Congregation B'nai Jeshurun/
First Jewish Synagogue

August 20, 1848 - Present (relocated to Short Hills)



Newspaper Articles

May 21, 1911 - Jackson Property Bought as Site for New Temple

Congregation B'nai Jeshurun (Sons of Righteousness) is the oldest Jewish congregation in Newark, being founded on August 20, 1848 by German Jews. Originally services were held in the attic of a private house on Washington Street then in a building at the corner of Academy and Washington Streets. At that time the congregation was entirely Orthodox. This synagogue ran its own day school for the children. Rabbi Isaac Schwarz was hired in 1854 for $300 a year. His salary was paid by the 12 1/2 cent dues from the twenty-two member congregation. A synagogue was erected in 1858 at the corner of (256) Washington and William Streets. The second synagogue was erected at 324 Washington Street and was dedicated on August 29, 1868. By 1892 services were being conducted almost entirely in English. December, 1915 saw the dedication of the site at 783 High Street. The building stands on a hill with the temple built in a modified Moorish design. The members of the nearby First Baptist Church worshiped here when Peddie Memorial Church was being built. Originally it was Orthodox, with separate seating for men and women with no organ or choir. Eventually, this synagogue became a Reform synagogue. The temple was moved to Short Hills in 1968.

The building at 783 High Street is now occupied by the Hopewell Baptist Church.

From: The Brickbuilder Vol 5 1915

The Temple is placed on a plot approximately 100 by 225 feet, the narrow frontage being on High Street and the long one on Waverly Avenue, with an alley at the rear leading to Quitman Street. The building set back 25 feet on High Street, but occupies the remainder of the plot. It faces east with the altar at the west end and the organ in a gallery at the east end.

The structure comprises the auditorium proper and the religious school building adjoining. The auditorium seats 1,600 people, 1,250 on the main floor and 350 in the galleries. The main entrance is from High Street through three large doors leading to a main vestibule. Two smaller entrances are on Waverly Avenue. There are six large openings for memorial windows, three on the Waverly Avenue side and three on the opposite side of the auditorium. In the basement beneath the vestibule end are retiring rooms, lavatories, and coat rooms for men and women. Adjoining the altar are the trustee's room and a study for the rabbi.

To the west of the temple and connected with it is the religious school building on Waverly Avenue of three stories and a basement. It contains twelve class rooms for thirty pupils each, teachers' room, exhibition room, library, ladies' meeting room, and an assembly hall seating 380 people, and equipped with a stage and two dressing rooms at one end. In the basement of the school building are the coat rooms and lavatories for boys and for girls, as well as a small kitchen and superintendent's office. The rear of the basement contains the heating and ventilating plant. The latter has been made a subject of special study. Fresh air is supplied to the temple auditorium through a series of ducts under the floor and withdrawn through a large duct around the base of the dome. The air passes over air washers before entering the building. All the air in the auditorium can be renewed four times in an hour. A vacuum cleaner is also installed.

The base courses and steps on the exterior are of stone. The walls are graced with light brown brick and rough texture with terra cotta trimmings of the same color. All copings are Indiana Limestone, and the dome and sloping roofs are covered with gray-green terra cotta tiles, the whole making a restful scheme.

The interior walls, arches, and dome of the temple are covered with acoustic tile. The architectural ornamentation is in terra cotta of a soft brown color, and all woodwork is of a similar tone to accord with the tone of the tile which is the dominating material. The ark on the altar is of Tavernelle marble, and a red Italian marble is used for the base around the auditorium. The floors of aisles and altar are of cork tile.

Special consideration was given to the question of acoustics and the plans were submitted at an early stage to Professor Wallace C. Sabine who has given the study of acoustics much attention and who advised the use of acoustic tile for the walls of the auditorium. The result is most satisfactory. A speaker using a normal tone of voice can be distinctly heard in any part of the auditorium and without any trace of an echo or reverberation.

The lighting is by electricity with indirect or concealed fixtures. The main portion of the auditorium is illuminated by powerful lamps and reflectors in a six pointed star shaped fixture suspended from the center of the dome.

The entire building is fireproof, furthermore, each floor of the school building is supplied with a standpipe and fire hose. It is said that the insurance rate is the lowest on any religious building in the country, it being about nine cents per hundred.

The cost of the structure including all furnishings, except those of the school building, was about $275,000. The entire group contains about 1,000,000 cubic feet. The height from the sidewalk to the top of the dome is 95 feet, and through a well developed scale, evident in both facades, the building admirably fits is site. It is an interesting expression of synagogue architecture.

From: Social Services Directory of Newark 1912

Congregation maintains religious school, free. Temple has Jewish Literary Society conducting free lecture course, and Temple Alumni Association providing intellectual and social work for members and friends. Temple open for important meetings in community interest.

Reverends Addresses Archive


Reverend From To
Isaac Schwarz 1854 1860
Sigmund Kauffman 1860 1865
Simon Seligman 1865 1869
Joseph Leucht August 29, 1868 1920/21
Joseph Hahn 1898 1903
M. Schleger 1898 1901
Silverberg 1902 1903
Solomon Foster 1902 1942
Maurice Cowan 1924 1929
David Wice 1942 1947
Ely Pilchik 1947 unknown

Address From To
256 Washington Street 1858 1868
324 Washington Street August 29, 1868 1914
783 High Street December, 1915 1968

Archive Information (Last Known location)


For more information on this subject, see the books used for this page:

"The Enduring Community" by William B. Helmreich
"A History of the City of Newark, New Jersey" various authors