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The Full Story



Jewish communities are known to have lived in the Raritan Valley since as early as 1698 and in New Brunswick itself since the eighteenth century, but their first congregations were not officially formed until the mid19th century. In 1848 a congregation was organized in Newark and, around the same time, another was formed in Paterson. Congregations were also organized in Elizabeth in 1857 and in Trenton shortly thereafter. The first New Brunswick and Raritan Valley congregation, Anshe Emeth, was chartered in 1859 by a group of primarily German immigrants. It was followed in 1889 by the orthodox Eastern European congregation of Ahavas Achim. Poile Zedek, New Brunswick’s third congregation, was organized in 1901. Ohav Emeth of New Brunswick, organized by Hungarian Jews in 1918, was the city's fourth Jewish congregation. A fifth congregation, Etz Ahaim, was formed by Sephardic Jews in 1926. All five of New Brunswick’s synagogues—Anshe Emeth, Ahavas Achim, Poile Zedek, Ohav Emeth, and Etz Ahaim—stood within a few blocks of each other, in the Hiram Market neighborhood. Anshe Emeth of New Brunswick built its—and the Raritan Valley's—first synagogue on Albany Street near Neilson Street in 1897. A two-story, gable front, frame structure that looked like a residence, it had stained glass pointed arch windows at its front, a nod to the Gothic Revival style. Ahavas Achim's original home, a gable front building with rounded arch openings, was purchased in 1900 from the Salvation Army and remodeled into a synagogue. It stood on Richmond Street, around the corner from Poile Zedek. Poile Zedek built its first synagogue in 1905, on the site of its present home. Poile Zedek's present synagogue, the fourth raised in the city, was constructed in 1923-1924. Ohav Emeth built an exotic Moorish, Byzantine and Romanesque brick synagogue on New Street just to the south of Poile Zedek in 1927. Also on New Street, Etz Ahaim raised its synagogue. Of all of these New Brunswick synagogues, only Poile Zedek remained.


Poile Zedek Synagogue

Poile Zedek Synagogue features a blend of Romanesque, Classical Revival, Georgian and Moorish Revival styles, and represents the eclectic architecture that characterized Raritan Valley and American synagogue architecture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A handsome, partially intact building, retains its integrity of design, materials and workmanship. One of the last early properties in New Brunswick's former Hiram Market Historic District, the synagogue stands on Neilson Street, just south of the National Register-listed Christ Episcopal Church and Dutch Reformed Church.

In October 2015, a fire tore through the historic Congregation Poile Zedek on Neilson Street in New Brunswick, damaging all but the outside shell and leaving the building uninhabitable. It is believed that the cause was an electrical fire. 



Unfortunately the congregation did not rebuild and had to place the building on the market. When we first saw the opportunity, our vision was to save the history of the building to the best of our ability. Even with the extreme damage from the devastating fire, the exterior shell of the building was still beautiful and intact. We didn't want to change the character of the building. Instead with the unique exterior of the building we strived to construct the interior to be just as distinctive as the exterior. We had to demo the entire interior and retrofit it to accommodate the exterior structure, and support I-beams running through the building.  Even though this was a challenging build we are exceedingly pleased with being able to keep the history of New Brunswick and the Poile Zedek synagogue alive.

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