This brick structure, with pedimented portico supported by four columns, was built in 1954 as the home of Congregation Beth David, a Conservative Jewish congregation founded in 1892 that previously worshipped on nearby Chalkstone Boulevard. The building was designed by Thomas Russillo, an architect of some repute responsible for many Rhode Island institutional buildings and private homes, and is sited in a residential neighborhood whose large, substantially built three-decker houses are typical of the Smith Hill area.
Jewish immigrants began arriving in Providence in the late 1860s, first from Germany and then from eastern Europe, particularly Poland, Lithuania and Russia. Providence was prosperous in that period and jobs were plentiful. They settled in Smith Hill, one of Providence’s most affordable areas, living peacefully among the Irish immigrants already there. Members of both groups became shopkeepers, tailors, bakers, machinists, and soon lawyers and doctors, as well as workers in the textile, jewelry and rubber industries, drivers of Providence’s then-flourishing economy.
In 1970 the Beth David congregation merged with Anshei Kovno Congregation (founded at the turn of the century by immigrants from Kovno, Lithuania). The merged congregation, called Beth David-Anshei Kovno congregation, left Providence in 1980 to join with the Beth Am congregation in Warwick. This building was then first rented and ultimately purchased by a new church, the Gospel Tabernacle Outreach Ministries (GTOM), whose home it remains today.
GTOM’s missions and ministries respond to the area’s current population, largely African American and Hispanic. GTOM sponsors a Hispanic Heritage Month and works to promote education in the community with a scholarship fund and recognition awards for successful students. The organization also offers instruction in life skills such as literacy, financial responsibility, employment, and entrepreneurship. They also host a Men’s Ministry, and they run a food pantry and a food kitchen open to all. In many ways, the spirit of the original Congregation Beth David as a place of worship for new immigrants lives on in GTOM.