The “Jewish” Newark Revitalization Project
For Jews, Newark today is little more than a graveyard, figuratively and literally: The city is home to at most a few hundred Jewish residents and nearly 100 Jewish cemeteries.
The story is that of the Jews of Newark, New Jersey, who at the midpoint mark of the 20th century had on their side numbers and history and carefully nurtured social, religious and cultural institutions – but for whom communal desolation awaited and whose legions of rabbis, businessmen, philanthropists and activists could not, in the end, stave off the deluge.
We had 45,000 Jews in Newark by the mid-1920s – more than half that number of Eastern European background. The 1920s were notable in other ways as well: the Conference of Jewish Charities was formed in 1923, giving Newark’s Jews a central communal organization and Newark Beth Israel Hospital, which had been founded in 1901, moved in 1929 to its permanent Lyons Avenue location. (Little-known fact: Paula Ben-Gurion, wife of Israel’s first prime minister, was a trainee at Beth Israel’s school of nursing).
It is sad to see after all, B’nai Jeshurun [became] the Hopewell Baptist Church, Anshei Russia [became] home to the Abyssinian Baptist Church, and the Y that was a second home for thousands of Jews became, for a time, the abode of the Citadel of Hope Miracle Temple, now defunct.
Young Jewish singles and families are flocking to newark — but THERE IS NO spanish/portuguese orthodox synagogue yet to draw them in. THERE IS NO KOSHER MARKET, KOSHER BAKERY, KOSHER RESTAURANTS!
Beit Chai Jewish Center’s Rabbi Ovadiah Tank is trying to bring young Jewish couples, Jewish school and Kosher business to Newark.
“Newark is a place we can speak portuguese and Spanish… There was an amazing sense of revitalization coming back into the jewish community who has been at the service in a house for Shabbat. “The place was full.”
“There’s a growing mix of the population who were here and people who are moving in and exploring the place,” Rabbi Tank said. “There’s a tremendous sense of community — between the older ones and younger ones.” “It’s neighborhoody,” he added.
“It’s amazing to drive around here sometimes at night,” Rabbi Tank said. “There are so many people out walking. I can imagine kosher restaurants, kosher bakeries and Jewish Businesses fitting the vacant shops”.
“We now have kosher food at the seabra supermarkets!… that’s one of the things that is bringing people back here.”
The synagogue is the house of prayer, as well as the center of Jewish life. Rabbi Tank’s idea is to present the “Jewish Newark Revitalization” project to Mr. Ras Baraka, mayor of Newark.
We lost all our historic buildings to churches and or businesses, but we would like to acquire and restore an old building in partnership with the city of Newark and mayor baraka.