01 May 2009

Massachusetts: Plymouth's Jewish history

Plymouth Rock, the Pilgrims, the Wampanoags ... and the Jews?

The Jewish history of the historic town includes the 100th anniversary of Congregation Beth Jacob (CBJ) this weekend. From services to trolley tours of Jewish Plymouth, the community has organized an interesting celebration. Descendants of the congregation's founding families will come from all over the country - including California, Maryland, New York, and Texas - to participate, according to a story on Boston.com.

To commemorate the history, the congregation is asking past and present members and members of the public to share any memorabilia they might have from CBJ's 100-year history. They are looking for documents or photos of weddings, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, Hadassah, B'nai B'rith or other historical items. Call 508-746-1575 if you have such material to share.

Several members have been researching the synagogue's history and have identified dozens of places in Plymouth where Jews lived and worked.

Karin Goldstein, a 17-year CBJ member, will lead two sold-out trolley tours of the landmarks on Sunday. She is the curator of original collections at Plimoth Plantation and holds a PhD in American studies from Boston University.

She has gone through street directories, vital records and censuses to put together a picture of the community, from around 1890-1935.

The Jewish community has been a presence in Plymouth since the 1880s. Over the years, they've opened businesses and built homes, stores, and offices, among other enterprises.

Congregation Beth Jacob, known among members simply as CBJ, built the first and only synagogue in Plymouth. The temple today serves not just Plymouth but also a dozen neighboring towns; other synagogues are 15 to 20 miles away. CBJ members drive in from Carver, Halifax, Hanson, Kingston, Middleborough, and Wareham.

The roots of the congregation can be traced to the 1880s, when Jewish immigrants settled in Plymouth in larger numbers and made their living as peddlers and shopkeepers. Some worked at factories, such as the Plymouth Cordage Co.

Congregation Beth Jacob was established in 1909, when 40 Jewish families formed the Beis Jacob Society. They began making plans to build a synagogue, recording their meeting minutes in Yiddish. At the time, daily and Sabbath prayers were held at home; on High Holy Days, the families would rent a hall. ...

Read the complete article for much more on the community's history.

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