RIJHA: Looking to the future as it preserves our past


The Rhode Island Jewish Historical Association was chartered in 1951 and is the oldest nonprofit Jewish historical society in continuous operation in the United States. RIJHA’s mission is to collect and preserve items related to the history of Jews in Rhode Island, conduct programs that encourage and promote the study of that history, and support research into R.I.’s Jewish history.

As RIJHA members look toward the coming year, the association is proud of its many recent accomplishments:

  • RIJHA assisted in genealogical and scholarly research using materials from its Beryl and Chaya Segal Archives. These archives are currently being catalogued into a digital cataloging software system to make the collection more accessible to members, researchers and the general public.
  • In March, RIJHA published a book on the effects of COVID-19 on Jewish life in Rhode Island, featuring 29 essays by Rhode Islanders. “Rhode Island Community Covid-19 Reflections” is in RIJHA’s archives, available to be read now and in the future.
  • RIJHA arranged for the preservation and restoration of portraits of the first two documented Jewish settlers in Providence, Dutch immigrants Solomon and Miriam Pareira. Work on the portraits is being done by Gianfranco Pocobene, a specialist in portrait restoration, in Malden, Massachusetts.
  • RIJHA published its annual issue of Rhode Island Jewish Historical Notes, a journal of carefully researched and documented articles, as well as tributes to recently deceased RIJHA members.
  • RIJHA regularly collaborated with other nonprofit historical organizations.

At the annual meeting in May, RIJHA members made several presentations highlighting some of the collections: Bob Kemp presented “Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and Jewish Immigration via the Fabre Line to Providence”; Ruth Breindel gave a detailed presentation on the Moshassuck Cemetery, in Central Falls; Linda Lotridge Levin presented an Underwood typewriter with Hebrew keys that was owned by Solomon Lightman in the 1940s; Elizabeth Bakst reminded everyone of the National Council of Jewish Women’s dispensary, a medical clinic that ran from 1911 to 1938, helping the underserved populations in Providence’s North End; and George Goodwin gave an update on how photographs are selected for RIJHA’s various publications.

RIJHA plans to share parts of its collections digitally with members through a social-media outreach initiative that will start in the fall.

Also coming up this fall, as always, RIJHA will invite its members to renew their membership. This year, the association will also make a special effort to reach out on social media to younger generations and all others who are interested in learning about, or participating in, preserving Rhode Island’s Jewish history.

RIJHA welcomes active participants as well as observers and supporters. For more information or to view the digital collections, go to www.rijha.org.

Submitted by the Rhode Island Jewish Historical Association