LEGACY: Creating the First Jewish Cemetery

For each month of our anniversary year we will post a social justice “legacy of the month”—an action, initiative or event in our synagogue’s history that reflects our abiding commitment to Tikkun Olam. Taken together, these “highlights” demonstrate the creativity, energy, courage and initiative of our leaders and members as they sought to make Jewish social justice values real and sustaining. This legacy guides and inspires our community’s work of Tikkun Olam today.

Back in 1844, Temple Ohabei Shalom requested, and gained permission from Boston City officials, to create a burial place for Jews. It was the first such cemetery in Massachusetts and its importance was recognized by the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. Located not far from Logan Airport today, it is now managed by the Jewish Cemetery Association.

Currently, a project called the East Boston Immigration Center is renovating the Gothic Revival Jewish chapel (pictured above right) on site to share the stories of the large and vibrant Jewish communities that existed in Chelsea, East Boston, Everett, Malden, Medford, Revere, Somerville and Winthrop (artist’s rendering on left). This 1903 building is also of great significance as it is the oldest surviving chapel in the Commonwealth.

–Laurel Sgan