NEWTON, MA – Oct. 2, 2006 -- Founded as an Orthodox synagogue in 1914, Beth Hamidrash Hagadol, otherwise known as the Crawford Street Synagogue, was established to meet the spiritual, educational and social needs of a growing Orthodox Jewish community that had moved from the West End of Boston to the flourishing new neighborhood of Roxbury. By the early 1920s, the Crawford Street Synagogue was already one of Boston’s leading Jewish suburban institutions.
The congregation had a membership at the time of around 500 families, an active Sisterhood, Men’s Club, and Junior Council. And in keeping with Jewish tradition of establishing a burial site for their community, the synagogue board of directors set out to locate land that would serve as a final resting place and memorial for its synagogue members and their families. On March 24, 1925 six acres of land were purchased on Baker Street in West Roxbury and consecrated as the Crawford Street Memorial Park Cemetery. The cemetery sits alongside 41 other Jewish cemeteries—of which more than half are owned or managed by JCAM—making Baker Street Greater Boston’s largest Jewish cemetery complex.
After many years of being an independent cemetery association and then a JCAM managed cemetery, on Wednesday, September 27, 2006, the current Board of Directors of the Crawford Street Memorial Park Cemetery agreed to become a merged JCAM cemetery. Members of Crawford Street’s Board of Directors met with JCAM President, Sander Rikleen, and Executive Director, Stanley Kaplan to sign the merger agreement, making Crawford Street the 102nd Jewish cemetery owned and/or operated by JCAM. The merger will result in additional resources for JCAM’s Perpetual Care Fund.
With the shift in demographics that has occurred over the years in many of Boston’s former Jewish neighborhoods such as Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan, the Crawford Street Synagogue (Beth Hamidrash Hagadol) building no longer serves as a synagogue. Nevertheless, the Crawford Street Memorial Park Cemetery still stands as an everlasting memorial to those early founders and their dedication to the tenets of the Jewish faith and the richness of our heritage.
The Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts is a non-profit organization whose mission is to function as a Jewish burial society for the Jewish communities of Massachusetts. They provide for the continuity of operation, maintenance and security of existing and abandoned cemeteries, preservation and restoration of Jewish cemeteries including the preservation of assets, archives and records. JCAM also serves to inform and educate the public through educational initiatives of the historic and artistic elements of Jewish cemeteries throughout Massachusetts. To learn more about the work of JCAM, please visit their website at www.jcam.org.
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