The true founders of the Jewish community in Newark were German and Bohemian Jews. There is evidence that Sephardic Jews preceded them but they didn't leave behind any known descendants, no synagogues or no Jewish organizations. German Jews began immigration in 1836 with Louis Trier and lasted through the 1800's. Newark was chosen because German speaking Christians were already here and of its close proximity to New York City. These first German immigrants came from farms and small towns. The area they chose to settle down in was downtown Newark and Down Neck. Later they moved to South Orange and Springfield Avenues. Abraham Trier, son of Louis Trier was the first Jewish child to be officially registered as being born in Newark.
Other important Jewish families were the Newman brothers and the Cohens. Abraham Newman was a successful merchant and was instrumental in founding Congregation B'nai Abraham, which was named after him. Isaac S. Cohen, who immigrated from England, was the organizer and first president of Congregation B'nai Jeshurun. By 1855 there were 200 Jewish immigrants in Newark.
Polish Jews found life difficult in Newark. They were unable to communicate with anyone (unlike the German Jews who communicated with the German Christians), they lived in poverty in the area around Mulberry and Canal Streets. Abraham Newman, a German Jew, befriended them and allowed them to worship at his home.
Prince Street was settled by Eastern European Jews. The German and Irish population, who originally moved there from Down Neck, moved out as this new group moved in. The abundant supply of jobs attracted them to the area. Newark's answer to New York's Orchard Street was Prince Street. The street, filled with pushcarts, was paved with wooden blocks. There were live carp swimming in big glass tanks, corned beef, pastrami, pickles, herring, St. John's Bread, sugar cane, fruits and vegetables. Colorful scarves, dresses, suits, clothing of every description, hung from the racks. The housing was wooden tenement houses with coal bins. Heat, electricity, and toilets were luxuries that very few apartments had. Many Jews took advantage of the bathhouses on Broome, Charlton and Mercer Streets. The Y was the major source of social and cultural life. It was located at the corner of High and Kinney Streets. Dramatic clubs, glee clubs, literary clubs, theater, lectures, and sports could be had with a visit to the Y.
As soon as the Jewish immigrants saved up enough money, they too moved on. The German Jews moved to the Clinton Hill section and the European Jews on to both the Clinton Hill section and the Weequahic section. The Weequahic area consisted of 2 ½ family houses with luxury apartments near the park. Successful German Jews also moved into the Forest Hills section.
The mid-19030's brought the influx of refugees from Germany. In 1948 Newark had more than forty synagogues, today there is one left, Ahavas Shalom. Also in 1948, Newark with 56,800 people, was the seventh largest Jewish population in the United States. By the 1960's, Newark's viability as a Jewish community was nearing its end. By 1967, the year of the riots, there was very little left of the Jewish community. In the end, it was America's love affair with the benefits of the suburbs, the automobile, along with the highways, that provided the impetus for the flight of Newark's Jews.
For more information on this subject, see the books used for this page:
"The Enduring Community" by William B. Helmreich
|Copyright 1998 - 2017 Glenn G. Geisheimer|