Instead of demolishing the shul and donating the land, it was decided to form a corporation called "The Friends of the Adams Street Synagogue" to raise money for a restoration. The goal was to restore and preserve the historic building for posterity. No one anticipated a revitalization of the Jewish community. This effort to preserve the shul was led by Bert Grand, the late Lester Goldston, and Beri Gilfix.
Bert was president of the shul during the critical years from 1986 to 1995. He more than any other individual is responsible for the shul's recovery. Lester had an advertising agency on Adams Street. He designed and produced many of the needed ads and brochures. Beri served as secretary of the organization, overseeing fund-raising mailings and working as liason to many other institutions.
One of the most significant volunteers in the restoration effort was Suzanne Spatz. Suzanne invented special non-voting membership categories, like supporting and sustaining memberships, that raised money for the restoration; produced the little drawing of the shul's facade that has been used in our logo and masthead ever since; marshalled the financial support of a great many Jews from other synagogues, most notably Temple Emanuel; and spent untold hours preparing mass mailings. Suzanne and her husband Herbert organized tours (sometimes by paying for the buses themselves!), and it was they who donated the lovely cherry tree in the shul's front yard. It replaced a dead tree that had stood on the spot, just as their efforts transformed a dying building into a vibrant home for a congregation. At our 2009 Annual Meeting of the Membership, Suzanne was honored for twenty-five years of outstanding dedicated volunteer service.
As the fundraising was getting underway, two young observant Jewish families living near the shul joined the congregation and suggested to the fund-raisers that a minyan be made in the shul on the first Saturday morning of each month. This would publicize the efforts to preserve the building, and they volunteered to organize the services. The membership approved, and in August of 1986 the shul began its first Sabbath services in decades. This effort was carried out by the Cheses and Cohen families.
Jews from all over the Greater Boston area came together once a month to help make the shul come alive. Although within the four walls everything was conducted according to orthodox Nusach Sfard tradition, people affiliated with every kind of synagogue, and from every level of knowledge and observance, came to pray together as a Jewish community here.
Since we weren't likely to be open when one needed to say kaddish, anyone who joined was usually a member somewhere else as well. We offered no school, no library, no Torah study, no holiday parties. So anyone who joined came to give and not to get. The ruach (spirit) was tremendous. This was the beginning of the resurgence of the congregation.
We went from conducting services the first Saturday morning each month, to the first two Saturdays. In 1991 we added the first two Friday evenings. In 1992 we went weekly for both the Friday night and Saturday morning services.
In 1992, The Synagogue Council of Massachusetts awarded The Adams Street Shul its Klal Yisroel Award "for outstanding service in strengthening our community and promoting the unity of the Jewish People."
That same year, the U. S. Department of the Interior added The Adams Street Shul to the National Register of Historic Places. This recognition was the result of tireless work by Suzanne Spatz, who followed through with city, state and federal officials until we received our designation.
We enjoyed our first Bar Mitzvah in modern memory, our first modern wedding, and our first bris. We instituted a regular newsletter, weekly classes, monthly guest lectures, and special holiday celebrations. Later we added a weekly Children's Shabbat Program, produced a monthly Friday evening service at a nearby assisted living facility, participated in Family Table, and began other good works.
By 1991, the Soviet Union had disintegrated. Once again, Nonantum was home to a wave of new Jewish immigrants. We formed a New Americans Committee, added Hebrew-Russian prayerbooks, and began calling page numbers bilingually. We began ESL classes, a Russian edition of the newsletter, bilingual Torah classes, bilingual Divrei Torah at services, and instituted a lending library of Jewish books in Russian. (We had no other library at the time. Later we acquired English books as well, and the Russian Lending Library became the Shul Library serving all our members.)
Some of the new immigrants came with specialized talents, including a professional coach to professional chess players, and the former Director of the National Children's Theater of the Soviet Republic of Georgia. So we began a bilingual children's chess club, and a bilingual children's theater workshop. In a short time, the new young players were winning championships; and the theater workshop expanded until it outgrew us and moved to the Striar Jewish Community Center.
|Back in the Soviet Union, my kids [i.e., students] would beat the adults [i.e., Russians] in the tournaments, and the adults would stalk away shouting, "Damn Jews!" Now we do the same thing here, and I hear the adults [i.e., Americans] whisper under their breaths as they go away, "Damn Russians."|
In 1993, Dr. Michael Partensky, Chair of our New Americans Committee, accepted the prestigious Keter Torah award on behalf of the Adams Street Shul, awarded by the Board of Jewish Education for our integration of the New Americans into our community.
In 1993 we added Saturday night services, including Shalosh Seudos (Third Meal).
In 1994, we added Sunday morning minyans.
That same year, after many years of fundraising, and after many months of construction (during which we held services downstairs in the Elmer Lippin Social Hall, pressing the original Ark back into service), the physical restoration of the building was completed!
In 1995, CJP included the Adams Street Shul among the eighteen shuls selected to bear its historical marker.
In 1996, we invented the position of Consulting Rabbi, and engaged Rabbi Joseph Polak to counsel us, teach us, and be our halachic decisor when needed. This was a major step for a tiny congregation that had made do without a rabbi for over eighty years. But the Consulting Rabbi did not attend Shabbat services here.
In 1998, we completed the installation of The Nonantum Eruv. This work was carried out by Tzvi Rubinstein, Jordan Lee Wagner, and Michael Walker; with the invaluable assistance of Jesse Hefter and the Greater Boston Eruv Corporation.
In 1998 we also launched our website.
In 1999, in pursuit of an expanded rabbinic role at the shul, we hired our first part-time rabbi, Rabbi C. Zalman Gurkow, who served our congregation for over five years before assuming a full-time position as Chabad emissary to the Nashoba Valley. Rabbi Zalman and his wife Malkie are Honorary Lifetime Members of The Adams Street Shul, and Rabbi Zalman continued to serve our community as a volunteer teacher, continuing the bi-weekly Tanya class at Adams Street that was our longest running educational program.