Jewish organizations of New Brunswick

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Jewish organizations of New Brunswick

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First organizations started in the 1890s


The first Jewish organizations in Saint John started in the 1890's. Between the 1920's to the 1960's there were more than a dozen Jewish organizations in the city. Nearly every Jewish citizen was a member of at least one of these organizations. Although some of these organizations were unique to Saint John, others were affiliated with larger national or international organizations.

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society was established in 1896 by several men in the community to assist the Russian Jewish immigrants arriving in the city. This organization was superseded in the 1920's by the Jewish Immigrant Aid Society centred in Montreal.

Mrs. Alice Hart founded the Daughters of Israel in 1899 as the first Jewish ladies' organization in Saint John. The mandate of this organization was to assist the poor and the needy in the city as well as new Jewish immigrants.

The Jewish Amateur Club dated from the turn of the 20th century but little is known, other than that it was a small theatre group.

The Hebrew Ladies Association has not been well documented but it was most likely associated with either the Sisterhood or the Ladies Auxiliary.

The Ladies Auxiliary flourished from the 1930's to the 1940's when it joined with the Daughters of Israel to form the Sisterhood.

The Sisterhood Shaarei Zedek was formed in the 1950's from the combination of the Daughters of Israel and the Ladies Auxiliary. This women’s organization sponsored dinners, the Hebrew School, and played a role in the religious life of the community. In later years it was affiliated with the National Women's League for Conservative Judaism.

The Young Men's/Women's Hebrew Association, a Jewish counterpart to the YMCA, had its beginnings in 1919 when discrimination prevented Jewish children from joining the existing organization. A building was purchased on Horsfield Street although the vestry of the Synagogue was also used for meetings and sporting events. The members were very active in the Saint John sporting scene and regular gym classes were held for the girls. Lectures and annual balls were also held to add to the social life of the community.

A Judaean Boy Scout Troop was created in 1923 and remained active to the 1960's. Among its notable leaders were Eli Boyaner and Gar Meltzer. There were also several groups of Cubs. A Judaean Girl Guide troop was established in 1924 and remained active until the 1960's. There were also groups of Brownies.

A theatre group, the Jewish Community Players was formed in 1952 and presented plays in the vestry of the Shaarei Zedek Synagogue throughout the 1950's under the direction of Dr. M.I. Polowin. Many of the plays that were presented were on Jewish themes, but others had a wider appeal as well. The Hebrew Choral Society was active in the 1950's and presented a series of concerts under the direction of Mr. Douglas Major. Concerts were staged in the Shaarei Zedek Synagogue and the Admiral Beatty Hotel.

The Shaarei Zedek Men's Club existed briefly in the mid 1960's under the auspices of the National Federation of Men's Clubs within the Conservative Jewish movement. The men met on a regular basis for social purposes.

The Shomer Club (The Guardians) was the first Jewish senior's organization in the Atlantic Provinces and was founded in 1978 by Mrs. Rose Freedman. It was active from the mid-1970s to 1995, when interest in the organization disappeared. The Club met monthly with presentations by guest speakers on a variety of subjects of interest to senior citizens.

The Henrietta Szold Chapter of Hadassah-WIZO was a Zionist ladies organization, begun in Saint John in 1916 and which remained active to the 1990s. They "were dedicated to the promotion of better health, education and social welfare of mothers and children" in Israel and many fundraising events were held to accomplish this goal. The local chapter organized a number of regional and national conferences of Hadassah.

The Zionist men's organization, Ezra Lodge Habonim flourished from the 1940's to the 1970's. Their focus was directed to supporting Israel and its development. This support included sponsoring dinners to honour outstanding members of the community.

The State of Israel Bonds was an active organization from the 1950's to the 1970's. Dinners were held as a means of raising funds for Israel in honour of prominent Jewish and Gentile community members. The Jewish National Fund was established as a means of raising funds for developing land in Israel, often through the planting of trees. The United Jewish Appeal / Israel Histradut Campaign funds were also dedicated to developing the State of Israel.

Young Judaea was a Zionist organization for young people. The members "were taught Hebrew songs and dances as well as the history of the Zionist movement...[and] about the founders of the Zionist movement." Summer camps also formed an integral part of their activities. It had its beginnings in Saint John with Percy Goldman in 1917 and remained an active organization for every child in Saint John until the early 1970's. Many members went on to become national leaders of this youth movement.

A branch of the Canadian Jewish Congress was active in Saint John only during the 1940's and had its beginnings as The Hebrew War Council. Their greatest accomplishment was the opening of a servicemen's centre on Union Street in 1944. Saint John also hosted a conference in 1940.

A branch of B'nai B'rith, a men's organization, was established with a charter night banquet in January 1954. It was a service club similar to the Rotary or Kiwanis to provide assistance to the community. It declined in Saint John in the 1970's as interest waned, although some men in the community remained affiliated with the national organization.

The Atlantic Post of the Jewish War Veterans of Canada was active for several years, although the membership in Saint John was limited due to the small number of veterans. Gar Meltzer was the most active of the members and maintained strong ties with the national organization.


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