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Our History

Temple Beth Shalom was established when Temple Ashkenaz and Congregation Beth Israel merged in 1962. The merged shul chose  the newer Temple Ashkenaz building at 8 Tremont Street. The name was changed to Temple Beth Shalom, in part to mark a new spirit of community cooperation. We are also widely known as the Tremont Street Shul or TBS.

As members of the original Cambridge Jewish community migrated to the suburbs, the synagogues in Cambridge consolidated in stages. The Tremont Street Shul was the last of original congregations to remain in operation. A spread in Life magazine documented the ceremonial procession of Torah scrolls.

In the early 1970s, Rabbi Ben Zion Gold led a group of students from Harvard Hillel to Tremont Street to have a joint Simchat Torah celebration with Reb Moshe. Other local colleges joined in following years. Helped by the success of this annual event, the shul began to attract new members from the young families in the greater Cambridge area and has grown steadily since then.  

Our shul underwent a major renovation in 1987, with our basement vestry reconfigured to be the home of the Alef-Bet Child Care, founded at that time. A second renovation in 1994 transformed our balcony into a convertible classroom, and an office was added in 2004. Meticulous care was taken during each renovation to conserve our building’s historic character. We think our main sanctuary is one of the Jewish architectural jewels of the greater Boston area. Come and see for yourself!

The predecessors of Temple Beth Shalom include:

  • Congregation Anshai — organized in 1896, chartered in 1898, and soon afterwards established in their building at 83 Webster Avenue in Somerville. The congregation merged into Beth Israel in 1957.

  • Congregation Beth Israel organized 1900, building at 238 Columbia St, now condominiums. Its activities are documented in The Golden Book, now on-line below.

  • Temple Ashkenaz split off from Beth Israel over the issue of Ashkenazi vs. Sephardic ritual in 1908; the building at 8 Tremont Street, originally the home of Joshua Kaplan, was torn down and a new building (our current shul) was erected 1924.

For more information see A Century of Shalom — an exhibit on the history of the Jewish Community in Cambridge.

The Ausblick

For many years The Ausblick was our shul newsletter, published several times a year. We are planning to resume publication in some form and are assembling an archive of past issues which we hope to place on line in the near future. If you would like to help, contact Ellen Birnbaum (ebirnbaum78@gmail.com) and start thinking about articles we might include in future issues. Here is a sample front page from 2011.

 

Reb Moshe

Rabbi Moses Holcer z’’l (1912-2004) together with his wife, Frieda, kept our synagogue alive during the migration of the Cambridge Jewish community to the suburbs and became our spiritual spark plug as our congregation regrew and began to prosper again, telling everyone to “Come more often, bring more friends.” 

THE GOLDEN BOOK

The large book case on our Sanctuary Bimah holds a Golden Book started by a predecessor shul, Congregation Beth Israel. The case is broken and needs repairs and opening it can further the damage. But we have photographed each page and the collection is available at this link. Only the last few pages have information about TBS, from 1983.

 

Sat, February 24 2024 15 Adar I 5784