Over 100 years ago, the West End and the North Slope of Beacon Hill became a center of learning and prayer for hundreds Jews from Eastern Europe. Throughout the past year, genealogists have been researching and tracking down descendants of the many members who contributed to establishment of both the synagogue building and the congregation.
After much anticipation, the Vilna welcomed over 100 descendents of the Shul's original founders, who built the Shul in 1919 after formally organizing back in 1893.
You can read the entire Sunday Boston Globe article by staff writer Lisa Wangsness here.
Guests had the opportunity to tour the historic property and learn what life was like for their immigrant ancestors in the early 1900s when Beacon Hill was a very different neighborhood than it is today. Each family also received historical documents, including census records and naturalization papers, as well as a map of the area to locate where their family actually lived in the neighborhood during this time.
More than 170 people are now connected to the Shul’s original founders who prayed for 65 years at 18 Phillips Street before life rapidly changed in the 1950s. At that time, city of Boston destroyed the West End in an urban renew project. The demolition left the Vilna as one of the only synagogues in the area. As most of the Jewish community had long since left Beacon Hill for more desirable neighborhoods and open space, the Vilna Shul became a synagogue for those "left" on the Hill.