Our History and Mission

Inspired in 1975 by “Insights,” a series of programs initiated by the American Jewish Committee as part of the U.S. Bicentennial observance, a small group of North Shore people presented an evening of remembrances.  It was pure nostalgia.  An ambitious paper on the history of Lynn Jewry, written by Nathan Gass, was read by his wife, Sophie.  Other stories were told about the early Jewish families of Lynn and the program was videotaped.  The question was raised as to what should be done with the tape.  A project was launched, with advice from the American Jewish Historical Society and the support of the Jewish Federation of the North Shore, to establish a North Shore Jewish historical society.

Since its founding in 1977 by Nathan and Sophie Gass, the Jewish Historical Societyof the North Shore has become an archival repository for memorabilia and recollections, a producer of educational and cultural events, and a partner in research and publishing projects to preserve Jewish community history.

With a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Society commissioned a study of the Jewish community in Lynn exploring the many ways the shoe industry allowed the early Russian immigrants and their children to realize the American dream.  The Society also presented a prize-winning video, Reasons to Remember, to many Jewish organizations.  In addition, the Society sponsored numerous public programs and exhibits and published two books on North Shore Jewish history: The Jewish Community of the North Shore (2003) and A History of Boston's Jewish North Shore (2009).  In 2012 the Society broadened its mission and changed its name to the Jewish Heritage Center of the North Shore.

Today the Jewish Heritage Center provides archival access to several thousand documents, books, photographs and videos; works of art and architecture; and a broad variety of artifacts and ephemera that chronicle the Jewish presence on the North Shore from late 19th century to the present.  Our purpose is to shape memories of the North Shore Jewish experience that everyone can cherish and affirm.  Toward this end, we preserve, document, interpret and disseminate historical materials in formats that convey powerful stories and images of the development of North Shore Jewish communities and institutions.

We also offer educational programs, exhibits and special events that build knowledge, understanding and appreciation of North Shore Jewish residents’ rich cultural heritage as well as their contributions to business, government, science, education, philanthropy, sports, the professions and the arts.  Additionally, we assist North Shore Jewish families and individuals in their genealogy research and we collaborate with North Shore Jewish communal institutions on the development and dissemination of their historical narratives.

The Jewish Heritage Center welcomes contributions of documents, family trees, photographs, videos, art and artifacts.  We are located in a charming colonial house on the campus of the JRC/Aviv Centers for Living at 242 Lynnfield Street, Peabody, MA.  Reach us by phone at 978-595-1557, by email at jhcnsinfo@gmail.com, or by postal mail at Jewish Heritage Center of the North Shore, c/o JRC/Aviv Centers for Living, 240 Lynnfield Street, Peabody, MA 01960.