Aside from having one of the most difficult names to spell, the state of Massachusetts is known for its rich history, serving as a main catalyst for the Revolutionary War, the founding of major universities, the colorful and stereotypical accents of its citizens, and its well-known sports teams which people either love or hate. Massachusetts in general, and the greater Boston area in particular, is also home to a long-standing, enduring, resilient and active Jewish community.

In 1752, Aaron Lopez became the first Jewish citizen naturalized in Massachusetts in 1752. It was Lopez who founded the first Jewish community in Leicester, MA (west of Worcester) along with the family of Jacob Rodriguez Rivera. The two Sephardi families remained in Leicester until after the Revolution. The state’s first permanent Jewish community eventually settled in Boston in the late 1830s and was populated by central European immigrants. Congregation Ohabei Shalom, the state’s first synagogue, was established in the 1840s. After 1840, German and Eastern European peddlers, watchmakers, tailors, shoemakers and small business owners began moving to communities in central and Northern Massachusetts, especially to factory and mill towns including Pittsfield, Worcester, Holyoke, Springfield, Fall River, Lawrence, Lynn and Haverhill. The Sephardic community, dating from prior to the Revolution, endured in the southeastern port of New Bedford, through the 1850s, when Jewish German immigrants arrived. The first Jewish burial in Massachusetts occurred in New Bedford in 1857.

Nationally renowned Jewish institutions such as Brandeis University (Waltham), the National Yiddish Book Center (Amherst), the New England Hassidic Center/the Bostoner Rebbe (Brookline) and Hebrew College (Newton) make their homes in Massachusetts. The Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston serves as the Federation for the Boston area, while 12 other Jewish Federations serve other communities in Massachusetts. There are 45 Hillel Foundations in Massachusetts colleges (including at two Catholic colleges) and 10 JCCs, in addition to the Boston JCC Association. Countless Massachusetts Jews have served in local, state and Federal government and three Bay State Jews have been appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court: Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter and Justice Steven Breyer, who currently serves.

By 1917, 190,000 Jews lived in Massachusetts. The Jewish population grew to 263,000 in 1937, and as of 2017, was determined to be 293,080, 80% of whom live within an hour’s drive of greater Boston.
On February 6, 1788, Massachusetts became the 6th state to ratify the United States Constitution.

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