Home About Us Historical Tour 12. The Lean Years...
PDF Print E-mail

The Lean Years...

The successful descendants of the original founders did not stay in the old immigrant neighborhood.  They moved away to then up-and-coming middle class Jewish neighborhoods like Dorchester and Roxbury.

This pattern was common to all the shuls of the period.  Originally, The Adams Street Shul would have been unremarkable.  It has become unique because of its survival.  But it almost suffered the fate of so many others.

The community dwindled until it could no longer afford to heat or maintain the building.  The roof leaked.  The walls were wet inside, dark and mildewed.

To create a reduced but maintainable space, part of the lobby and part of the sanctuary were combined and enclosed to make a small space for worship and study.  It could be heated with a small space heater, and used while the rest of the shul froze.  The Ark could be seen through a hinged window that flips up and can be held open on a hook.

office  viewed from bima

The construction of this space ended the Romanesque left-right symmetry of both the sanctuary and the lobby, and its ceiling cut across the middle of one of the windows.

(Today this space is the home of the Manis Albert Memorial Library, also used as the shul office.)

Eventually, the shul could no longer make even a weekly Sabbath minyan.  For over thirty  years there were no weekly services.

office viewed from balcony

Elmer Lippin portraitA member named Elmer Lippin maintained the shul.  He opened it every week, waited (for no one), finally swept it out, locked it up again, and went home.  He did this for decades.  When incredulous friends would ask why he was doing this he would reply, "A shul miz zein offin."  (A shul must be open.)

LippinPlaque-300The congregation never died out.  Although the descendents of the original members no longer lived in Nonantum, some maintained their affiliation, and they returned to the old family shul several times a year.  Services were conducted on the High Holy Days, and some other holidays.  Elmer Lippin also organized Sunday breakfasts that would bring the members together periodically.

Elmer passed away in 1986.  This sparked the realization that it was now or never.  The building was in poor condition.  The bricks needed repointing, the roof needed replacing, the damp walls and ceiling were mildew-stained beyond repair, the floor was covered with dirt.  There had never been any air conditioning, nor fire alarms, nor even hot water.  Many layers of paint covered all the brass and woodwork.

 

 


A plan was discussed to donate the ark to The American Jewish Historical Society, knock down the building, and donate the land to the City of Newton as a recreational area.  

Today we are a thriving community, still in our historic building, now beautifully restored.  As we embark on our second hundred years, we remember and honor Elmer Lippin, without whom we would likely not exist.  Our big function room is named The Elmer Lippin Social Hall.  The next time you are enjoying a shul function there, look for the bronze plaque in Elmer's honor and thank HaShem for people like Elmer Lippin.

The story of our recovery begins on the next page...

 

 
 

Members Login

Translate!

 
 
Joomla 1.5 Templates by Joomlashack