Thursday, November 3, 2011

Searching for Our History

from the pages of Kadima, the newsletter of Congregation Adas Emuno:

From the desk of                    
 Rabbi Barry Schwartz


In the year 1871:
-        Ulysses S. Grant was president of the United Sates and the Civil War had ended only a few years before.
-       Queen Victoria ruled England.
-        The Great Chicago fire left 100,000 people homeless.
-        The first major league baseball game was played on May 4 and the first home run was hit on May 8.
-        Lord Stanley located a missing explorer in Africa with the words, “Dr. Livingstone I presume?”
-       Congregation Adas Emuno was founded in Hoboken.
 In this, our 140th year, I’d like to find out more about our long history. After all, we are one of the oldest congregations in New Jersey. Keep in mind that the entire Jewish population of the United States at that time was only some 200,000, before the great emigration from Eastern Europe beginning in the 1880’s swelled our ranks by several million. The majority of Jews, like the founders of Adas Emuno, were Ashkenazic German speaking immigrants (although Sephardic Jews were the oldest segment of the American Jewish community stretching back to the colonial period). 
 A few paragraphs on our journey from Hoboken to Leonia can be found in the history section of our website. A synagogue was built in 1883; the Gothic Revival building stills stands today. Ten years later the congregation had tripled to a hundred families. The flourishing community included a religious school, choir, and benevolent association to aid the poor. Brotherhood and sisterhood groups were formed in the early 1900’s, and later on a youth group and “Spiritual Advisory Committee”.  Dues in 1919 were $30 a year; $45 by 1924 (but High Holy Day seats were extra and those closest to the ark cost $15). The congregation moved here in 1974, and became known as the synagogue with a steeple and star.
 What more can we find out and include in our story? There a many gaps to try and fill in. Sadly, some records may have been destroyed during Hurricane Irene when the basement of our religious school flooded. I’d like to propose a Temple history taskforce that will search historical sources and interview long time members and others with connections to our past. If you would like to volunteer, or contribute a piece on your own memories and recollections, please contact me. 
 As a people we deeply cherish memory and the transmitting of our heritage from one generation to the next. Our story, approaching a century and a half in the making, spans more than half of our nation’s history. Let’s tell it: for ourselves, our children, and posterity.

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