The first Jewish
families arrived in Canton between 1884 and
the beginning of World War I in 1914. They came to an alien
culture but in a remarkably short time gained the respect and
affection of their townsmen. Religion was the most vital part
of the lives of the new inhabitants. They were Orthodox in their
beliefs and strictly observed the Sabbath and the High Holy
Days. The location of their house of worship ideally had to
be within walking distance of their homes.
Canton's new immigrants were in various trades
and occupations, and most struggled to earn a modest living.
Some, such as the Brightmans and Abraham Sydman, became successful
and prosperous. The Brightmans were a major factor in the wool
business, and Abraham Sydman was the founder of the Plymouth
Rubber Company which became a major employer in the town, Both
he and the Brightmans were noted for their generous gift giving.
The first Brightman in Canton and the founder of the business
was Abraham. On August 9, 1914 the fifteen Jewish families in
town met at the Town Hall to form a Hebrew Association to raise
funds for a synagogue and a Hebrew school. Max Brightman, Abraham’s
son, was elected President of the group. The other officers
were Victor Miller, Treasurer, and Robert Gordon, Secretary.
They with Harry Abramowitz, Joseph Berkel and Jacob Goldstein
comprised the Board of Directors. On Sunday January 7, 1917,
at a meeting at their home, Mr. and Mrs. Abraham Brightman presented
to the community the deed for a house and lot at 58 Revere Street
to be used as a synagogue.
The worship group was formally organized as
the Beth Abraham Congregation. The name Abraham was chosen in
recognition of the contributions made by Abraham Brightman.
The first officers of the synagogue included two of his sons:
John as President and Max as Treasurer. Others were Joseph Berkel
as Vice President, Robert Gordon as Recording Secretary and
Max Chalfin as Financial Secretary. Within months the house
was remodeled and dedicated as a synagogue and so chartered
by the state. In June 1917 the first two Bar Mitzvahs were held
when Joseph Danovitch and Robert Goldstein were confirmed.
The new building was well utilized, though High
Holiday services could not be accommodated in it and Lower Town
Hall had to be used in its place. Rapid growth of the Congregation
continued and the Revere Street building became inadequate.
Once again Abraham Brightman came to the rescue by buying a
building at 731 Washington Street and also contributing $5,000
to its renovation, He died in January 1920 about six months
before the dedication of the new synagogue on June 20th. This
was a solemn and festive occasion attended by over three hundred
members of the Congregation and their guests. There were ceremonies
closing the Revere Street structure and transferring the Torah
to the new building. The scrolls were transported in three cars
and respected members of the Congregation had the honor of carrying
them to their new home. These were: Max Chalfin escorted by
Jacob Danovitch and John Brightman; Joseph Berkal, escorted
by Max Brightman and Robert Gordon; Joseph Meyer, escorted by
Abram Chesler and Jacob Priluck.
The new synagogue was commodious with an apartment
for a Rabbi in the rear. Even with the generous support of the
Brightmans and additional contributions from members of $4,500
on dedication day, there had to be a substantial mortgage. For
the next twenty-five years only interest payments were made
on the mortgage, and it was not paid off until May 29, 1945
when a mortgage burning ceremony was held at the Sunset Lodge
In the early years Hebrew education was provided by a visiting
Rabbi or by itinerant Rabbis who visited the Synagogue from
time to time. Some stayed as long as two years if accommodations
in the back apartment and food were available. The Canton Hebrew
Ladies aid was formed in 1910 by Rose Goldstein. Polly Ulman
and Jenny Meyers were also active at its start, and Mrs. Meyers
served as President for many years.
In the years immediately after World War II
Canton's population grew immensely, and this was reflected in
the influx of new Jewish families to the town. By the end of
1946 membership had roughly doubled to thirty-five families,
by 1950 there were forty families; by 1955 sixty families, by
1960 one hundred and twenty five families, and by 1965 two hundred
and sixty five families. These were years of growth which carried
with it growing pains. In 1961 the Congregation engaged its
first permanent part-time Rabbi, Rabbi Martin Kessler. In 1963
the first full-time Rabbi was hired in the person of Rabbi Howard
K. Kummer. Shortly before this time the Congregation's orientation
became Conservative rather than Orthodox.
Rabbi Kummer had an impact not only on his Congregation
but also on all of Canton.
He was a charismatic, sincere spiritual leader, active in the
civil rights movement of the time, and an extraordinary modern-day
The increasing number of worshippers made the
need for a new facility imperative. At a meeting of the Congregation
in the auditorium of the Luce School in September 1964, the
then President of the Congregation, Clifford Seresky, unveiled
plans for a new Temple, and on January 8, 1965 ground was broken
for the building. Four acres of land had been acquired at 1301
Washington Street and on it would be built a structure with
capacity for four hundred persons. There would be a Sanctuary,
four classrooms, adult meeting room, chapel, library, administrative
offices, a two hundred and fifty person function room, a bride's
room and fine kitchen facilities--all in an 11,000 square foot
area. The Contractor was Ambrosio Construction and the architects
were Badar and Alpers Associates.
Dedication week for the Temple was from Sunday
October 24 through Sunday October 31, 1965, a memorable time
for the Congregation and for the town. During the week there
were art exhibits and music programs, and the first Sabbath
service was on Saturday morning October 30 at 9:30 o'clock.
That evening there was a dedication Dinner Dance in the Social
Hall. The formal dedication of the Temple occurred on Sunday
afternoon in an impressive and solemn service. Congregants marched
from the old Temple to the new one. Bearing Torahs to the Temple
were: Sherman G. Miller, Joel A. Roffman, George Snyder, Bernard
V. Tack, Paul Tattelman, and Abraham Wolff. Torah bearers entering
the Temple were: Maurice Burke, Dr. Theodore J. Goodman, Georgre
A. Levow, Samuel Swardlick, and Lawrence Yorks. The Mezuzah
Service was conducted by Rabbi Kummer and Temple President,
The Invocation was by Rabbi Shamai Kantor of
Temple Israel, Sharon. The choir led by Cantor Ben Gailing sang
the National Anthem and Hatikvah. Jerome H. Hoffman, chairman
of the Dedication Committee, gave the welcoming address, and
Jack R. Bryan, Chairman of the Building Committee, presented
the keys of the Synagogue to President Seresky. The introduction
to the Torah Service was by Maurice Burke, and Jacob Priluck
blew the Shofar. Canopy attendants were Past Presidents, Sumner
Bauman, Sidney Kriger, and Dr. Haskell I. Rapoport; with Benson
Diamond, First Vice President.
Joseph Danovitch represented the Founders of
the Temple. Among the guests who extended congratulations were
Lieutenant Governor Eliot Richardson, the Canton Board of Selectmen,
Representative Maurice E. Ronayne, Jr. Senator John Quinlan,
Canton clergy, and Rabbi Jack Shechter, Executive Director,
New England Region, United Synagogues of America. The principal
dedication address was made by Dr. Simon Greenberg, Vice Chancellor
of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Following Benediction
a festive Open House was enjoyed by the Temple members and their
On February 5, 1967 the Social Hall and Auditorium
was dedicated as the Ross Auditorium in honor of Mr. and Mrs.
Edward Ross by their son Henry. Rabbi Kummer officiated and
the memorial was presented to President Benson Diamond.
Rabbi Kummer was succeeded in 1967 by Rabbi
Michael Luckens, who was followed in 1973 by Rabbi Murray Gershon.
Next in 1978 came Rabbi Joel Chernikoff. His successor in 1982
was Rabbi Aaron Rubinger who presided at the rededication of
the Temple in 1989. This was a major project which began in
1984 when the Board of Directors voted $100,000 to initiate
the plan. Another $800,000 was needed and it was raised by the
Capital Campaign Committee under the direction of Clifford Seresky.
On June 11, 1989 over four hundred persons were at the dedication
of the refurbished Temple. They viewed a sanctuary with new
permanent seating which was a gift of Phyllis and Clifford Seresky
in honor of their parents. The sanctuary was accordingly re-named
the Waldman/Seresky Sanctuary The social hall was enlarged,
there was a new youth lounge, a refurbished Hebrew School wing,
an enriched library, and an expanded kitchen. The President
of the rededicated Temple was Joyce Wiseman, Fred Kaplan had
chaired the Building Committee, and ninety year old Cantor Ben
Gailing led the choir
1989 was to be Rabbi Rubinger's last year. He was followed in
by Rabbi William Hamilton and the present Rabbi Eliot Marrus.
Cantor Gailing retired and will be ninety nine years old on
his next birthday. His successor was Michael D. Friedman. The
current Rabbi is David Paskin. The Temple's membership is strong,
supportive and stable.