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Fall River Jewish community collection

Identifier: MC-017

Scope and Contents

Collection of files on various topics, organizations, families, individuals, and religious and educational institutions associated with the Jewish community of Fall River, Mass. Files contain newspaper clippings, anniversary booklets, photographs and typescript notes. Of special note is the census of Jewish families in Fall River, conducted in 1957. Information formerly in the collection on Temple Beth El has been transferred to MC 75.


  • 1886-1991 (bulk, 1955-1961)
  • Majority of material found within 1955 - 1961

Conditions Governing Access


Biographical / Historical

The first Jews to settle in Fall River were German. Charles and Henry Strassman arrived from California in 1870, followed by Edward Landman, Isador Harris and others. Several Jewish merchants owned stores on South Main Street in the 1870s, including Henry Strassman (the first “department” store in the city), Samuel Morris (a hardware store), Schlosstein (cigars), Boas (men’s clothing), and Isaac Landman (women’s hats). They were followed by Jews from Eastern Europe: Isaac and Louis Smolensky in 1874, and between 1880 and 1884, Louis Kavolsky, Simon Gourse, Moses Markell, Samuel Shon, Samuel Smolensky, Joseph Madowsky and others. Early Eastern European Jewish settlers were peddlers, but they were later able to establish shops and stores. The first Jewish-owned store among this group, which sold clothing, was established in 1884 by Louis Smolensky.

Before the first congregation was formed in Fall River, Jewish residents had to travel to Providence or Newport, Rhode Island to attend services. Congregation Adas Israel was formed in 1888, located on the top floor of the Troy Building at Fourth and Pleasant Streets. Two years later the synagogue moved to South Main Street. By 1897 the congregation had grown enough to call for a permanent building, which was erected on Pearl Street. Several Jewish fraternal organizations were formed in the same year, including the Sons of Benjamin, B’rith Abraham and the Sons of Judea, and in 1902 the First Talmud Torah Association, and the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Associations. In 1905 the Jewish population of Fall River was 1500, and by 1920 it was 7500, following a period of rapid growth. In 1913 the Hebrew Ladies’ Helping Hand Society was formed. In 1915 and 1916 three other orthodox congregations were formed – Paole Zedeck, Ben Jacob and Beth David, none of which exist today. In 1924 Temple Beth El was founded, a congregation which continues today, despite a fire which destroyed the synagogue in 1928. It was rebuilt and rededicated in 1929.


3.75 Linear Feet (9 manuscript boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by various individuals from 1982 to the present.

MC 17, Fall River Jewish community collection
Kyle Carey
December 1999
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Claire T. Carney Library Archives and Special Collections, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Repository

285 Old Westport Rd.
N. Dartmouth MA 02747 USA