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 Sharon.
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 prophet.

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, Clifford Seresky.

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 guests.

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.


 

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