Congregation Ahavas Achim celebrates 125th anniversary

Congregation Ahavas Achim, one of the oldest Jewish congregations on the North Shore, will continue its year-long celebration of its 125th anniversary with an open house on Sunday, May 15, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the synagogue’s historic building at 53½ Washington St. in Newburyport.  

The event—the first of two marking the anniversary this spring—will feature guided architectural tours of the synagogue building; a slideshow of photos depicting the growth of the congregation; a timeline of Newburyport’s Jewish community dating back to CAA’s formation in 1896; and a display of community memorabilia.

Congregational Leader Alex Matthews will answer questions about religious practices and ceremonial objects in the building.

The event is free and open to the public. Registration is not required. Refreshments will be served.

On Sunday, June 12, at 4 p.m., longtime synagogue members Anna Smulowitz, the renowned playwright of “Terezin, Children of the Holocaust” who has been chronicling Jewish life in Newburyport for decades, and Joel Grossman, a past President of the Board, will discuss Reflections on 125 Years of Rich Jewish History in Newburyport.

Congregation Ahavas Achim continues its year-long celebration of its 125th anniversary with two spring events. Shown here are members of CAA with Hebrew School students, circa 1908.

This event is also free and open to the community, and there will be a free livestream of the program for those who are unable to attend in person.  Registration at is required to attend or access the livestream. 

CAA, as the congregation is familiarly known, was formally established in 1896, although Jews had been living in Newburyport and holding services in their homes for at least 25 years previously.  The first “official” home was a rented room in Market Square.  In 1907, the members purchased a house on Liberty and Independence streets, and in 1933 the congregation bought the current building, on the corner of Washington and Olive streets, which had been built by a Methodist congregation that merged with the Methodist church on Purchase Street in Newburyport.