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188- - present (Creation)
- New Brunswick and Maine synagogues
11 m of textual documents
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The Synagogue section of the archives comprises material relating to the five New Brunswick Synagogues and the synagogue in Calais, Maine, specifically synagogue activities and religious life.
The Ahavith Achim (Brotherly Love) Synagogue was the first synagogue in New Brunswick, dedicated January 11, 1899. It was located on Carleton Street in Saint John and was used as a synagogue until 1919. From 1919 to 1950 it was known as the Talmud Torah (Hebrew classrooms, meeting rooms, and mikvah). The original congregation in this synagogue was composed of the early English and Western European arrivals, but in 1906 the building was turned over to the more recent Russian immigrants.
The Hazen Avenue Synagogue building was purchased from the Unitarian Church in 1906 and drew its congregation from the English and Western European Jews and some of the assimilated Russian immigrants. Services continued to be held in this building until 1919. The two congregations coexisted because of the social, economic, and linguistic gulfs between the original settlers and the later arrivals. Although both congregations were Orthodox, differences in religious practice helped ignite the split.
By 1918, these two congregations amalgamated and purchased the Calvin Church building at the corner of Carleton Street and Wellington Row in November 1918. The Shaarei Zedek (Gates of Righteousness) Synagogue was dedicated on March 24, 1919. The building remained a synagogue until November 2008 when the building, along with the adjacent Jewish Community Centre were sold to the City of Saint John to make way for new urban development. The congregation remains active, but functions with fewer than 30 families and without a resident rabbi.
The Congregation Chaim Yosef was established in Calais, Maine, in 1926 and closed its doors in 1986, although the congregation was no longer viable after 1974. The border communities of Calais, Maine, and St. Stephen, New Brunswick, were served by this synagogue which was located in a remodeled family home. The building was demolished in 1989. It was founded by the Unobskys, a strong willed and leading merchant family in the town. The Jewish Community in Calais always remained small and at the present time there are few Jewish residents in the area. Much of what had been in this congregation was donated to the Saint John Jewish Historical Museum in 1986 and 1987.
The Congregation Tiferes Israel of Moncton, New Brunswick, was built in 1926 by the Russian Jewish immigrants who had founded the community at the beginning of the twentieth century. It took twelve years of extensive fundraising for the community to raise the funds for construction which took place on Steadman Street, which was outside the Jewish residential and business area. This is still an active congregation which is Orthodox in practice.
The Sgoolai Israel Synagogue in Fredericton, New Brunswick's capital city, was incorporated in 1929, although the members worshipped in the Orange Hall until the synagogue building was completed in 1934. The community consisted of a few large families who had begun to arrive in 1912. It is still a relatively small community of about 50 families who continue to worship in the Orthodox tradition under the guidance of a rabbi.
The Saint John Jewish Historical Society began to collect material on the history of the Saint John Jewish community in 1983. The collection was originally housed in a small art studio on Canterbury Street in Saint John before the opening of the Museum in July 1986 in the Jewish Community Centre on Wellington Row. Formal cataloguing of the collection began in 1986. Material collected from 1983 to 2001 has been microfilmed by the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick. The archives is stored in a dedicated archival space in the Museum’s current location at 91 Leinster Street and regular additions of material are made. Prior to acquisition by the Museum, these materials were held by the donors in their homes, and generally donated prior to moves, downsizing or change in community role.
Scope and content
Much of the material relating to the history of the history of the congregations before 1933 was destroyed in a fire. Most of the surviving records date from 1949 and were found in 1990 in the balcony of the synagogue. Extensive records of correspondence, annual reports, minutes, financial records, and membership lists were among what was found. There is also a large section of information available on bat/bat mitzvah, marriage and burial records for the genealogist. The cemetery records are the most complete as a database of all burials in the Shaarei Zedek Cemetery was compiled between 1997 and 2011. Material on these lifecycle events generally comes from personal memorabilia and newspaper records. A section on Jewish traditions and holidays is appended to show how these have been observed in this community and elsewhere.
Records for the communities in Moncton and Fredericton are very limited and include information found in public records including newspapers.
Immediate source of acquisition
Information about the two early synagogues in Saint John was collected through research conducted by Museum volunteers and staff in the 1980s and 1990s, some coming from newspapers and government sources. Much of the material in the fonds representing the Shaarei Zedek Synagogue in Saint John came from board members who had retained minutes, reports, and correspondence created during their time in office, including presidents, treasurers, secretaries and chairs of committees. Information of a more personal nature (Bar/Bat Mitzvahs andWeddings) more often came from family members, although some of the items from newspaper sources was collected by Museum staff. The records for the Shaarei Zedek Cemetery come from the records of Fernhill Cemetery and staff research.
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