Newark's Oldest Standing Synagogue Building

by Nat Bodian


Of the more than 50 synagogue buildings that served Newark's once large Jewish population, the oldest still-standing synagogue building is the mid-19th century building of the Congregation Oheb Shalom, established by German-Jewish immigrants in 1860.

Its earliest building structure, erected in 1884 at No. 30 Prince Street in Newark's old Third Ward, was used by the congregation until 1911, when the congregation moved to larger quarters at 672 High Street.

The Prince Street Oheb Shalom building is also the oldest still-standing synagogue building in Essex County. It is on the National and State Registers of Historic Places.

The congregation subsequently worshipped in a new larger building at 672 High Street until 1957. In that year, 97 years after its establishment, the congregation moved out of Newark to its current location on Valley Road in South Orange.

Newark Synagogue Records Maintained

Through all of its 97 years in Newark, the records of the synagogue were meticulously kept and were preserved by descendents of the Synagogue's first rabbi, Isaac Schwartz.

While the congregation made its home in Newark, the records were stored in boxes in a Weequahic section residence on Renner Avenue. When the congregation left Newark, the records followed in the possession of David Schechner, a past president of Oheb Shalom and the great grandson of the congregation's first rabbi.

Records Included Local Jewish History

The records included minutes of congregational meetings, as well as copies of letters the rabbi wrote to his congregants. It also included glimpses of Newark Jewish life during the time of the writing. For example, a note that in the 1916 census, there were 35,000 Jews in Newark and 635 pushcarts.

The Oheb Shalom archives have recently been contributed to the Jewish Historic Society of Metrowest in Whippany, as has been the case with many other former Newark synagogues.

An online itemized inventory of the Oheb Shalom's ancient records is being prepared for access on the Jewish Historical Society web site.



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