A Brief History Of Congregation Adath Jeshurun
Adath Jeshurun is the oldest operating synagogue in Elizabeth,
New Jersey, and one of the oldest operating
synagogues in the state of New Jersey.
Known colloquially as “The Murray Street Shul,” this remarkably tenacious
institution has been serving the religious needs of Elizabeth’s
Jewish community for 83 years, and we hope, shall continue to do so for many
years to come. But where did this congregation come from?
Jeshurun was incorporated on September
26, 1921 under the 1898 Act To Incorporate Associations Not For
Pecuniary Profit of the State of New Jersey.
In the first few years of its existence, the congregation worshiped in the
Elizabeth YM-YWHA’s building, renting a larger hall for the high holidays.
Permanent quarters for the congregation were obtained in 1927, when the
synagogue’s first president, Henry P. Nelson, deeded a house and land at 200
Murray Street, on the corner of Chilton
Street, to the congregation for the sum of one
dollar. That same house has remained the Synagogue’s home ever since.
congregation’s early records were kept in Yiddish until 1939. After 1939, the
language of choice was English. Throughout its history, Adath Jeshurun has been
involved in many charitable causes. Very early in its existence, in the early
1930’s, the Congregation procured plots in Mount
and formed a Cemetery Association to administer it. This, too, continues to
this day. The congregation operated a Talmud Torah up until the 1940’s, when
the foundation of the Jewish Educational Center School in the Elmora
neighborhood made Adath Jeshurun’s Talmud Torah redundant.
the many charitable causes supported by the Congregation through its history
are the United Jewish Appeal, the Jewish War Veterans, the Anti-Nazi League,
the Jewish Educational Center of Elizabeth, Ezras Torah, the Red Magen Dovid,
Kolanu Yachad, and many, many others. A most interesting charitable cause was
supported in 1943. In conjunction with the Jewish War Veterans and other Jewish
organizations, the Congregation contributed several thousand dollars towards
the purchase of six bombers for the war effort! In 1952, the Congregation
raised more than 11,000 dollars for the young state of Israel
through an Israel Bonds drive. The Congregation continues to support many
Jewish causes, donating many thousands of dollars to many different
organizations throughout the world.
the early 1940’s, the Congregation began to feel confined by its Murray
Street habitat, and sought to build a new, larger
synagogue. To this end, a piece of property on Vine
Street was purchased for 3,500 dollars. With this
enthusiasm for new construction, there were several merger attempts made in the
1940’s. In 1943, Rabbi Pinchas Teitz asked Adath Jeshurun to merge with the
Talmud Torah he had founded, to provide a synagogue to go with his planned
school. This offer was turned down by the Board of Adath Jeshurun, which
responded with a counter offer for the Rabbi Teitz Talmud Torah to merge with
the Congregation! Later on in 1944, a merger with Bais Yitzchok Synagogue was
proposed and passed by both organizations, but because of war-related shortages
of building materials, construction of the new building for the two synagogues
was postponed, and the merger fell apart. After the war, the Congregation’s
finances collapsed, and the Congregation was forced to sell its property on Vine
Street in 1953. However, the Congregation got
$9,000 for the property, making a tidy profit!
the financial house back in order, it was proposed that the old house on Murray
Street be torn down and a new building constructed
there. This was deemed too expensive, and an expansion and remodeling of the
old Synagogue was undertaken and completed by the end of the 1950’s.
the 1960’s, the congregation began to experience trouble having a Minyan for
weekday services. To rectify this problem, a merger with Holche Yosher and
two other synagogues in town, was proposed in 1964 and passed in 1965 by all
three organizations after lengthy debate. In the summer of 1965, it was
concluded that the combined organization, to be known as Kinesset Yisrael,
would sell the property of Holche Yosher and Mishkan Israel,
pool their cash resources and build a large synagogue. Plans were prepared for
a synagogue that would seat 465 people. However, for reasons that are unclear,
the merger disintegrated rapidly in the early part of 1966, and nothing came of
it in the long run. After this failed merger, the wind seemed to go out of the
sails of the Congregation. Membership declined through the 1970’s and 1980’s,
while the records indicate that the congregation just drifted on with little
about the Congregation’s activities in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s was
lost in a disastrous fire in the home of the synagogue’s long-time secretary,
George Horwitz, in 1984. There are no minutes from any meetings after 1983,
until a meeting in 1990, when a desultory effort was made to reorganize. Upon
the death of the Congregation’s president, Philip Gold, in 1993, another
reorganization attempt was made, resulting in an election in 1995. Things
remained ill defined until August of 2004, when a new constitution was enacted
for the Congregation, and a full reorganization was undertaken. This new
constitution is quite possibly the first ever prepared for the Congregation, as
there are many references in the minutes to people looking for copies of a
constitution, or to attempt the preparation of a constitution, and no mention
of any success.
years, the congregation has remained independent and for seventy-six years has
resided in its present home. Through these many decades and the challenges of
the ages, the Congregation has persevered. With the completion of the
Congregation’s reorganization, the oldest living synagogue in Elizabeth
stands ready to face the challenges of a new era.
Presidents of Congregation Adath Jeshurun
Kosberg (second term)
Kosberg (third term)