1854 Congregation of Sons of Israel and David founded in Providence.
1877 The Congregation of Sons of Israel and David, formally Orthodox, affiliates itself with Reform Judaism. This congregation is largely made up of Jews of German ancestry.
Late 19th-early 20th century As part of the great wave of immigration to the United States, thousands of Eastern European Jews arrive in Providence. They settle primarily in two neighborhoods: the North End (near the base of Smith Hill) and South Providence. Small synagogues, many catering to immigrants from a particularly country or region, are built as the city’s Jewish population grows. At least sixteen synagogues are believed to have operated in South Providence.
1890 Sons of Israel and David moves into a converted church at Friendship and Pine Streets in Providence. The congregation rapidly outgrows the building.
1910-11 The Congregation’s new home, Temple Beth El, is constructed by the local architecture firm of Banning & Thornton at 688 Broad Street. The building costs approximately $75,000.
1915 Former President William Howard Taft visits the temple.
1919 Samuel Gup becomes rabbi.
1932 William G. Braude becomes rabbi. Listen to Carole Millman’s oral history interview>>
1944 The congregation purchases land on Orchard Avenue in the East Side to construct a new temple. Listen to Geraldine Foster’s oral history interview>>
1950s-1970s South Providence, like many urban neighborhoods across the city and the country, is affected by massive urban renewal projects and white flight to the suburbs. The area around 688 Broad Street enters a period of transition as Irish, Italian, and Jewish residents begin to be replaced by an influx of Latinos, African Americans, and Southeast Asians.
1953 The Willard Center urban renewal project, which will displace much of the old Jewish community around Willard Avenue in South Providence, begins.
1954 The new Temple Beth El is completed at 70 Orchard Avenue on the East Side of Providence. Four Orthodox congregations from the Willard Avenue area agree to merge and form a new congregation, Shaare Zedek. Shaare Zedek purchases the building from Beth El.
1955 Architect Ira Rakatansky finishes renovations to the building. Shaare Zedek moves into 688 Broad Street. The merger and move is commemorated by a parade through South Providence.
View photos of the parade>>
Listen to excerpts from an oral history interview with Mr. B., former member of Shaare Zedek>>
1958 Work is completed on the Herman Hassenfeld Talmud Torah, a new Hebrew school and addition to the building. The Talmud Torah includes a mikveh, or ritual bath. An important part of Orthodox Jewish ritual – and part of the conversion process to Judaism – the mikveh‘s presence in the building brings Jews from across Rhode Island to 688 Broad Street. The addition is named after a member of the Hassenfeld family – the founders of Hasbro and prominent members of Shaare Zedek.
Listen to excerpts from an oral history interview with Ethan Adler>>
1967 Facing declining membership, Sons of Abraham, an Orthodox congregation located at Prairie and Potters Avenue, merges with Shaare Zedek. The population of the merged congregation, however, continues to decline as Jews leave South Providence.
1984 An iron fence is built to separate the synagogue from Broad Street. Listen to excerpts from an oral history interview with Doug Victor>>
2006 Shaare Zedek closes. It merges with Beth Sholom, an Orthodox synagogue on the East Side.
2008 Joseph Margolis, Shaare Zedek’s longtime president, dies at age 101.
2008-2011 Beth Sholom is unable to find a buyer for the building as the housing crisis takes hold. The building becomes neglected. The lawn stops being mowed. People begin to live in the synagogue, and the building is defaced. Copper is stripped off the roof for scrap; water pours in and causes extensive damage.
2011 Local residents begin to mobilize to save the building.
2014 Friends of Broad Street Synagogue, a new nonprofit dedicated to turning the building into a community center, is founded. A developer, Joe Triangelo, purchases the building from Beth Sholom.
2015 For the third time, Broad Street Synagogue appears on the list of the Providence Preservation Society’s Most Endangered Properties.