Built in 1911 as Temple Beth El for the Reform Jewish Congregation of the Sons of Israel and David, the Broad Street Synagogue immediately served as a focal point of religious and community activity in South Providence. As the city’s – and congregation’ s – Jewish population grew over the next 30 years, the Jewish community began to move to Providence’s East Side and to the suburbs. Beth El relocated to a new temple on the East Side in 1954. The following year, Congregation Shaare Zedek, a merger of four Orthodox synagogues, moved into the building, which it would occupy for more than fifty years. After years of declining membership and demographic shifts, Shaare Zedek merged with another Orthodox congregation, Beth Sholom, in 2006. Since it stopped serving as an active house of worship in 2006, the building’s future has been in flux. Over the past few years, it has suffered significant damage from water, vandalism, and neglect. Today, a group of local residents is working to revitalize the building once again as a center for community.
As demographics have changed, old populations have left, and new ones have migrated to this traditionally immigrant neighborhood, the building has remained – a symbol of community for some, a place apart from the community for others, but still an anchor on the corner of Broad and Glenham.