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Century-Old Boston Synagogue Receives $500K For Preservation

BOSTON (JTA) – A century-old synagogue that serves as a Jewish cultural center will receive $500,000 from the city for historic preservation of the once-abandoned building that is now a landmark and tourist destination.

The restoration is important to the history of Boston’s immigration, according to Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim. “It tells a story through its walls, artifacts and location,” said Zakim, the son of the late Lenny Zakim, the prominent Jewish civil rights advocate who led the New England Anti-Defamation League for 15 years, until his death at age 46.

Dating back to 1919, the Vilna Shul, located at 18 Philips Street, is nestled in to the north slope of the city’s historic and affluent Beacon Hill, in what was once an immigrant enclave of tenements and in earlier times, a historic African-American neighborhood.

The Vilna, the last of the area’s 40 synagogues from the early twentieth century, was the religious home for Congregation Anshei Vilner, founded by Jews from Vilnius, in present-day Lithuania.

The building was eventually abandoned and structurally condemned in the mid-1980s. In 1995, a non-profit formed to reclaim the Vilna Shul was allowed to purchase the building and land at fair market value.

It has since been rejuvenated as a thriving Jewish cultural center with some 10,000 visitors annually, including participants in Jewish programs, tourists and school groups, Kessel told JTA

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