North Adams Synagogues

"Their way to religious freedom."

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    The Greek word "synagogue" denotes “an assembly of people” or “a place of assembly.” In ancient times, it was at the Temple that much of the sacred ritual took place, and what we would now call a synagogue was a place of learning and group worship. But ever since the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, synagogues have been the places of worship for Jews around the world.” (

       Just three years after the arrival of the first Jewish immigrants, the first synagogue in North Adams was established. The first being the House of Israel, which was established in the late 1880s. This synagogue was later re-named United House of Israel. Another synagogue included Congregation Beth Israel.

        Other than business opportunities, Jewish immigrants came here in search of religious freedom. While in Russia, Jews did not have any sort of religious freedom. Wars and battles were breaking out all over Russia. Many of these were directed towards Jews because of their religious beliefs. Jews were seen as out-cast during the late 1800s. When they arrived, Jews organized several religious groups. Eventually these groups created the synagogues that are not present in North Adams. These synagogues gave the Jews the religious freedom they were looking for.

         However, no one had been able to find exact records of Jewish religious activities. That is until 1888, when newspaper accounts were found. These accounts gave details about their high Holiday activities. " Our community's first members adhered to the orthodox, Ashkenazic tradition that their fathers in Eastern Europe and Russia had practiced. They followed the common practice of meeting for services in private homes, and renting halls for High Holiday services. By May 26, 1893,this small group felt itself sufficiently well established to purchase a plot of land on Francis Street from Emily P.Witt for $500."  ( This land soon became the spot for the very first synagogue in North Adams.

         A second group of Jewish immigrants established another synagogue in 1909. They purchased a house and turned in into the Chevra Chai Adorn Synagogue, on Ashland Street. “In February 1909, represented by Hyman S. Katsch, Morris B. Hirsh, Herman Jacobs, Mark Cotton, and Morris Silverman, purchased half acre of land for use as a cemetery from Richard Hewat in Clarksburg, just north of the cemetery owned by the House of Israel. In October, this group, represented by Louis Stone, Hyman Jacobs, Robert Green, H. S. Katsch, Barnard Cotton, B. Carr, Max Wein, Louis S. Simon, and Alter Melcher, purchased a home on Ashland Street from Nelson Robare for $2800. The Congregation converted the house to a synagogue which remained in use until the early 1960s.” (

   These were not the only synagogues that were to be established. Between the years 1920 and 2001, three more synagogues were created. The most recent being the Congregation Beth Israel on Lois Street. The other two synagogues were the Synagogue of United House of Israel, on Center Street; and the Synagogue of Congregation Beth Israel (first one), on Church Street.

Above is a picture that includes four of the first synagogues, from 1893, (shadowed) and a picture of the most recent synagogue (Congregation Beth Israel, built in 2001).

[Picture courtesy of]