Guest Op-Ed: A Return to Normal for Jews of Northern Greater Boston?

By Burton Figler

Halfway through the year 2021, the Coronavirus pandemic is finally winding down and the communities just north of Boston are “returning to normal”. For Jews living in the cities and towns of northern Greater Boston – Chelsea, East Boston, Everett, Revere and Winthrop – the meaning of “normal”, like elsewhere, is unclear.  For many years prior to the pandemic, these Boston Suburbs had very large Jewish communities that included dozens of synagogues, temples and Hebrew Schools. Now, nearly all are gone. So, the questions arise: Where do the Jews of northern Greater Boston go for religious services? Where do they send their children for an education in Judaism? Where can Jewish families and individuals socialize and also obtain information on Judaism, Israel, Zionism and religion?

Sadly, only one temple remains in Chelsea and it only holds infrequent services. One early 20th century synagogue is left in Chelsea as a national historic site. There are no Jewish institutions remaining in East Boston. In Everett, one synagogue remains and it holds services only one Friday night a month. Just prior to the pandemic, the last synagogue in Revere ceased operation.   

In all the northern suburbs of Greater Boston, the one remaining organization that offers Jewish religious services on a weekly basis, on Jewish holidays and which also provides a Hebrew education for Jewish children is Temple Tifereth Israel of Winthrop. The Temple began its existence in September of 1912 under the name Tifereth Israel Congregation of Winthrop. In 1915, the corner stone of a new synagogue was laid and a year later, 1916, the first services were held in a new synagogue.

Some 50 years later, it was clear that a new and larger facility was needed and in a 1966, a bigger and modern temple with offices, library, Hebrew School classrooms and other facilities was dedicated as Temple Tifereth Israel of Winthrop.

Then, another 50 years later, it was realized that an update was needed. This modernization was completed in 2013, a century after the original creation of Tifereth Israel Congregation of Winthrop”

As with most other religious institutions, the Coronavirus pandemic necessitated a drastic change in day-to-day operation. For many months, Temple Tifereth Israel was closed. The Hebrew School ceased to hold classes. Instead of on-site services, online services were conducted via Zoom. This continued through the Spring of 2021 when the pandemic began to ease. Slowly, the temple began its return to “normal”, first with limited on-site services. Then the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted and now, Temple Tifereth Israel has returned to full operation. The Temple is now preparing for the Jewish New Year which begins on the evening of Labor Day in September. 

With so many of the Jewish institutions of northern Great Boston having closed, Temple Tifereth Israel of Winthrop is committed to picking up the slack and providing a comprehensive Jewish resource, not just for Winthrop, but also for Winthrop’s surrounding communities of Chelsea, East Boston, Everett, and Revere. The Temple is planning an open house for those interested to meet with temple members and staff, tour the facilities (93 Veterans Road, Winthrop) and learn about activities and programs. Information will be available at: 617-846-1390 (phone), (web site), [email protected] (email), and (facebook).

Burton Figler of Temple Tifereth Israel

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