As the Rosenthall project draws to a close, we are thrilled to be able to announce two significant collection resources. The finding aid for the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection is now available to researchers online. The finding aid provides a comprehensive overview of the many formats and topics included in this collection, as well as materials documenting Rosenthall’s collecting efforts.
We are also thrilled to announce the launch of the online exhibit The Life of the Synagogue, a tribute to both the central role of the synagogue in Jewish life and the man whose passion for collecting made this exhibit possible.
Curated by Samuel D. Gruber, Sarah Glover, and Amy Lazarus, the exhibit contains 76 items selected from the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection at the College of Charleston, one of the largest accessible collections of imagery related to synagogues and other aspects of Jewish life and culture around the world. The exhibit is divided into nine sections, exploring topics ranging from synagogue building and dedications to the celebration of life cycle events and festivals to the varied contributions of women. These images offer a broad understanding of the history of synagogue architecture and design, in addition to shedding light on the lives, customs, and religious practices of the people within the four walls of the synagogue.
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!
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.