The Rhode Island Jewish Museum (RIJM) is situated in the Sons of Jacob Synagogue at 24 Douglas Avenue, Providence, RI, a treasure created by newly arrived immigrants from Russia, Poland and Austria.
We are all descended from immigrants, and this building shows the aspirations of a group of Jewish refugees whose spirit continues to inspire all of us. During that same era nearly two dozen synagogues were chartered in the city, and this building is the last one standing. It was an important building for the Jewish community. The Providence Journal reported in 1906 that thousands of people had lined the streets to cheer on the procession, led by a marching band and nearly 300 Hebrew school children, when Torah scrolls were transferred into the newly erected building.
The museum has begun the structural renewal of an entire section of toppled brick in the side rear of the building; this was removed, cleaned up and rebuilt, as can be seen in the before and after pictures. Masonry work has also been done on exterior areas of concern. In addition, plumbing facility needs have been updated.
An architectural firm has been engaged to prepare a proposal for other repairs and to make a master plan for the Museum. Twenty four Douglas Avenue is listed on the National Register of Historical Places, on the Providence Preservation Society’s Most Endangered Property List, and RIJM is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization.
In addition to the exterior, the interior is also in the process of being restored. A RIJM Gallery room has been cleaned up and set aside for programs, art shows and visiting lecturers. Many exciting events have been held at the Museum this year. On February 18, one of the museum board members was married in the main sanctuary of the Sons of Jacob Synagogue and the signing of the ketubbah was in the museum gallery. On April 28, the museum was part of a tour sponsored by Encuentro 2018 - The 3rd National Convening of Latinos in Heritage Preservation and the 33rd Annual Rhode Island Statewide Historic Preservation Conference. Providence College classes have been hosted in the RIJM gallery as well.
The building is one of four synagogues in Rhode Island chosen by Rabbi Raphie Schochet, who will give a historical overview of each of these buildings.
David H. Wells, an award winning freelance photographer/videographer, created a visual narrative of four Sons of Jacob congregants who told their stories, which he coupled with exquisite supporting images. This will be shown at our RIJM open houses and at other engagements.
For more information, visit rhodeislandjewishmuseum.org, which tells the RIJM story and features an historic map of the Smith Hill Neighborhood from the early 1900s (courtesy of Arthur Robbins).
Come visit the museum at one of the open houses on the following Sundays in 2018: June 24 (10 a.m.-12.p.m.), July 29 (1-3 p.m.), August 19 (1-3 p.m.), September 16 (1-3 p.m.), October 28 (1-3 p.m.), November 25 (1-3 p.m.) and December 30 (1-3 p.m.).