As building booms in Chelsea area, rabbis hope for Jewish renaissance

Walnut Street Synagogue Rabbi Lila Kagedan says people want to connect and want something “more meaningful.’’ –David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

A century ago, the sight of Rabbi Sruli Baron walking through Chelsea in a yarmulke and tzitzit — fringes that symbolize religious obligations in Judaism — wouldn’t have been remarkable.

During the 1920s, Chelsea was believed to be home to the largest Jewish population per square mile in the United States outside New York City, according to Norman H. Finkelstein, who grew up in the city and has written about his hometown.

But the modern day Chelsea that Baron, 26, moved to earlier this month with his wife, Chaya, 24, and infant son is a drastically different place: The population is more than 60 percent Hispanic or Latino and the number of synagogues has dropped from about 18 to 2.