undated, 1939, 1943, 1945, 1951

The Series is in English.
.25 linear feet. Box 4.

Alphabetical by sub-series and chronological.

Scope and Content:

This series contains some miscellaneous documents regarding historical information, the Golden Jubilee and pew sales. A photograph of the Temple’s interior is also included.

4 1 Congregation Historical Sketch undated request_box
4 2 Golden Jubilee/Programs 1951 request_box
4 3 Miscellaneous Documents undated request_box
4 4 Pew Sales, Memorial Tablet Contracts 1943, 1945 request_box
4 5 Photograph/Temple Interior 1939 request_box
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