Arts & Culture

How a Jewish Banner from Boston’s North End Became Israel’s Official Flag

The fascinating connection between Israel’s flag and Boston’s North End has come to light in a research paper by Brandeis University professor Jonathan Sarna, recently highlighted in the Boston Globe.

Back in 1892 on Columbus Day, hundreds of Jewish residents from the North End marched a white flag with the blue six-pointed Star of David and two stripes from Hanover Street’s Zion Hall through the West End and downtown Boston. At the time, the North End was changing from being mostly Irish in the 19th century to a mix of Jewish and Italian immigrants. columnist, Nick Dello Russo, wrote about the Jewish enclave in the neighborhood, A Shtetl in the City; The Jewish North End. He noted that “after the Civil War, Eastern European Jews began arriving in large numbers. Like so many ethnic groups, they came with nothing but what they could carry and the tenements of the North End offered cheap, affordable housing.”

There were several synagogues centered around Salem Street in the 1890’s and some buildings still have Jewish inscriptions, notably on Jerusalem Place. (See 10 Hidden North End Historical Sites.)

In his paper, American Jews and the Flag of Israel (pdf), Professor Sarna examines how Jews in the United States rallied around the design so that “the flag first seen in Boston” came to be the official Jewish banner and eventually the flag of Israel.

Images and captions from American Jews and the Flag of Israel (pdf) by Jonathan Sarna, Brandeis University.

8 Replies to “How a Jewish Banner from Boston’s North End Became Israel’s Official Flag

  1. I loved this article also. Thought it was very interesting that the Jewish people marched in the Columbus Day Parade back then with their new flag. I also loved the picture of what looks like Salem St.

  2. Thanks Matt for sharing this with us. Having studied Jewish history for over 70 years, I had never heard this story. This is so very exciting! It completes the connection as to why I just love living here.

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