2009.11.10 06:21:45

Many years have passed since I last lived in the "Tannery City." The first home of my recollection was on Foster St. and then to Stevens St. Even at this date, I still think back to those times with some reverence.

I still recall swinging on the gate of the Synagogue to the annoyance of the elders, playing with Louie Edelstein, Irving Babner, Meyer Erlich, Dona Feingold, and others. We have great childhood memories.

 I remember attending Hebrew School, with no great delight, but preparations had to be made for a Bar Mitzvah with Rabbi Essrog. With all these memories that I share with other former residents of Peabody such as Annette Lampert, now of Florida, I still find some memories absent.

During the time of residing in Peabody, there were many clergymen who passed through town. One was a Rabbi Goldstein, who was the Sundic for my son's Bris. And yet, with all these memories that I have regarding the clergy of Peabody, I find no mention of one, who was not only a Hazan, but also a Mohel, and a Schochet, for our community. He not only served as a Canto, and a Mohel, but oversaw the health of the community as a Schochet.

...Reverend Abraham L. Smith lived there, and was associated with the kosher butchers such as Mr. Sheinheit, Mr. Goldstein, and Mr. Ainbinder. During the holidays, he purchased the "Chometz" and said the prayers at the cemeteries. He gave counsel, when asked, to Mr. M. Irving Herbster, Esq. and David Kirstein, president of the Congregation Sons of Israel.

...My parents came to Peabody from Poland, but they were not public figures. I enlisted in the Navy during WWII from Peabody and remember when the Post Office was on the corner of Main St. and Foster St. I remember that when I came home to Peabody for only two days before going overseas, I said good-bye to my parents, Michael and Annie Cohen, and also that the last person, not a family member, that I bid farewell to was Harold Kirstein who was killed in the Battle of the Bulge while I was in the Pacific on a minesweeper in the Aleutian Islands.

...Reverend Abraham L. Smith became my father in law, and is for whom my son is named.

2009.06.24 22:20:58
 We lived on Jacob Street and my earliest memories of the "Big Shul" are walking to Shul with my father, Benjamin Erlich and my brother Harvey Erlich.  I would sit with my father when I was small - fourth row center. This was a very special treat for me as I did not often have time to spend with my father.  I would fidget and he would say to me "only 20 more pages" (or thirty or four-whatever it was).  I envied my grown up sister Selma and her friends as they sat together all dressed up with lipstick and everything, but she was too old to sit with our father so I was proud.  Years later I would sit upstairs in the front row on the right side with my best friends Barbara Bronstein and Nancy Ossoff and we would throw little bits of paper down on the boys below. My father would look up at us and smile but my brother would act angry, even though he and his friends obviously enjoyed the attention. I have at least 7 pages of immediate memories but I won't go on further.  Just to say that Sons of Israel was my always part of home and I love being there today.

2009.05.28 21:31:22
To be back in the "good-old-days" back in the old neighborhood on Sanborn St & Elliott Pl! I remember with anticipation going to Hebrew School and learning from two of the kindest and most nurturing teachers, Mr & Mrs Shiffman! The excitement of going to Junior Congregation Services and finally being Bar-Mitzvah'd due to the gracious financial help of Max Korn & Irving Herbster. These men truly made it possible for me to attend Hebrew School and participate fully in the learnings of Yiddish-kite! I have been told that I inherited my father's voice(Lester Miller), and I successfully attended Boston Conservatory of Music where I studied Classical Voice and now utilize it in Cantoring in the Greater Philadelphia area. May G-d bless Congregation Sons of Israel and all of it's Congregants forever!

2009.04.30 07:17:17

My active time with Congregation Sons of Israel (aka the Big Shul) began in 1951 at the age of 3 and ended about 1969 when I graduated from college.


Both sets of grandparents (Simon and Esther Rosen on my Mother’s side and Israel and Fanny Woloshen on my Father’s side) attended services there as did my parents Morris and Leah Woloshen, my sister Debbie and most of my uncles, aunts and cousins.


Originally, my father’s father belonged to Anshe Sfard ( aka the Little Shul), but for reasons shrouded in the veil of time,  left there around 1920 to join the Big Shul, which was more Polish than Russian although he was Russian. There was a fight, I think.


My Uncle Mandel remained a member of the Little Shul until he died.  I vividly remember running back and forth between the shuls during the High Holidays. The cantor at the Little Shul was also the local butcher, and he had a beautiful voice.


All the cantors in those days sang with great feeling (tam) and you could hear the old world cry in their voices channeling the wanderings, the pogroms and the martyrdoms of the ages- and the women in the balconies would be spilling tears, especially during Kol Nidre.  While today’s cantors may be technically better, they don’t have the same feeling.


My father and I were both bar mitzvahed at the shul, he in 1928, me in 1961.  For most of the years I was growing up he chanted the Haftorah on Yom Kippur. He almost knew it by heart.  He had a nice tenor voice inherited from my grandfather- which was not, in any way, passed down to the next generation.


During Hebrew school years (from about 1956-1963) we were compelled to attend Saturday morning services, where Chaim Weisman would chant Shacharis with his distinctive, high pitched, nasal Polish (Pailishe) accent.  In 1961-2 there were many bar mitzvahs including those of my best friends Avrom Herbster, Alan Pierce and Jimmy Cherney- my cousins Eric Rosen, and Steven Green, my classmates and friends like Paul Ordman, Jerry Shore, Jay Levy, Bob West , Leo Remis, Stuart Lampert, Neil Richman, Jerry Goldberg, Mark Waldman, Chucky Schultz, Paul Polansky, Jay Shapiro, Mark Weisman, Steven Gaman, Dave Goldstein and others- all under the stern tutelage of Moshe and Hilda Shiffman.


After services I would, without fail, walk through the slightly forbidding, mainly gentile side streets, over to my Grandmother’s apartment on Main Street and, there was always cholent, pitscha, and chicken soup for lunch- sometimes brisket and mashed potatoes.  My Uncle Mandel was there sucking the marrow out of chicken bones from the soup.  He was a bit of a character.  A natty dresser, a lifelong bachelor, a tough guy factory foreman who enjoyed his scotch and women- but unfailingly made the trip from Dover, NH to Peabody on weekends to take care of Bubbie and Zadie.   He often took me swimming on sweltering summer afternoons to Devereaux beach in Marblehead and to the Turkish baths on Walnut Street in the winter.  Those baths are long gone.


For services, our family (the men and boys) always sat in the pews on the left hand side near the front, all the better to hear the sermons of Rabbi Dr. Noah Goldstein and the Yom Kippur pleas for money from Dave Kirstein.


There was a handful of bearded men who might have been transported from a Chagall painting, draped in tallesim, dovening with great intensity- and as with many of the old shuls, people chanted at their own pace, carried on conversations and in general created an environment of what appeared to be chaos and cacophony, but which somehow worked better than the more measured, if not slightly Episcopalian flavor of today’s suburban services. Even the shofar sounded a bit different than it does today- but that may only be nostalgia.


Those days represented the last vestiges of the shtetl, imbued then, in the 50s and 60s, with the spirit of living men and women born in Europe in the 1870s and 80s whose legacy lives today in the Big Shul.


Dan Woloshen

September 2008

2008.10.27 19:44:02

My fondest memories of the Shul go back to my childhood. On the High Holidays my sister Ruth & I would sit behind my grandmother, Bessie Kellerman, and her friends, in the second row of the balcony. They were all wearing hats with veils and fur pieces with the little animal heads. We also were dressed in holiday finery, including hats & white gloves. I enjoyed looking down on the men davening, seeing my grandfather, Isadore Kellerman.


I attended Junior Congregation regularly, alternating between Sons of Israel & Anshe Sfard. I still have my Junior Congregation pin. I would often walk home from Shul with Mr. Shiffman who would engage me in interesting conversations. I even visited him and Mrs. Shiffman at their home which was close to my own home. I also fondly remember Rabbi Goldstein who lived down the street from me & seeing him, his wife & children in a baby carriage out for a stroll.


Today I regularly attend Shabbat services as I did when I was in Hebrew school. I am grateful to Avrom Herbster (my friend & classmate) who motivated me by saying “Try it, you’ll like it”. While praying in the sanctuary, I now look up to the balcony and remember those wonderful women who used to be there. I look at the bimah, the restored walls & ceiling which look the same as they did years ago with the wonderful addition of the clouds in the sky. The Shul has become a constant in my life.

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