City of Boston Rabbis Registrations, 1893-1939
Compiled by David Rosen, JGS of Greater Boston
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the City of Boston required synagogues to register their rabbis (presumably for the purposes of allowing them to conduct legal weddings). A certification form was submitted by the synagogue, signed and maintained. The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston recently came upon two volumes of these documents, dated from 1893 to 1939 and totaling 540 documents. They were acquired last year by the City of Boston Archives.
The archives had, in turn, rescued them from the basement in Boston’s City Hall. The chief archivist laboriously scanned all the certificates, and the information has been entered into a searchable database. While the rabbis were primarily from Boston synagogues, occasionally there is a record from another city or town. The searchable database contains the date, the synagogue name, and the names of the rabbi, and of the synagogue officers who signed the document.
The great majority of records are handwritten. Because the synagogues have Hebrew names that have to be transliterated, the English spelling varies from one year to the next, depending on the writer. Most of these officers were immigrants, some with minimum experience in English handwriting, making their signatures difficult to read. The current standard of combining a written name with a typed or printed name below did not exist. The documents were pasted into ledgers, with one edge close to and often buried into the binding such that part of these names were often lost. The database can be search by synagogue name, and by the names of the rabbis and the signing officers.
Searching the Database
This database is searchable via the JewishGen USA Database and the JewishGen Unified Search.