Strangers to Neighbors: Jewish Life on Nantucket

The Whitney Gallery located at the NHA Research Library on Fair Street will feature an exciting new partner exhibit this summer.   The NHA is excited to partner with Congregation Shirat HaYam as it celebrates its 36th anniversary of the Congregation on Nantucket. The exhibit will tell the history of the Congregation, as well as the Jewish community’s commercial life, its religious life, its educational life and its efforts to support the larger Nantucket community as a whole.  In so doing, it will be a way to recognize and celebrate the island’s varied population – a significant interest of both organizations.

In describing the story of Jewish life in Nantucket beginning in the 1780s, with an account of the Jewish families who played a role in the success of the island’s whaling industry, the exhibit will continue to document the slow sustained growth of a young community into the early1900s, the official formation of the Congregation in July 1983, and its subsequent history to the present.

Additionally, the exhibit will highlight specific individuals and describe how the Jewish people, though 30 miles out to sea without a religious organization of their own, were still able to overcome social barriers and were then able to gradually build homes, businesses and a spiritual life on the island.  As they have done elsewhere in the world, the exhibit will show how the Jewish population has not only survived, but contributed to, and flourished as a part of the growing and vibrant life of Nantucket.


The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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