Shaarai Torah Synagogue Update

After reading our blog entry Rare Find: New Shaarai Thora Synagogue, Worcester, MA, researcher Peter Thomashow was kind enough to reach out to us with additional information regarding the synagogue and its history. Peter shares both an interest in the history of Worcester’s synagogues and a personal connection to this synagogue in particular. We love learning more about items in the Rosenthall Collection, and send a big thank you to Peter for providing us with additional information!

Shaarai Torah

Here are some of the highlights:

Founded in 1904, Shaarai Torah was constructed between 1904 and 1906 to meet the religious needs of Worcester’s growing population of Eastern European Jewish immigrants who settled on the city’s east side. Local architect Edwin T. Chapin built the synagogue in the classical revival architectural style. According to playwright S. N. Berhman, who grew up across the street from the synagogue and was a member there, the synagogue was designed as an exact, albeit scaled-down, imitation of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on East 85th Street in New York City.

By the late 1920s, Worcester’s Jewish population began to move from the East Side to the newly developing suburban areas on the west side of the city. As this shift occurred, many East Side congregations decreased in size and later ceased to exist. In 1948, Congregation Sons of Abraham, one of the last congregations on the East side, merged with Shaarai Torah. In 1960, Shaarai Torah West was established on Pleasant Street, and the original synagogue became known as Shaarai Torah East.

Further information on Shaarai Torah Synagogue can be found on the website of the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System.

New Upload! Northeast and Midwest United States Synagogues

We are excited to announce that the Lowcountry Digital Library recently uploaded approximately 300 new postcards from the Rosenthall Collection! These postcards of synagogues in the Northeast and Midwest United States include some of the country’s oldest synagogues, such as Rockdale Temple (K.K. Bene Israel) in Cincinnati, OH; Touro Synagogue in Newport, RI; Temple Mishkan Israel in New Haven, CT; Ohabei Shalom in Brookline, MA; Temple Israel in Boston, MA; Congregation Shearith Israel in New York, NY; and Eldridge Street Synagogue in New York, NY.

For more postcards of United States synagogues, search the Lowcountry Digital Library: William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection – Postcards.

Rockdale Temple (K K. Benai Israel), Cincinnati, Ohio

Touro Synagogue, Newport, Rhode Island

Temple Mishkan Israel, New Haven, Connecticut

Temple Ohabei Shalom, Brookline, Massachusetts

Temple Israel, Boston, Massachusetts

Congregation Shearith Israel, New York, New York

Eldridge Street Synagogue, New York, New York

Rare Find: New Shaarai Thora Synagogue, Worcester, MA

While processing Rabbi William A. Rosenthall’s extensive collection of postcards, Processing Archivist Amy Lazarus came across a postcard with a photograph of a synagogue in her hometown of Worcester, MA. Being unfamiliar with the synagogue, Amy talked to her family and researched online to find out more about the synagogue, its history, and its significance for the Jewish community of Worcester. Below, Amy shares what she discovered.

Recently, I had the pleasure of experiencing firsthand the value of Rabbi Rosenthall’s impressive postcard collection. While processing, I came across an image of a synagogue in my hometown of Worcester, MA. Not recognizing the building, labeled New Shaarai Thora Synagogue I asked my father if he knew where the synagogue was located.

My father informed me the photograph might be a rare image, as that particular synagogue had been badly damaged due to an arson-related fire and had long been out of use as a synagogue. He then shared a surprising story: my great grandfather had actually been one of the one of the early congregants of the synagogue!

This, of course, prompted me to begin researching the synagogue to learn more. And soon the value of the Rosenthall Collection became even more apparent.

I found that the synagogue had actually been Worcester’s first Modern Orthodox synagogue and a significant part of the city’s Jewish history. Unfortunately, the building had been remodeled and converted to condominiums after the fire. While the building still stands, I could find no pictures of it prior to this conversion online.

While I could easily locate another building in use today as the Shaarai Torah Synagogue in Worcester, I could find no photograph of the building on the postcard in the Rosenthall collection.

Eventually, I learned that the synagogue I did keep finding was a second Shaarai Torah synagogue that was opened on the west side of the city. This became known as Shaarai Torah West, with the original synagogue known as Shaarai Torah East. Shaarai Torah West became an independent congregation in 1964, and Shaarai Torah East continued to operate until it was the last remaining synagogue on the East side of the city.

The synagogue on the postcard was Shaarai Torah East, the first of the two buildings, which opened its doors in 1906. The synagogue served the community of Worcester for an entire century, until the devastating fire forced it to close its doors as the last synagogue on the east side. Despite its role as a prominent synagogue in the history of Worcester’s Jewish community, today its only online presence is a lone Wikipedia article which features the remodeled building as condominiums.

It appeared I was holding one of what may be only a few photos of the Shaarai Torah east prior to remodeling. If not for Rabbi Rosenthall’s collection, the ability to easily see the original Shaarai Torah synagogue, Worcester’s very last east side synagogue, might have been lost.

This experience served incredibly well to demonstrate just how valuable the collection will be to researchers and to preserving the history of Jewish communities all over the world.

Processing Postcards

After completing an inventory of the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection, Processing Archivist Amy Lazarus began work on the first major series of the collection–Rabbi Rosenthall’s incredibly diverse collection of Judaica postcards.

As a meticulous collector, Rabbi Rosenthall organized the majority of his postcards into portfolios by subject group. He organized synagogue and Jewish cemetery postcards by geographical location, as well as creating portfolios of Yiddish Rosh Hashanah postcards, biblical scenes, Jewish life cycle events, rabbis, Yiddish authors, and art by Jewish artists, just to name a few!

The rehousing of these portfolio into archival-quality storage, as well as scanning and metadata creation for these portfolios, is an ongoing project on which our interns are working. Previously rehoused and digitized postcards are available here: William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection – Postcards.

However, the collection also contains a large number of loose, uncategorized postcards with no apparent organizational scheme. We found these postcards in boxes large and small, envelopes, box lids, and even lockboxes!

Original boxes in which we found postcards from the Rosenthall Collection.

Original boxes in which we found postcards from the Rosenthall Judaica Collection.

Lockbox containing Rosenthall Judaica Collection postcards.

Lockbox containing Rosenthall Judaica Collection postcards.

The postcards need to be organized so that researchers can easily find specific items in which they are interested–for example, a Rosh Hashanah card showing a scene of the practices of Tashlikh or Kapparot, a postcard with a photograph of a synagogue in Nashville, Tennessee, or a postcard with a portrayal of a rabbi, such as Maimonaides. Amy is currently working to organize these boxes of postcards by topic–similar to how Rabbi Rosenthall organized his postcard portfolios–so that researchers will be able to go directly to the folder they need, instead of digging through boxes of material!

Processing Archivist Amy Lazarus organizing Rosh Hashanah postcards.

Processing Archivist Amy Lazarus organizing Rosh Hashanah postcards.

Rosh Hashanah postcards.

Rosh Hashanah postcards.

Please enjoy the following postcards, selected by Amy, which demonstrate the breadth of topics covered by this part of the collection!

Jewish cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee.

Jewish cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee.

Romantic Yiddish Rosh Hashanah card.

Romantic Yiddish Rosh Hashanah card.



Jewish girls.

Jewish girls.

We anticipate completing the organization of postcards by year’s end, at which point the organizational structure of this series will be described in the finding aid for the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection. The postcards will also be rehoused in archival quality boxes to ensure their long-term preservation. Keep your eyes on this space for progress reports on the processing of the collection!

Welcome Fall 2013 Interns!

This semester, we are fortunate to have three dedicated interns assisting us with the rehousing, digitizing, and metadata for Rosenthall prints and postcards. We could not be more thrilled with the work they are doing, and we’re excited to be able to introduce them here:


Philip Putnam

Philip Putnam is a senior at the College of Charleston with double majors in history and historic preservation. Philip has experience working at museums in Charleston, including the Edmondston-Alston House and Charleston Museum. He has worked with archival materials but never digitized them, so he is looking forward to participating in the digitization of the Rosenthall Collection.

Philip has been working on digitizing a portfolio of Eastern European, Hungarian, and Russian synagogues. He selected this postcard as his favorite among those he has digitized so far.

“I chose the Szeged Synagogue as one of my favorite postcards because I have never seen a postcard like this before. The postcard itself does not have a synagogue on the actual front. However, the center of the postcard has a hidden flap that pulls out and shows a long strip with about ten small images. One of those images is the synagogue, but the images also include many other sites around Szeged, Hungary. I believe this postcard is somewhat of a rare thing to see.”



Brooke Roman

Brooke Roman is a sophomore at the College of Charleston with double majors in history and arts management; she is particularly interested in European history. Brooke is excited to work with such an extensive and unique collection.

Brooke is working on a portfolio of synagogues in the former Czechoslovakia and Italy. She chose this postcard of the Karlsbad Synagogue as her favorite.

“My favorite postcard is one of a color-drawing of the Karlsbad Synagogue in present day Czech Republic.  The postcard is not an actual picture, but the colors the artist used are absolutely gorgeous. Unfortunately, the synagogue no longer exists, so the postcard at least provides some memory of it.”


Danielle Ziff

Danielle Ziff is a student in the joint College of Charleston/Citadel master of arts in history program. She is a longtime resident of Charleston and member of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, Rabbi Rosenthall’s synagogue in Charleston.

Danielle is at work on a portfolio of prints and engravings with themes of Moses, the Exodus, and the Ten Commandments; Aaron and the high priests of the Israelites; and dress pertaining to Jewish rituals. She chose these related prints as her favorites.

“One of my favorite prints is this frontispiece to William Hurd’s Religious Ceremonies and Customs of All Nations, published in 1788.  The image contains a symbolic representation of the world’s religious traditions, explained in detail by the text on the accompanying page.”

 Welcome to our interns, and our thanks for all of their work so far!

New Grant, New Faces

In 2012, the College of Charleston’s Special Collections Library was awarded a second CLIR grant to facilitate the processing of the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection. A previous CLIR grant allowed Special Collections to complete processing of Rabbi Rosenthall’s papers and begin efforts to digitize and provide metadata for prints, photographs, and postcards in the Judaica Collection. This new grant has allowed Special Collections to bring in two new archivists, Project Archivist Sarah Glover and Processing Archivist Amy Lazarus, to process Rabbi Rosenthall’s extraordinary collection of Judaica and oversee the continued digitization of items from the collection.

Later this week, we will introduce you to the three wonderful interns who are assisting us in this effort for the semester. But first, please meet our two archivists:


Project Archivist Sarah Glover

Sarah Glover joins the project as Project Archivist for the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection. Sarah earned her MS in Information with specializations in Archives and Records Management and Preservation of Information from the University of Michigan School of Information in 2012. She also holds undergraduate degrees in English, History, and Jewish Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Sarah reads German and speaks and reads Hebrew.

Sarah has previously had the opportunity to work in academic archives and libraries, government archives, historical societies, and museums. She has gained valuable experience working at Jewish institutions such as the Museum at Eldridge Street, American Jewish Historical Society, and Leo Baeck Institute. Before coming to the College of Charleston, Sarah worked at the Leo Baeck Institute on the Institute’s DigiBaeck project, an effort to digitize the entirety of the Institute’s archival holdings. Sarah is excited to bring her background to the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection and thrilled to have the opportunity to work with such an incredible collection of Judaica!


Processing Archivist Amy Lazarus

Amy Lazarus is excited to join the project as the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection processing archivist. She received her MLIS with a specialization in Archives, Preservation and Records Management from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011 and holds a BA in English from the College of the Holy Cross. Over the past four years she has gained extensive processing experience in a variety of institutional settings. Her professional background includes positions at a research library, medical library, museum archives, and a government agency. Additionally, she is an active member of the Society of American Archivists currently involved in the Government Affairs Working Group.

As an undergraduate, Amy was awarded the Kraft-Hiatt Program for Jewish-Christian Understanding Fellowship to study abroad at Hebrew University. Upon her return she continued to take coursework related to Jewish history, developing an active interest in Jewish traditions. Her experiences as an undergraduate led to the ultimate goal of tying her academic interest in Judaism to her work as an archivist. Upon seeing the opportunity to work with such a valuable part of the College of Charleston’s Jewish Heritage Collection, she eagerly pursued the position of processing archivist. She is grateful for the amazing opportunity to encourage appreciation and understanding of Jewish culture through making the William A. Rosenthall collection available to scholars, students, and the general public.