Gloucester Jewish Community to Rebuild Synagogue

July 31, 2009

Author: Steven Rosenberg

Source: The Boston Globe

Nearly 20 months after a fast-moving fire destroyed an apartment complex and Cape Ann’s only synagogue, the congregation announced plans yesterday to spend $4 million to rebuild on the site.

“We really feel like we’re part of the fabric of the city,’’ said Miriam Weinstein, a former president of Temple Ahavat Achim. “And we’ve gotten a lot of support from our neighbors.’’

Rabbi Samuel Barth said work on the new two-story, 10,000-square-foot synagogue would begin later this year. It is expected to open in fall 2011, when congregants will gather for two of Judaism’s holiest holidays, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

For more than 105 years, Jews have had a synagogue in downtown Gloucester. In 1951 it moved to the former First Parish Church on Middle Street, just yards away from Gloucester City Hall.

But on Dec. 14, 2007, the building burned to the ground after flames jumped from the adjacent apartment building. When the fire was extinguished, firefighters discovered that Robert Taylor, a 70-year-old handyman, had died of smoke annihilation in his apartment.