Arthur L. Finkle
The East European immigration began in the late 1870s, was composed mainly of Russian, Polish, and Hungarian Jews. They organized the synagogues Achenu Bnai Yisroel (1883); Anshei Emes (1891); Ahavath Israel (1909); and Poaley Emes (1920). For all Congregations, see Appendix C.
Jacob Barker immigrated to the US in 1880 and arrived in Trenton in 1881. He and his wife raised seven children. Jacob was one of the founders on Congregation Brothers of Israel. One of his sons, Rufke owned a slaughterhouse and eventually opened a meat market. Monty, another son, was the ‘though’ guy. Meyer Stark arrived from Lithuania via Scotland in 1883. Another founder was Simcha Lavine, he arrived in Trenton in 1895. He raised five children: Sophie (Nathan Siegle); Toby (Popkin), Isaac (Lavine’s Department Store; and David (Grocery store. Eventually, all the boys opened Lavine’s Department Store at 187 S. Broad St.
Jewish education was conducted by private teachers until Brothers of Israel Synagogue founded a Hebrew school in 1893. Later, in 1945, it became part-time day school, under the leadership of Rabbi Issachar Levin, serving the Trenton community from 1927 to 1969. In 1969 it became the Trenton Hebrew Academy. Renamed in 1981 as the Abrams Hebrew Academy (named for a local foundation that made a significant endowment to the school), it moved from Trenton to Yardley, PA in the 1980’s.
The main reasons for the immigration to USA were to flee the harsh Russia anti-Semitism policy, the coercive and discriminatory 25-year military service, lack of economic opportunity and the pogroms.
By the May Laws poof 1882, Jews were restricted to live in the Pale of the Settlement in what is now Lithuania, Russia, Romania and the Ukraine. In addition, one on seven Jewish boys was conscripted into the Tsar’s Army (1 in 10 non-Jews). Length of swerve – 25 years!
General laws applicable to Jews included: (1) the family of a Jew who evaded military service was assessed a fine of 300 rubles; (2) capturing a Jew who evaded military service yielded cash reward of 50 rubles.
Between the years 1874 and 1892 (excluding 1883 for which no reliable figures are available), a total of 173,434 Jewish recruits were drafted.
Dan Leeson, Military Conscription In Russia In The 19th Century email@example.com
Moreover, if the child were less than 16, then the term of his military duty from age 12 to 18 was another six ‘tacked-on’ more years up to age 18. Insidiously, the Kahal, a semblance of the Jewish ruling committee in each community, was the agent of the government to present these new conscripts, under penalty of fine or increased conscription for the community. Severe restrictions were placed on the number of Jewish doctors and lawyers (The Legal Bar went from 22% to 9% in a year); cannot use machinery; cannot sell items made out of one’s own shtetl; quotas and Gymnasia’s Academic High Schools) and Universities.
Indeed, Simon Dubnow expounds on the effect of these oppressive May Laws of 1882:
The May Laws of 1882 also temporarily forbade the issuing of mortgages and other deeds to Jews, as well as the registration of Jews as lessees of real property situated outside of towns and boroughs; and also the issuing to Jews of powers of attorney to manage and dispose of such real property. Further, “Jews are forbidden to transact business on Sundays and on the principal Christian holy days; the existing regulations concerning the closing of places of business belonging to Christians on such days to apply to Jews also." See Paul Kriwaczek, Yiddish Civilization: The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation, Vintage Books, NY, 2005.
Indeed, the Tsars confined the Jews to the "Pale of the settlement," twenty-five provinces of the Russian empire. To live outside, a Jew needed special permission from the authorities-and some skilled workers, professional men and businessmen did receive (or purchase, via bribery) such permission. Indeed, Nearly 40% of Russian Jews lived by way of charity. Never has their plight been as bad.
Leading the solution to the ‘Jewish’ problem was Konstantin Pobyedonostsyev. A Russian jurist, statesman, and adviser to three Tsars, he was the leader of reactionary views and was the leader of imperial politics during the reign of Alexander III of Russia He held the position of the Ober-Procurator of the Holy Synod, the highest position of the supervision of the Russian Orthodox Church by the state.
In October 1905, the Octobrists (those who opposed the Tsar), socialists and anarchists, attempted to take over the government when the Tsar’s troops were losing the Crimean war to the Turks. Many of these usurpers were Jews. Accordingly, after the Tsar retained control, the Jews received the brunt of reprisal.
Kishinev pogroms of 1903 reduced the Jewish population in Bessarabia (now Moldova) between 1902 and 1905 from 60,000 to 53,243, many emigrating to the United States and the Americas. After the pogrom of 1905, while many more left.
Kishinev was the capital of Bessarabia, smack in the middle of the Pale. high Russian officials of the Bessarabian administration prepared and executed a pogrom that resulted in 49 Jewish death, more than 500 were injured, 700 houses looted and destroyed and 600 businesses and shops looted. The material loss amounted to 2500000 gold rubles, and about 2000 families were left homeless.
In 1905, riots broke out once more resulting in 19 Jewish deaths, 56 injured, and houses and shops were looted and destroyed.
In the period 1895 to 1905 the average worker's monthly wages were as follows: steel founder (44 - 48 rubles); coal miner (38 – 41) rubles; stone-mason (32 - 35 rubles); lathe operator (steel-cutting) (28 - 31 rubles); tannery worker ( 27 - 30 rubles); chemical worker (23 - 26 rubles: hat/bonnet maker (17 - 19 rubles); textile worker (15 - 16 rubles) and tobacco worker (12. 5 - 13.5 rubles) . http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/lida-district/wages.htm
In the 1903 pogrom, damages amounted to 2,500,000 rubles; in 1905, 3.000.000 rubles. To see what such a loss meant to those affected. If we divide the 700 properties affected into 2.5 million rubles, we find that each property lost approximately 10,000 rubles. Given the wages of a steel worker at 45 rubles per month (earning 540 rubles per year, we see that pogrom property damage cost a family 200 rubles or 4 times the average salary of high paid employee.
If we take a textile worker at 16 rubles per month, we find money of approximately 400 rubles per property (translates into 500 rubles; 30 years of wages). In any case, the family saving would have been wiped out.
To exacerbate matters, the 1905 pogrom damaged property dame at 3,000,000 rubles – 500,000 more rubles in damage than two years before.
See Encyclopedia Judaica, http://www.cf.jiddisch.org/kehilot/moldova/pogrom-kishinev.htm
Personalizing a program, in this case, Kishinev, we take an interview of a Trentonian from a 1908 edition of the Trenton Times Advertiser
From Kishineff, the city of many massacres, he set out
just five years ago to seek a home, not so much
for himself as for his parents and sisters, he being
the only son. But it must be remembered that it
was not poverty that drove him hither. The turning
of political events and the growing anti-Semitic
feeling were already foreshadowing the terrible
massacres that have since startled the world.
The parents conducted a large dry goods store in
their native city, but fear for their lives caused
them to send their only son out into the world
to seek a safer home for them.
To Trenton he came and he had even gone so far as
to secure an option on a store in the center of the city
when a letter from Kishineff told him what had
happened at home. A mob of anti-Semites, with
absolutely no opposition from the otherwise strict
Russian police, had completely destroyed his
father's store and murdered the entire family.
Not content with merely slaying them, their bodies
were dreadfully mutilated. And to crow in all, the
property was confiscated by the government because
other Jews had offered a feeble resistance at that
spot to the hateful Cossack police.
Indeed, fierce anti-Semite, Pobyedonestsev’s intentions seemed to be coming true. The destiny of the Jews would be: 1/3 would die; 1/3 would emigrate; 1/3 would assimilate. See Sacher.
Accordingly, they also desired to achieve a better live without heavy, humiliating discrimination. They wanted a better education and happy life for their children. And, of course, they wanted to achieve the American dream - Freedom and Gold.
The difference between the pogroms prior to Kishinev is that there was mostly property damage and very little taking of life. Further, these pogroms were organized by the rabble, although the government did little to interfere. After Kishinev, however, the wholesale killing sponsored by the government existed. For example, 500 Jews died in the 1905 pogrom in Odessa.
After the May Laws, alternative residences were seriously considered. First, was the Zionist course. In 1882, a dozen intellectual visionaries began BILU on a farm in Palestine. After a few years, they were defeated by the hard work in the hard soil. Later on, more able immigrants began Rishon LeTzion. A second solution was Baron de Hirsch’s venture to populate Argentina with 20, 000 Jews per year for 20-years. This venture also saw limited success. AT BEST, 10,000 Jews settled in Argentina. The third course of action was to immigrate to the United States. The States needed more workers and were admitting anyone healthy enough to work. A perfect match.
Longing to immigrate that hold some of the Jews, sweep away the others. Some Jews didn't want to immigrate. The orthodox Jews were afraid that they will not be able to remain Jews and they will not be able to eat kosher food. Many Jews thought that they must stay in Russia and fight for their rights. Others thought that they betray they homeland Russia.
Understanding the underlying motivations of each side is imperative. Russian officials, xenophobic, did not know what to do with approximately 800,000 Ashkenazi Jews after the Polish partition of 1795. Tsar Alexander (1801-1825) attempted to make them familiar to the official Russian mind by means of state sponsored Russian education.
For their part, the Jews of Russia did not accept these policies passively. Beginning in the mid-1830's and continuing until the end of the century, the Jews of Russia promoted their own reforms, some of which met with favor from St. Petersburg.
In the end, between this friction, the Jews of Russia prevailed by creating a number of identities which bore various degrees of Jewishness and yet allowed them to engage in the intellectual, social, and political milieus beyond the bounds of their community. See J. R. Weiss
In Romania’s population of 5,912,590 only 269,016 (4.5%) were Jews, according to the census of 1899.
Herman Rosenthal’s 1907 states that, next to Russia, Romania, during the last twenty-five years, has been the cruelest oppressor of the long-suffering Jewish race, and the oppression still continues. Since 1881, Romania has been imitating the invidious example then set by Russia, its more potent neighbor and protector.
Raison explained that the Romanians, governed by the Turks, believed the Turks gave preferential treatment to the Jews in the territory. Then, to fuel oil on the fire, they copied their next door neighbor Russia, to discriminate against its Jews.
Although Romania was a party to the Treaty of Berlin signed to end the Russo-Turkish war of 1878. Indeed, it owes its very sovereign creation to such treaty. As a condition, Romania stipulated that the Jews of Romania should be admitted to all the rights of citizenship. In practice, they have been saddled with all the duties and burdens of citizenship and denied all its privileges.
The United States, under the Cleveland Administration, addressed these discriminatory conditions to the Romanian government, which alleged exploitation of the peasantry by the Jews.
Indeed, the Supreme Court of Romania has held that a Jew, though born on Romanian soil, could be expelled as an "objectionable foreigner." See Herman Rosenthal
Cynically, the Romanian government evaded the Berlin Treaty by making it next to impossible to grant citizenship to Jews, who served in the armed forces. Cynically, in 1882, it granted 778 Jews citizenship out of 250,000. See Raison
The Theodore Roosevelt administration addressed this issue with Romania in 1904 but, because the U.S. was not a party to the, treaty, the imprecation was ignored.
From 1881 to 1890, Jewish immigration was geometrical progression. In the first wave (1881-1890), 193,021 Jewish immigrants entered this country. From 1891 to 1900, 393,516.
In the last 10-years (1904-1914), 976,263 Jews immigrated, which represented 62.5 per cent of the total Jewish immigration for this period.
The yearly variations of the total Jewish immigration correspond closely to the Russian Jewish emigration movement. In 1899, the Romanian and the Austria-Hungary movements swelled the number.
The year 1906, marked the high-water mark of Jewish immigration: 153,748 immigrants, practically one-tenth of the total movement.
During the twelve years from 1899 to 1910, there entered the United States a total of 1,074,442 Jewish immigrants, an annual average of nearly ninety thousand. During this period only the Southern Italians this immigration total.
Jewish immigration was a family movement. A great proportion were females and children. From 1899 to 1910 a total immigration Jews, 56.6 per cent were males; 43.6, females
Compared to other immigrants in 1899 to 1910, the Jews are seen to have a higher proportion of females than any other people except the Irish (which sent a disproportionate amount of women seeking domestic jobs).
The relative stability of immigration may be determined by contrasting the departure and the arrivals of immigrants. From 1908 to 1912 (when records were available), only 8% of Jews emigrated from the U.S. in comparison to the 32 % emigrated back to their land or origin.
The largest group is that classed as having "no occupation". This group comprises 45.1 per cent of the total. Most of this reason is the reflection of the great number of women and children among the Jewish immigrants.
Skilled laborers were the second largest group, 36.8 %. "Miscellaneous" represented 17.4 %. This group included common and farm laborers, servants, merchants and dealers, etc. Professional occupations, 7 %.
A much smaller group merchants, petty merchants, hucksters, and peddlers, were 5.3 per cent of the total. Of farm laborers, 1.9 per cent.
In the professional classes the teachers were the largest group, 29.4 %. Next were musicians, 21.8%. Together these two groups were more than half of the professionals.
By far the largest group of the skilled laborers were the tailors, 36.6 per cent. The dressmakers and seamstresses numbered 39,482, and comprised one-tenth of the total. Including the closely allied trades such as hat and cap makers, milliners, etc., the garment workers composed practically one-half of the entire body of skilled laborers. Jobs for Jews. Somehow the garment industry missed Trenton. In fact, outside investment began the garment industry, although there was the Trenton Shirtwaist factory at the turn of the century. In New York City, in 8090, more than 90 percent of these factories were owned by German Jews. By 1897 approximately 60 percent of the New York Jewish labor force was employed in the apparel field, and 75 percent of the workers in the industry were Jewish.
Carpenters, joiners, cabinet makers and woodworkers, 10%. Shoemakers, 5.9 %.
Clerks (accountants), and painters and glaziers contributed an almost equal number——representing 4.3 % and 4.1 %.
Butchers, 2.9 %; bakers, 2.8 %; locksmiths, 2.4 % and blacksmiths, 2.2 %. Together, these ten groups comprised 80.4 per cent of the Jews in skilled occupations.
There were workers in the trades: tinners, watch and clock makers, tobacco workers, hat and cap makers, barbers and hairdressers, weavers and spinners, tanners and curriers, furriers and fur workers, and bookbinders. More than a thousand skilled laborers were found in the following trades: photographers and upholsterers, mechanics (not specified), masons, printers, saddlers and harness makers, milliners, metal workers (other than iron, steel and tin), machinists, jewelers and millers. Less than a thousand laborers were found in two groups: iron and steel workers, and textile workers (not specified).
Jewish immigrants were therefore concentrated in the two groups of "no occupation" and "skilled laborers", to which belonged more than four-fifths of the total number. Of laborers (including farm laborers), the Jews, on the other hand, had the smallest proportion (except the Scots), 13.7 %.
To some, the rate of illiteracy has been generally used as a rough standard for estimating the mental equipment of the immigrants. However, Jewish rate of illiteracy dispels the popular impression that practically every Jew is able to read and write. Out of the 14 years old and up, 26 per cent, were unable to read and write. Compared with the general illiteracy among all the immigrants, from 1899 to 1910, was 26.7 per cent.
See Samuel Joseph, 2011 for percentage of immigrants form each country in the great Immigration, see Table I in Appendix, page73.
The floods of pauperized immigrants pouring into America were generally not pleasing to the majority of American Jewry. What really troubled the American Jewish community was the proverbial pauper class. These might conceivably remain permanent wards of the charitable societies, depleting resources, filling the charitable institutions, bringing a black name to the record of American Jewry, and perhaps even inciting anti-Semitism. American Jewry was very sensitive on this score.
But the increased persecutions in Russia brought new thousands of refugees. During the years of greatest immigration in the eighties, from 1885 to 1890, the most important organization established on behalf of the Russian Jews was the "Jewish Protective Emigrant Aid Society."
The Immigrant Protective Society was a modern Traveler's Aid Society and an Anti-Defamation League rolled into one.
The prolific growth of synagogue activity brought about, in 1888, the election of a chief rabbi by the larger Russian and Polish congregations of New York. The coming of the chief rabbi, Jacob Joseph of Vilna, was viewed with tremendous enthusiasm by the Orthodox Russian Jews but with some apprehension by the German Jews. See Mandel.
To help the seemingly endless poverty and harsh conditions of the European Jews, several Jewish organizations rose to assist.
Samuel Joseph reports that the Zionist publications of Pinsker, set afoot Jewish emancipation from oppressive surroundings. Indeed, in the 1890’s the Brotherhood of Odessa thrived to prepare those who wanted to seek better living conditions.
Proto-Zionists include the (Lithuanian) Vilna Gaon, (Russian) Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, (Bosnian) Rabbi Judah Alkalai ((1798 – October 1878, Austrian) Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer (1862, German), and (British) Sir Moses Montefiore. Other advocates of Jewish independence include (American) Mordecai Manuel Noah, (Russian) Leon Pinsker (1891, Odessa, Russian Empire) was a physician, a Zionist pioneer and activist, and the founder and leader of the Hovevei Zion), and German Moses Hess (Rome and Jerusalem, 1862, Germany).
Auto-Emancipation by J. L. Pinsker, 1882
Judah Leib Pinsker published the pamphlet Auto-Emancipation, arguing that Jews could only be truly free (automatically emancipated) in their own country and analyzing the persistent tendency of Europeans to regard Jews as aliens:
"Since the Jew is nowhere at home, nowhere regarded as a native, he remains an alien everywhere. That he himself and his ancestors as well are born in the country does not alter this fact in the least... to the living the Jew is a corpse, to the native a foreigner, to the homesteader a vagrant, to the proprietary a beggar, to the poor an exploiter and a millionaire, to the patriot a man without a country, for all a hated rival."
Pinsker established the Havevi Tzion movement to actively promote Jewish settlement in Palestine. In 1890, the "Society for the Support of Jewish Farmers and Artisans in Syria and Eretz Israel" (better known as the Odessa Committee) was officially registered as a charitable organization in the Russian Empire, and by 1897, it counted over 4,000 members.
In 1882, led by Israel Belkind, a Jewish scholar and educator, the first group of Bilu (Lovers of Zion) 14 pioneers scholarly, idealistic Jews went to the West coastal area of Palestine, Mikveh Yisrael, Rishon LeTzion, and then Gedera, the first official Bilu community.
Belkind and his scholars, however, were unable to adjust to agricultural labor, in the swampy, malarial-ridden, oppressively heated Ottoman Palestine. Belkind therefore devoted himself to education. His first teaching post was at a private school in Jaffa, and he then moved to Jerusalem where he taught at the Alliance Israelite Universelle.
In 1904, Israel Belkind established an educational institute in the village of Meir Shfeya, which took in orphans from the Kishinev pogrom. This made it the first youth village in the country.
Sir Moses Haim Montefiore (1784 - 1885) the 19th century financier, banker, philanthropist and Sheriff of London encouraged development in Palestine to promote industry, education and health.
Nor particularly a Zionist. Baron de Hirsch organized the Jewish Colonization Society in the 1880’s. One of his ideas, approved by the Russian government, was for 2,500 Jews a year to emigrate to Argentina up to Russia’s 3.2 million Jews. This idea resulting in a Torah of 25, 000 Jews settling in Argentina which was not ready for such absorption.
He also had dreams for Jews going back to the land as farmers, ranchers. He established ‘colonies’ in Woodbine, NJ, North Dakota, Galveston and other locations in the U.S, and elsewhere. But Jews were not experienced in the intricacies and vagaries of farming. See Samuel Joseph.
In 1860, the Alliance Israelite Universelle (AIU), focused on removing the barriers to emancipation of world Jewry. Led by Adolphe Crémieux , an attorney and champion of Jewish justice, the organization fostered Jewish emancipation the world over.
All Alliance presidents have been French Jews with the exception of the German S.H. Goldschmidt (president 1881–98). Adolphe Crémieux (president 1863–80) did much for the development of the Alliance. Other presidents have included Solomon *Munk, Narcisse Leven, Sylvain Lévi, and René *Cassin.
If initial activity involved the settlement of Jews from Russia and Romania. It contacted both institutions and individuals in the U.S. to ascertain whether Jewish emigration there was desirable, the numbers that could be absorbed, and the most suitable qualifications.
In the 1870’s, it placed Jewish refugees in Koenigsberg, It also placed Jewish orphans with German Jewish families for possible adoption.
Its principal diplomatic activity in the 1860’s were appeals to obtain improvement of the legal status of the Jews of Serbia and Romania. The Alliance also interceded on behalf of the Jews of Belgium and of Russia, and for civil rights of the Jews of Switzerland. After Adolphe Crémieux became its president, the French Foreign Office and French authorities cooperated closely with the Alliance.
Its principal accomplishment was its intervention in the Berlin Treaty of 1878, which, among other things, guaranteed Jews citizenship in the Balkan states.
With the commencement of mass emigration from Russia after the pogroms of 1881, the Alliance again shared relief activities with other Jewish organizations.
An emergency in 1894 caused by Russian passport restrictions brought forth further action by AIU to eliminate the artificial barriers placed in front of Russia’s Jews.
There were more than a dozen emigrant control stations established by Germany along its Russian border. In "Fame, Fortune and Sweet Liberty", an excellent book on the "Great European Emigration" published in Bremen in both English and German, the authors write: "Health inspections stations were set up at points where the Russian and Prussian railroad lines met, and all emigrants were required to use the special trains or cars, which were now often uncomfortable".
Initially, the Jewish agencies in Hamburg, Berlin, Antwerp and London supplied immigrant needs. However, the flow developed into a torrent.
The constant flow of Jewish immigrants from Russia gave birth to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) in 1881. An international organization, HIAS rescues, relocates, relocates families through resettlement.
HIAS officially started in 1881 as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society – HIAS. Operating out of New York, it provided shelter for immigrants disembarking from Castle Garden, up to the opening of Ellis Island in 1892.
The Society helped immigrants find employment in New York and New Jersey and established agricultural colonies in other states to provide land on which they could settle.
HIAS advocated for those Jews who were initially screened out of the immigration process, arguing before the Boards of Special Enquiry to prevent deportations. It lent needy Jews the $25 landing fee, and obtained bonds for others guaranteeing their employable status.
The Society also searched for relatives of detained immigrants in order to secure the necessary affidavits of support to guarantee that the new arrivals would not become public charges, the lack of which detained the immigrants.
Many of the Jews traveling in steerage refused the non-kosher food and came to the U.S. in weakened condition. To correct this, in 1911, the Society installed a kosher kitchen on Ellis Island.
In 1909, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society merged with the Hebrew Sheltering House Association and became universally known as HIAS. By 1914, HIAS had branches in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, and an office in Washington, D.C.
Every community had a different story. In the case of Eishyshok in Belarus, near the Ukraine, an 1895 fire the dwellings and markets to which the Rothschild’s, both the Vienna and Parisian branches of the Rothschild family helped to restore the village. (James Mayer de Rothschild (1792–1868), in Paris and Salomon Mayer Rothschild (1774–1855) in Vienna. Seeing outside help, the town fathers asked for additional help when the larger portion of Jews wanted to escape the persecution that the Russian government imposed. See Yaffia Elliach
There were also local organizations such as Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society, founded in 1879. In Trenton, there was the Hebrew Mutual Aid Society, the Jewish Sheltering Home and the Hebrew Free Loan Society, among others.
It is remarkable that only, while the total figure was that 26% of immigrants to U.S. retuned; for Jews, 7%. See James
In Trenton’s ‘Jewtown’, we have learned that there were ample market opportunities as well as the traditional Jewish institutions. Access to the trolley system, nearness to the center of the central business district, supplied by the Delaware and Raritan Canal and the Pennsylvania railroad, ‘Jewtown’ was remarkably located. Its population is estimated at 2,500 people.
Finally, we have a sketch of a shtetl in Akt, Poland, whose building scheme is strikingly similar to that of ‘Jewtown.’
Yiddish map of Jedwabne. From Sefer Yedvabneh, edited by Julius L. Baker and Jacob L. Baker (Jerusalem; New York: Yedwabner Societies in Israel and the United States, 1980). (YIVO)
Another schema from YIVO demonstrates the activity of business in a Romanian shtetl area. This shtetl has close to 6,000 residents.
Astounding that this little ‘Jewtown’ of probably 2,000 people could produce in two generations, the physicians, lawyers, engineers, architects, dentists, teachers, and other professionals in our community and in others.
Further this area was services by no less than three trolley systems. The Trenton-Camden line traveled on Union St. making a left at Market St into Mill Hill. Then it headed for S. Warren St.
The Trenton-Newark Public Service Trolley used the same track but its route was the same route and added Federal St.., Lamberton St., Case St. Adeline St. and Liberty St (Chambersburg).
In addition, there was a third trolley line, the Trenton and Mercer Traction Company. Its route traveled N. Board St and E. Hanover Sts., south to Broad St. Then a turn to Market St across to Cooper St., Lamberton St., Union St. to South Warren St. Then south to the Trenton wharf.
Moreover, there was a railroad substation where Philadelphia passengers got off on Union St.
In addition, the ‘lower bridge’ constructed in 1806 presented the opportunity for Pennsylvanians to buy from the merchants in South Trenton.
Delivery of goods, always an added business cost was assisted by its propinquity to the Pennsylvania railroad station (remember the substation) and the Camden-Amboy Canal, still in operation until about 1910.
Zionism, the quest for a Jewish homeland was never a problem in Trenton. Indeed, the Day School was named after the President of the World Zionist organization, Dr. Theodore Herzl. Included In in its administration was Rabbi Levin, also Rabbi of the large shul, Anshei Emes.
The Napoleon emancipation of the Jews along with the ideas of the enlightenment proved the firm foundation for a secular Jewish movement, called the haskala. Secular Judaism was exceptional in Odessa, relatively new city reacted by the Russian government to display its commercial prowess. Many of the Jewish musicians, actor, singers, entertainers, etc. came from Odessa.
Indeed, those who immigrated to America were not the ‘best and the brightest’ religious scholars. They and their teachers were reluctant to be tainted by the secularism of the burgeoning United States. Those successful business men also did not want to abandon their hard earned property to venture on a possibility.
However, the Jews who was in an economic, social and political rut, were willing immigrants.
American media of the East European Jews between 1881 and 1921 achieved spectacular gains in circulation and influence, provided a rich source of historical data and, to a considerable extent, reflected the beliefs, fears, tastes, and habits of America.
In 1880, just before the start of this great migration, one out of every 179 Americans was Jewish. By 1920, one of every 27 Americans was Jewish. As the number of Jewish immigrants increased, so did the attention given them by the periodical press. The themes that interested periodical editors most were (in order of preference) Jewish persecution and anti-Semitism; genetics and ability; wealth, materialism, and business skill; Americanization; education and learning; immigration; religion; Zionism; exclusivity; attitude toward manual labor; missionary work; poverty; patriotism and bravery; charity; the arts; criminality; politics; ritual murder; and women. See Weingarten, Irving
An influx of Jews into Trenton after World War I resulted in a proliferation of social, literary, and recreational societies as well as political groups. Har Sinai joined the Reform movement in 1922. Adath Israel was organized in 1923 as a Conservative congregation. The Workmen's Circle began its activities in 1924. The YMHA was organized in 1910, reorganized in 1916, and acquired its first building in 1917 – the forerunner of the Jewish Community Center (1962). Zionist societies started in the early 1900s. The Jewish Federation of Trenton was organized in 1929.
‘Jewtown’ was located in South Trenton. It housed most of the recent Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Its rents were inexpensive and its proximity to consumers was perfect. It also provided merchants a site to sell their wares. Similar to Schenectady, NY, (10 sq. miles compared to Trenton’s 7.6 sq. miles) the first Jews who settled in Schenectady came as peddlers, or small dealers in liquor, clothing, and groceries. In fact, in synagogues in communities like Albany or Syracuse one third to one half of the males were initially employed as peddlers. By the 1870s and 1880s, some had opened small businesses, and some prospered.
This section was an already existing marketplace and had been for some years.
Photo 1860 of Market St. Facing Greene (Broad) St.
Built as a shtetl, all spoke Yiddish. It counted several kosher meat butchers, a Talmud Torah, synagogues and a Mikveh (ritual bath). It also housed the social welfare societies, such as the Free Home Loan Society, Immigrant’s Aid, Sick Society, etc.
Before we go further, it would be fruitful to define a shtetl. Ben Cion Pinchuk characterized the shtetl as a nostalgic and sentimental symbol of “The Old Country.” If the old country was so good why did numerous of its Jews move?
Further, the shtetl has to be demythologized. The size of a shtetl, depending on your source was anywhere from 1,500 to 10, 000 people, probably half of which were Jews. It served other work towns whose inhabitants work the ground or in industry as a market.
It served as a marketplace to exchange goods and services,
There were shtetlekh (plural of shtetl in Yiddish) where the overwhelming majority of the Jewish population was engaged in industry, such as Bzhezhin near Lodz, where 80 percent of the Jewish population, including women and children, produced cheap pants for half the Russian empire.
Russian Jews found the shtetl live stifling, with of the governments taxes, restrictions and oppression. Polish Jewish found the same thing, except to a lesser extent.
Romanian Jews were a bit different. Granted citizenship in theory in 1848 and actually in the 1867 fundamental law, Romanian Jewry thrived. However, they were blamed for the financial crises 1873.
Although they found for independence in 1887, Romanian Jews were subsequently restricted by the laws that created government industries. Apparently the ‘native Romanians’ wanted the jobs all to themselves. Indeed, Carl Lueger became Mayor of Vienna in the 1890s, running on an anti-Semitic campaign. See Jacob Raison, Haskala Movement in Russia, 1913.
Even serous Jewish learning was not included in the shtetlach. Yeshiva bokhers went to schools on the great cities.
The Bessarabian shtetlekh (Bessarabia was part of the Russian empire from the beginning of the 19th century until 1918, then part of Rumania until World War II) were known chiefly for their secular nature.
The clear exceptions were the German and Hungarian Jews both of whom were citizens and lived in Western Europe in Western tradition.
Indeed, a 1908 article in the Times-Advertiser called this section of Trenton a closed community.
The Russians are very jealous of their own
interests and very unwilling to inform outsiders
of their doings. But then, this Russian colony of
Trenton, in contradiction to the law of economics,
is practically sufficient unto itself. They have
their own factories, their own stores, their own milk
dealers, in fact the whole category of businesses
and trades is represented among them. Those
stores and factories which are located within the
colony employ only Russians and never fail to
observe the Jewish Sabbath, from sunset Friday
to sunset Saturday, and nothing other than a conflicting
city ordinance prevents them from opening Sundays.
This ‘Trenton Colony’ produced several charitable institutions. Among the early ones were Wanderers’ Help and Miles Rescind, a non-denominational poor fund.
In 1929 were approximately 4,100 Jews; some say 7,100 about 3-5% of Trenton ‘s population. Most of this population resided in the area between South Broad and Warren streets, and Market Street and the Delaware-Raritan Canal (Now the Trenton Freeway).
The area benefitted from the infrastructure of a growing industrial Trenton. Providing trolley service along Broad St, having sidewalk, water (1859) and sewerage (beginning in 1903), outdoor lighting. Finally furnished with indoor plumbing with its toilet, bathtub and wash area, all ceramics made in Trenton and electricity, this area brimmed with activity. Further it had bright electric street lights in 1887 (Its first electric lights made their Trenton appearance in 1881). See Harry J. Podmore, Trenton – Old and New, Trenton Historical society, 1929. See 1903 Trenton Ordinance.
Indeed, The City Railway Company was incorporated under the general law in 1875, with an authorized capital of $50,000. In February 1876, Common Council authorized the construction of a horse-car line through Clinton Street, from the city limits to Perry Street, to Broad, terminating at the Chambersburg borough line. The track was to be a double one. Work on the road began and was open to traffic in At this time the borough of Chambersburg authorized the company to extend its tracks from the canal to the southeasterly borough limits, along South Broad Street, bordering what was to become the Hungarian Jewish area..
Further, the City Railway Company extend its line from Perry Street to Warren and thence to Ferry Street, up Bridge and into Centre Street down as far as Riverview Cemetery (Jewtown)
In October 1885, an ordinance permitted the company to extend its tracks from South Broad Street along Bridge Street, into Centre as far south as Lalor Street, and along Lalor to the canal.
The next year, The City Railway Company again extended its line along Hamilton Avenue. In this year the borough of Chambersburg extended the City Railway Company’s franchise to Jennie Street, Hudson Street, Elmer Street, Chestnut Avenue, Cummings Avenue and Coleman Street, with a spur through Cummings Avenue to Division Street, to the car sheds and stables.
The Trenton Horse Railroad Company passed into the hands of Colonel Lewis Perrine at about this time. In 1891 he acquired control of the City Railway Company and consolidated the two roads on September 30, 1891, under the name of the Trenton Passenger Railway Company. The very next year, Colonel Perrine had the roads electrified and on May 22, 1891, the first experimental trip by electricity was made.
The Jewish area also utilized the Delaware and Raritan Canal for inexpensive portage. And the Pennsylvania railroad was on three blocks away.
The first settlers came to South Trenton because the rents were inexpensive. The area was relatively undeveloped and was not near a major factory.
Ozzie Zuckerman took us to series of first in South Trenton. 1881, Jacob Barker came to Trenton with his wife and seven children. In 1888, Joseph Movshovich opened the first bank on Decatur St. There were twelve kosher butchers. In 1895, Harry Alexander opened the first kosher deli. Alex Cohen was a boxing promoter and cut man.
Other early South Trenton residents included Isaac Berman, Solomon Goldstein, David Lavine, Max Feinberg, Harry Haveson, Israel Silverstein, Isaac Levy, Israel Kohn, Gabriel Lavinson, Louis Levy, Solomon Urken, Daniel Levine and Abraham Moskowitz.
Below is a scheme of most of this area with names of occupants and stores.
From the visual map, counted on Market Street were:
3-Deli’s; a Drug Store; a Restaurants; 3-Bakers; a Gas Station, a Physician (Dr. Bloom); 3-Butchers; a Furniture store; a Mikveh (Religious Ritual Bath)
On Union St., were counted: 3-Shuls; a Hotel; a Social Club (Liberty Club); 3- Bakeries; 2-Chicken stores; 2-Fish Markets; 5-Butchers; a Hardware store; 3-Dry Goods Stores; a Tire Store; a Clothing ship; and a Print shop.
The aggregate totals were 6-bakers, 8-butchers, 3 dry goods stores; 3-Deli’s, 3- Dry Goods Stores, 3-shuks, 2 Fish stores, 2-chicken stores. We found one Mikveh (Ritual Bath), Hotel, a saddle shop, a cooperage (barrels) Restaurant, Gas station, Tire Store, Print shop, Hardware store, barber and social club.
Unlike Eastern Europe, these little stores were not monopolized by women. Rather, in fast becoming Americans, they played the role ascribed to them in the ‘new’ country as keepers of the household and their households were large. See Hyman.
Each owner’s family lived atop the store. Another interesting fact was that, although was an enormous presence of potteries (60), rubber manufacturers and wire and cable (Roebling had its plant on more than 35 acres), Jews did not compete with others for these factory jobs.
Cattle dealer – Isaac Dohen
Wholesale – Myron Cohen
Cow Dealer – Sharky Rosenthal
Hafetz - David Hafetz passed on his store to his son(s) Joseph and Frank Hafetz
Katzeff and Weiner
Butcher – Kalman
Eremyi Hayfetz in front of Hayfetz Meat
Fish and Produce – Solomon Cohen
Grocer – David Cohen
Meat and Produce – Maurice Finkle
Fish (including live carp)
Smitty’s – Sam Smith
Barker’s - Fish Mkt
United Tires - Irving Cohen
David and Jack Introlligator
Café – Heifel Cohen
Mercer Paint and Paper Company - Marcus-Nitzburg family, owned
(Milton) Palat’s Furs
Small Department Stores
Normal Department Store – Swamp Angel (Isaac Finkle)
Finkle’s Dry Good’s – Willow and Spring (Sam Finkle)
Many Jews were peddlers because they could celebrate the Sabbath without business pressures. Others were junkyard dealers for the same reason.
In the early days, in fact, ‘Jewtown’ was silent of the Jewish Sabbath because all the stores were closed. They reopened on Sunday with the wink and the nod of the Police Department because Blue Laws prohibited most commerce on Sunday.
Peddlers earned about five dollars a week and rarely grossed a profit, often depending on the wives and children to peddle alongside of them. The peddler lifestyle marked a profound loss of status for many of the immigrants. Marcus
Ravage, a famous writer during the time, could not believe his eyes when he witnessed a man, “who had been the chairman of the hospital committee in Vaslui and a prominent grain merchant . . .dispensing soda-water and selling lollypops on the corner of Essex Street in New York.”
Along with status issues, newly arrived Jews experienced profound culture shock. The new American workday was no longer circumscribed by meals shared with family, prayer, or Jewish holidays and the Sabbath. They agonized about having to abandon the structured and religious traditions of their homogenous village life.
The Eastern European Jewish immigrants may have been poor, but most
possessed skills as merchants from the Russian shtetls. Since the Russian government prevented Jews from owning land or raw materials, Eastern European Jews possessed a skill set different from other immigrants. Ashley L. Koch.
The five Finkle brothers became door-to door peddlers traversing a weekly route from Trenton to Lambertville, to Flemington, to Somerville back to Trenton for the Sabbath. When one earned sufficient money, he sent for the second brother ad seriatim. Eventually, with enough capital, they settled in Trenton and environs to establish dry goods stores. In Lambertville, Finkle’s Hardware Store is still operating, more than 100 years later.
Harry Gerofsky also commented on the coming together of Trenton. It received a charter in 1792 (population 1, 2500). In 1837, its population was 4,000. In 1838, it became the county seat of a new county (Mercer). In 1847, it authorized streets and alleys. In 1851, it annexed the Borough of South Trenton, then known as Mill Hill and Bloomburg (3rd and 4th wards which later would house ‘Jewtown’).
In 1888, the Trenton State Gazette, a Republican newspaper, pushed for more annexation. In short order, Trenton annexed Chambersburg (1895), Wilbur (1898) and the west part of the city (Cadwalader Place, Hillcrest and the Asylum).
From 1875 to 1905, Trenton began to flex its manufacturing muscle and it received the workers as the immigrants poured into tiny Trenton. Population went from 25,000 in 1875 to 84,000 in 1905. During this time the pottery industry, the rubber industry and the iron, wire and cable industry (Roebling) mushroomed.
Harry Gerofsky’s collection at the Trenton Free Public library present a trove of information. There were two Yiddish newspapers 1909 and 1916, both of short duration.
Perhaps Jacob Riis, the Danish born American journalist, Jews will make the best Americans. They have no country to which to return. See Riis. This hypothesis is borne out by a Canadian study on its migration of Jews from 1900-1920, stating, that unlike the American immigrants, the Jews who immigrated later to Canada were influenced by the Haskala (Jewish secular culture based on the Enlightenment) and nationalism (Zionism) to a much larger extent than the American Jews. Accordingly their assimilation was much more difficult.
Simon Kahnweiler, one of the incorporators of the Har Sinai Temple Hebrew Congregation, was born in Bavaria, Germany, August 26, 1820. He was the first prominent Jewish merchant of Trenton, member of the Common Council 1863-64, president of the Protection Hook and Ladder Company, and a member of several local military companies. During the time that he was a member of the temple congregation he served as president and head of the Sunday school. He died in Philadelphia, May 4, 1890,
Joseph Rice, prominent member of Har Sinai Temple, was one of Trenton's most highly-respected citizens. Born at Riechen, Baden, Germany, June 26, 1834, he served in several public offices, was made a director of the Mechanics National Bank, January 13, 1891, and was vice-president and director from August 5, 1909, up to the time of his death, July 14, 1913. For many years he was clothing merchant.
Mrs. Amelia Kaufman Block, for many years an active worker in the Har Sinai Temple Sisterhood, was born in Trenton. She is the daughter of Ephraim and Toretta Kaufman. Toretta Kaufman, one of the early active workers of the Har Sinai Temple Congregation, was born in Germany. She died May 25, 1887.
Among those who have been active in the religious life of the Orthodox congregations are the Rev. P. Turman, the Rev. Mr. Prail, the Rev. Max Sufnoss, the Rev. Meyer Rabinowitz, the Rev. Israel Price, Rabbi Isaac Bunin, the Rev. Joseph Konvitz, David Lavine, Isaac Levy(Levie), who was one of the founders of the Talmud Torah, Hyman Levy (Levie), first president of the congregation of the Brothers of Israel, Max Gordon and Rabbi Issachar Levin.
Most of the early Jewish settlers in Trenton were of German extraction, the outstanding exception being the Naars, whose remote ancestors came to the West Indies from the Iberian peninsula in very early days. Besides the Naar family who came to Trenton in 1856 and their contemporaries, who incorporated the Mount Sinai Cemetery and founded the Hat Sinai Congregation, the pioneer Jewish group included Isaac Wymann, Daniel Piexotto, Marcus Marx, Samuel Rosenthal, Julius Schloss, Emanuel Kahnweiler, A. Rosenblatt, Congressional Medal of Honor holder and former Nation Director of Jewish War Veterans, Ben Kaufman, David Manko and Marcus Bohn. Practically all of these are representatives of the ‘5o’s and ‘60’s.
The third and largest group, which came here in the years following 1880, mainly comprised members of the race who came from Russia to escape the Czar’s oppressive regime.
Southern Europeans established the Jewish community in South Trenton with its Orthodox synagogues, Hebrew School and Sheltering Home. Their descendants constitute the majority of the present Jewish population. The others are German, Austrian, Hungarian and Romanian Jews and their descendants.
The early Jews were mainly merchants. Among them may be mentioned Simon Kahnsweiler, who was the first Jewish manufacturer (bricks) and also one of the prominent merchants of his day in the city. His brother, Emanuel, operated a soap factory near the Assunpink bridge on South Broad Street.
S. E. Kaufman, for many years the proprietor of the Kaufman department store, is a native of Trenton. He was one of the leaders of Trenton's Board of Trade, now the Chamber of Commerce. He is a member of the interstate bridge commission and the executive board of the Boy Scouts of America.
Joseph Rice came to Trenton in the 185o's. He established a clothing business on South Warren Street, and later removed to North Broad Street. His sons, Alexander and Jonas, succeeded him in the business. Joseph Rice was a director of the Mechanics National Bank.
Bernard Tobish, who has conducted a men's furnishing shop hem for nearly half a century, came to Trenton in 1877 and opened a store on State Street. He is one of the earliest members of the Har Sinai Temple. Associated with him in business are his son, Abram, and his brother, Joseph. Another son, Theodore, was at one time county engineer.
Other merchants were: the Fuld brothers, Jonas A., Manus A., and Louis A., who came to Trenton in the '90's; Sigmund Kahn, who was senior member of the firm of S. Kahn and Sons in the old Washington Market Building; Simon Samler, who was in the clothing business on the same site; Isidor Levin, who conducted a department store at the "Five Points," as did Isaac Goldberg on South Broad Street; Morris and Paul Urken, who now have a department store in Chambersburg, as do Israel Kohn and Solomon Urken; and Henry Wirtschafter, who maintains a large department store on South Broad Street.
One of the first Jewish professional men in Trenton was Moses D. Naar, lawyer and journalist, who came to Trenton in 1856. His brother, Samuel Grey Naar, studied law in his office and was admitted to the Bar in 1880, becoming a counselor in 1894. Later he was assistant prosecutor and at one time was a city police justice.
The 1905 City Directory listed four of 234 physicians; three of 203 attorneys; ten of 42 dentists. It took a while for the immigrant to adapt, feed his family and adjust to new conditions, including the freedom of education.
Among the lawyers admitted to the Bar during the present century are Henry H. Wittstein, J. Irving Davidson, Maxwell Kraemer and William Reich. Philip Forman, who was appointed United States attorney for the District of New Jersey, was admitted to the Bar in 1917, and became a counselor in 1920. He was appointed assistant United States district attorney in 1923, He is a Major in the Judge Advocate General's Department of the New Jersey National Guard, and was commander of the American Legion, Department of New Jersey, in 1923-24.
Dr. Samuel Freeman, the first Jewish physician in Trenton, began his practice in 1900, and the first dentists were Dr. James S. Miller and Dr. William Julian.
The 1921 Trenton City Directory revealed 117 Jewish Surnames (some, like Smith and Brown I assumed a portion were Jewish). See Appendix 5 for all Jewish Sunames.
The first publications-The Trenton Jewish World (Budson, Miller and Firestein, 1909), and The Trenton Jewish Weekly (H. Waxler, 1916) lasted one year. Remember, there was competition from the large New York Yiddish papers, The Forvord and the Tageblaatt. Dos Abend Blatt, Der Blatt, Der Yid , Freie Arbeiter Stimme, Der Groyser Kundes, Jewish Morning Journal and Morgen Freiheit.
The Community Messenger, a monthly magazine, next reported for the Trenton Jewish community. Under the auspices of the Y.M.H.A. and Y.W.H.A. Sidney Marcus founded the original Messenger in 1919, but later Dr. M. H. Chaseman reestablished the magazine (1924).
As an outlet for increasing Jewish literary pursuits, the Messenger’s first literary contest in 1925 awarded prized to Max Litt (first); Charles Lavinthal (Second); and Max Pitasky (third).
Its next editor, I. Herbert Levy. Included many writers to fill the pages with interesting news of the Trenton Jewish Community. Some of these reporters were Percy Seietlin, NTHAN Kramer, Abraham Adler, Albert H. Kahn, Rabbi Holzberg, Herman Babitch, Sidney Lavine, Lillian Berdow.
In 1928, Sidney Goldmann (later to be State Libraian and Appellate Court Judge), was the next editor-in-chief to put the Community Messenger on the viable magazine list. In collaboration with the “Y,” Max Lehman was poetry editor; Julian Goodstein was fine arts editor and Julius Schey was an art critique.
See Mercer Messenger, 1925-1931
To receive and foster receiving these huddled masses yearning to be free, the Trenton Jewish community responded numerous traditional Jewish benevolent societies and religious institutions (three Russian; and one Hungarian), some of which we will explicated in this section.
It is axiomatic that Jewish communities provide for the orphan and widow. Indeed, Deuteronomy 26:12 declares, “The underprivileged to which the poor man's tithe was to be given includes 'the orphan, and the widow.' ”
Exodus 22:21-3 states this emphatically: “ If you do mistreat them 9widow and orphan, I will heed their cry as soon as they cry out to Me, and My anger shall blaze forth and I will put you to the sword, and your own wives shall become widows and your children orphans).
Evidenced in the Jewish Code of Law, 1565, this is no less true of Trenton and its charitable institutions, as they were know then. Beginning in 1877, the Bikur Cholim Society to help the sick and to bury the dead. Shortly, 1893, the Har Sinai Charity Society, Hebrew Benevolent Society (1894), Trenton Hebrew Benevolent Society (1895), Hebrew Charitable Association of Trenton (1908), which became the Hebrew Free Loan Society I (1930).
More directly, the Ladies Zion Aid Society (1900) morphed into Ladies Aid Society of Trenton 1909 delivered, “for aiding poor and distressed persons.
The Ladies Sick benefit society (1909) provided food, clothing shelter and small sums of money. Its incorporators were: Fanny Budson, Judge Philip Forman,. Rose Golinsky, Louis Rudner and Florence Vogel
Ultimately, these voluntary groups institutionalized in 1927, becoming the Jewish Family Welfare Board (1937), the Jewish Family Service and a Home for the Aged and Infirm. In that year, Ms. Galinsky reported that the agency assisted 66 families, with1,150 food orders, 28 tons of coal and clothing for more than 100 children. Louis Rudner was its first President.
The Bureau significantly helped those uprooted by the Holocaust. Before the war, 44 families were materially helped to adapt in a strange environment and a mind-numbing time. After the war, there were numerous families that the Bureau helped to find a residence, a job and adapt to their new environment.
People who worked on these projects were Claire Kind, Jessica Alexander, Dr. Samuel Blaugrun, Joseph Fishberg, Rose Galinsky, Sidney Goldman, Fanny Popkin, Sol Walkoff, Reba Byer, Sadie Shalita and Rose Feber Baker, Mildred Forer, Katherine Papier Freida Garber, Fannie Kohn, May Medoff, Beulah Glickman and Fay Schragger. Harold Hoenig and Harry Holland.
If Executive Directors were: David E. Tannebaum,, Jerome Palevsky (1956-70), Byron Pinsky (1970-73 and from 1975 to Leo M. Kalik . the current Director is Linda Meisel.
Presidents of the Jewish Welfare Board: Louis Rudner, Sidney S. Stark, Sidney Goldman, Samuel Leventhal, Leon Robinson, Maurice Ross, Philip J. Albert, David Kravitz, Marvin Swern, Harry Holland, Maurice G. Kott, Max Bard, Harold Koslow, and Harold Hoenig and Saul Gillman.
Renamed the Jewish Family and Children’s Service and relocated to Princeton, NJ, it now provides social work service, help with Jewish immigration, help for Holocaust survivors, individuals with disabilities, aids individuals sixty years and above, and people with disabilities who are experiencing age-related difficulties supervises and delivers Kosher Meal on Wheels, a Kosher Café
For seniors to enjoy a get-together, have a good meal and good conversation. Enjoy a hot family style kosher meal, interesting program and friendly faces on the 2nd Wednesday of each month.
Open to the community, Programs for seniors, an Exercise Group and other social activities particularly for senior citizens.
As the great industrial complex of Trenton began to grow immediately before after the Civil War.
By 1850, there were several churches in the City representing Presbyterian (remember) Princeton was a Presbyterian Seminary), Methodist (John Asbury had a mission in New Jersey), Baptist, Roman Catholic, Byzantine Catholic and other denominations.
New York and Philadelphia has Jewish communities already two centuries old. Slowly, after the defeat of liberalism in the German States in 1848-9, German Jews made their way to Trenton. This trickle formed a core Jewish community where none existed before. Accordingly, the Har Sinai Cemetery Association, formed on November 19, 1857 when 11 men met in the home of Morris Singer. They were (besides Singer): Marcus Marx, Julius Schloss, Isaac Wymann, lgnatz Frankenstein, Lazarus Gottheim, Isaac Singer, Joseph Rice, Ephraim Kaufman, Marcus Aaron and Gustavus Cane.
As is common, the cemetery association a year later committed to building a place of worship. Its initial religious services were held in private homes ; then in rented quarters.
A September 1858 newspaper item tells us that 52 persons attended New Year's services in Temperance Hall, then located at the southeast corner of Broad and Front Streets.
Formal services Har Sinai Hebrew Congregation building began in 1860.
In 1860, its trustees were Simon Kahnweiler, Isaac Wymann, Henry Shoninger, Herman Rosenbaum, Marcus Aaron, Leon Kahnweiler and David Manko, most of them clothing merchants. Nearly all German, services and minutes were conducted in Hebrew and German.
Kahnweiler, a prominent business figure, tried his hand at several ventures: a brickyard, vinegar works, grocery store and real estate.
He became Har Sinai's first president, exercising considerable influence in the new congregation.
Kahnweiler a Lutheran little brick chapel on the west side of North Montgomery Street, between Academy and Perry. It was refitted as a temple and dedicated with appropriate ceremonies on March 23, 1866.
Judge David Naar, an outstanding Jewish figure at that time, made the dedicatory address. Naar, who now lived in Trenton Former Mayor of Elizabeth and Common Pleas Judge of Essex County, a member of the State Constitution of 1844, owner and publisher of the influential Daily True American, and a powerful figure in state Democratic councils.
Rabbi Isaac Lesser, who with Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise then shared the leadership of American Jewry, also spoke at the dedication.
Lesser went on the found the Conservative movement in the 1880’s. Wise established a Reform association in 1873 and a Rabbinical College in 1875.
There was some turmoil over deed’s provenance and the building was sold at Sheriff’s auction in 1872. Kahnweiler evidently had never deeded the temple to the congregation. But the deed was unclear and is was sold by the Sheriff.
There was a, heroine, however. Mrs. Toretta Kaufman, mother of Amelia Block and S.E. Kaufman, both pillars of the business community, saved the temple building. Through her tireless efforts she managed to collect sufficient funds so that by autumn of 1872 the congregation again owned the Montgomery Street property.
The largest contributor was said to be Joseph Rice, a member, a leading merchant and one of Trenton's most respected citizens. He made up the balance needed after Mrs. Kaufman’s proceeds.
As the German Jews in New York and Philadelphia, the German Jews helped their obscurantist, callow Jewish breather when they arrived as immigrants. Not knowing anything of the language, customs, ways of doing business, etc., these German Jews instituted charitable societies to assist them in their new environment.
Har Sinai sold its temple to Bayard Post, No.8, G.A.R. and in 1903, bought a lot at the southwest corner of Front and Stockton Streets to erect its second house of worship.
The temple was dedicated on the evening of October 7, 1904. Soon after, the congregation engaged Rabbi Nathan Stern, a Reform rabbi. English replaced German in the services.
In February 1922 the Board of Trustees voted to join the Union of American Hebrew Congregations as a member of the Reform movement.
Soon after, the Temple found that its increased school enrollment necessitated a larger building In 1925 Har Sinai purchased a lot on Bellevue Avenue, then a pretty barren area, to erect its third house of worship. One of its members, Louis S. Kaplan serving as architect. (He Also designed the War Memorial Building.)
In 1929, Rabbi Abram Holtzberg was the spiritual leader. Others serving as officers were M. Lessler, Simon Rosenberg, Israel Goldvogel, Morris Ungerleider, Mr. Wagenheim, Mr. Schomberg, Mr.Kahn, Joseph Gabriel, L. Weiss, Mr. Bloch, Nathan Rosenau, Louis B. Michelson, Nathan Stern, Harry K. Jacobs, Joel Blau and Jacob Goldstein.
The material embodied here is in the main abridged from articles published by Mr. Harry J. Podmore in the Community Messenger and Har Sinai Hebrew Congregation, 2012.
The dedication ceremonies took place September 12 through 16, 1930. Addresses by Rabbi Louis Woolsey of Philadelphia, Dr. Julian Morgenstern, President of the Hebrew Union College, and Rabbis Sidney Tedesche and Alexander Lyons of Brooklyn. Julius Schafer was president, and Rabbi Abraham Holtzberg was in the sixth year of his contract.
Figure 32 Har Sinai's Famous Sanctuary
Although Har Sinai opened its new temple doors into the depression years of the 1930's, the congregation managed to carry during difficult economic times. The temple was completely free of debt when it burned its mortgage on the evening of November 4, 1945.
Rabbi Holtzberg's spiritual leadership continued for 25-years. Indeed, Dr. J.M. Schildkraut was president for many of these years.
To commemorate the Jewish presence on Trenton, an official government plaque was installed at 20 West State Street.
First Synagogue Marker
Inscription. Trenton’s first Jewish organization, Mount Sinai Cemetery Association, formed November 19, 1857, later known as Har Sinai Hebrew Congregation, began regular synagogue services at this site in 1860.
Erected by Har Sinai Temple, Centennial Committee.
Location. 40° 13.228′ N, 74° 45.983′ W. Marker is in Trenton, New Jersey, in Mercer County. Marker is on West State Street 0.1 miles west of Warren Street, on the right when traveling west. On the fence in front of the Mary Roebling State Office Building. Marker is at or near this postal address: 20 West State Street, Trenton NJ 08608, United States of America.
With the death of Rabbi Holtzberg, Rabbi Joshua 0. Haberman, from Buffalo, replace his colleague in 1951.
Rabbi Haberman's rabbinate for the next eighteen years brought an extensive series of innovations, achievements and activities which carried Har Sinai during the fifties and sixties through a period of unprecedented growth.
A significant addition to the worship services of Har Sinai took place in 1953 when Cantor Marshall M. Glatzer joined the Temple staff.
Changes in the religious practices of the congregation saw the return of the chanting of the Kiddush, of skull caps and the use of the Shofar instead of a coronet for Rosh Hashanah.
In 1957, Har Sinai celebrated its Centennial Year—"more than just another celebration", as Centennial chairman Sidney Goldmann, a member, said in this personal message, but "an occasion for spiritual rededication, a renewal of one's abiding faith in Judaism".
When Rabbi Haberman answered a call to serve as Rabbi for Washington
Hebrew Congregation (one of the most prestigious Temples) in Washington, D.C. in 1969, Har Sinai called to its pulpit Rabbi Bernard Perelmuter from Erie, Pennsylvania, who served Har Sinai until June, 1982.
In June 1982, Har Sinai welcomed Rabbi David J. Gelfand to its pulpit from Temple Beth El in Great Neck, New York. Then, came David Straus and Stuart A. Pollack.
One of the first, if not the first Eastern Jew in Trenton was Samuel Meyer Stark. Born in Lithuania in 1841, he lived in Glasgow, Scotland where he learned to speak English. He came to Trenton in 1876 in a steerage voyage of 52 days. At first settling in New York City, he, by 1878, made his home in Trenton where he could get his hands on pottery to be sold in various markets. He also sold second hand clothes of the Princeton University students to markets in New York. In Trenton, he served as a tutor of nine German Jewish families and acted as the first Sheliach Tzibur (Cantor) at what became the first Eastern Jewish Orthodox congregation. He passed away in 1887.
The second oldest religious body (after the German Congregation, Har Sinai) in the life of Trenton Jewry is the Congregation of the Brothers of Israel. This organization, which was founded by Polish and Russian Jews, was incorporated in 1883, but it seems that the group was not fully established until four years later. Isaac Levy., another Jewish Scot by way of Lithuania was President for 10 years in the 1890’s.
Harry Podmore tells us that Brothers of Israel’s first Trustees: Louis Levin, Louis Katz, , Louis Lefkowitz, Abraham Bennestein, Abraham Goldstein, Jacob Hankelsky, Mr. Isaac Berman
Two years later, the synagogue purchased a cemetery on Vroom adjacent to the Har Sinai Hebrew Congregation.
In August 1887 the Union Street M.E. Church was purchased and converted into a synagogue. On September 11, 1887, the remodeled edifice was dedicated. In 1900 the building was demolished and a new one was erected upon the site.
In 1885 the congregation established a place of burial on Vroom Street, adjoining Har Sinai Cemetery. In 1907 the place was enlarged by the purchase of an additional lot. In 1908 it served more than 1,200 families. And in 1913 an auxiliary cemetery was established near Cedar Lane, Hamilton Township. Its spiritual leader Rabbi Pinchus Turman, trained in Vilna.
The early officers of the Brothers of Israel congregation are: Hyman Silverman, president; Havis Olinsky, vice-president; Morris Iskovitz, secretary, and F. Lavinson, treasurer.
In 1913, as the immigrants poured into South Trenton necessitating the congregation to purchase a larger cemetery on Cedar lane.
President Peter Unger, Louis Kaplan, Isaac Goldman, Harry Kohn, Charles Smith, Harry Cooper. Isaac Goldman, Harry Kohn, Abraham Schultz and Solomon Jaffe. Their first religious leader was Rev. Isaac Moskowtiz. It should be noted that there were very few Rabbi’s in the new country. Most of them stayed at their learning institutions in Europe. Further, there was no seminary to ordain Rabbi’s until 1875 in Cincinnati for the German Jews. under the leadership of Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, its first rabbinical class graduated in 1883.
The Russian Jews started a New York City seminary in 1890. Rabbi Sabato Morais led the institution but it closed after the death of Morais in 1897. Nevertheless, with the help of German Jews, such as Jacob Schiff, Louis Marshall, The Lewisohns, the Guggenheims and a number of other established Jews, gather $500,000 to build another Jewish Theological Seminary opened in New York in 1903, with the prestigious Dr. Solomon Schechter as its Chancellor.
In Alexander’s Budson’s legal office, a committee formed to build another synagogue in the Western section of Trenton. Committee members were: Alexander Budson, David Gross, Solomon Urken Harry Millner, Harry Bernstein, Harry I. Gross, Samuel Lavinthal, Joseph Lavine, I. S. Rednor, Samuel Levin, Michael Galinsky, Israel Kohn, Harry Siegle, Israel Goldberg, Israel Vine.
At the opening, the Toast Master was Alexander Budson. Speakers were Rabbi Holzberg (Har Sinai), Mayor Donnelly, Rabbi Israel Bunin (Brother of Israel and Anshei Emes), and the Rector of St. Michaels’s Methodist Episcopal Church
Oct 1926 Podmore Messinger; Ozzie Zuckerman NJN 12/19/99
The Congregation Of The People Of Truth (ORTHODOX) - 1891
The Congregation Of The People Of Truth (ORTHODOX) - 1891
Congregation of the People of Truth was organized either in the late ‘80’s or in the early ‘90’s. The group filed papers for incorporation in December of 1891. In 1902 the Second Presbyterian
Church, on Union Street, was purchased by the congregation and refitted for a synagogue. On March 15, 1903, the edifice was dedicated to the worship of Jehovah. In 1893 the congregation established a cemetery near Cedar Lane, Hamilton Township. Before he died, Isaac Levy, formerly President of Brothers of Israel was also President of this new congregation. His obituary is seen below:
One of the Most
Prominent Residents of South Trenton Died
Saturday: '' July 28, 1909 Trenton Times – Advertiser
SKETCH OF HIS • Life
The funeral service of Isaac Levy of 304 union street, one of the oldest find *most prominent members -of the Jewish race in South Trenton, who died Saturday, following a lingering illness of -over a year) yesterday afternoon from his late residence at 4 o'clock; Services- according to the Jewish rite by the -Rev. Hersh Elitzer, of the Synagogue of the Israelites Brotherhood.
Gathered around the coffin were the immediate members or the family, while a lair number of relatives, friends and many who were befriended in life, filled the house and the sidewalk in the vicinity.
. • •
Mr. Levy was one of the earliest Hebrews to ,settle in South Trenton, where 'he has remained all his life, and from e first day his chief mission was to aid -his countrymen. Being a contractor, the deceased was the promoter of the building of the present- beautiful synagogue of the Israelites' 'Brotherhood, of which he was a member, and the first and only free Hebrew school in Trenton.
He aimed unceasingly at Jewish progress, and to this end gave much time and money. His work with the members" of the congregation was met with their heartiest approval, and several medals were presented to him as a taken of their appreciation.
His labors did not cease even when the dread disease that removed him from life, first compelled him to retire from business. During the past nine months Mr. Levy organized and financed a project to help the poorer classes of his own people, a scheme which already, though its infancy, is doing great good among the Jews.
Mr. Levy was in his 70th year, and during his life has reared a family" of five children, who today show the fruits of their admirable training. They are Mary and Rachel, Abram, Bernard and Charles.
He was prominent in Jewish Masonic circles, and also was president of the People of Troth Society, a Jewish organization, whose members attended the funeral in a body.
Services at the grave consisted of eulogies delivered by a number of friends who knew him, honored him in life, and wished to pay fitting tribute to his memory before he was taken from their view. Interment was made in the Mount Sinai Cemetery, under the direction of Poulson and Coleman.
We know that the shul, Anshei Emes, opened in 1901. We might not know is that there was great cooperation with Brothers of Israel. Together, they shared the Rabbi, the Rabbi’s home and the kosher slaughterhouse.
It should be noted that Isaac Levy began the first Talmud Torah, originally as an adjunct of Brothers of Israel congregation. Later on, it became fully independent.
Above, we learned that there were few ordained Rabbi’s in the ‘new’ country. Accordingly, Anshei Emes SHARED a Rabbi, a Rabbi’s residence and a kosher slaughtering house with its elder, Brothers of Israel.
In 1919 Rabbi Joseph Konowotz presided. In 1924, Rabbi Israel Bunin.
This synagogue had two buildings: one used as a synagogue, assembly and study hall; the second as a school accommodating more than for 200 students. This school has sessions during the school year daily from 9:00 to 11:30 and 2:00 to 3:00. Its teachers were H. Hinkin and Hyman Vroblinsky. There also was Sabbath school. Its teachers were Miss Fannie Bushnon and Eleak Budsin.
Rabbi Max Surfnoss, another Vilna trained Rabbi, was its spiritual leader.
Hungarian Jews were different from their Eastern European cousins. Hungarian Jews were sandwiched between German, Russian and other Slovak Jews. Cosmopolitan Hungarians did not even speak Yiddish and of course there customs were completely different. They were considered German by the Jewish community. Those form the villages presented a different issue. Their Yiddish was sprinkled with Hungarian words (untranslatable to most Jews).
The Hungarian language belongs to the Ugrian group of the Finno-Ugrian language family, some similar to Kazakhs. I The Hungarian name for the language is magyar [ˈmɒɟɒr], which is also occasionally used as an English word to refer to the Hungarian people as an ethnic group.
Further, although they were citizens of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Magyars taught them to be to be invisible. Accordingly, the Magyars, with Jewish support, just tipped the balance of the population in Hungary.
Moreover, the Haskala movement (Western scientific thinking, with secular coursework) took hold in Hungary and Germany as opposed to most of obscurantist Russia/Poland.
Ethnically, they are descended from the Spanish expulsion; then an enormous amount of Moravian and Bohemia (Czech) and Galician Jews. They were citizens of the state as early as 1850. Consequently, although there was anti-Semitism, it was not on the scale as other Eastern Europeans.
When Hungarian Jews reached America, their natural inclination was to congregate together. Most Jewish Hungarians did not live in South Trenton. Rather, they lived in Chambersburg off Broad St. Some if families were William and Rebecca Gold (immigrated in 1903), and the families Saaz, Herkovitz, Reich, Kasser and Greenwald all lived on Broad St. Others lived off Broad on Dye St and S. Clinton Ave.
This core group created Ahavath Israel, incorporated in December 1909. In May 1910 the body purchased the Wesley Methodist Church on Centre Street. The edifice was then remodeled and dedicated to Jewish worship. The founders of the Congregation of Ahavath Israel were in the main of Austro‑Hungarian extraction. The first officers and trustees of the congregation were: Samuel Goldmann, president; Leo Eisner, vice-president; Peter Littman, secretary; Henry Wirtschafter, Herman Lefkowitz, Jacob Blaugrund, Louis Warady, Nathan Fuchs, Adolf L. Moskowitz and Armin Bonyai, trustees.
Their services originally were in their Hungarian vernacular. It purchased a cemetery on Pitman Avenue shortly after.
Interestingly, Hungarian Jews founded the American Cigar Company run by a Hungarian Jew named S. Seidenberg who sold it the American Tobacco Company (on Division St) at the turn of the 20th century. Employing over 1,000 workers, including Cubans who were imported, all of its management consisted of Hungarian Jews: Albert Gold, the families Kasser, Greenwald, Lazlo, Loeb and Louis Gross. Later on, another factory was added on College and Division Streets. During the Great Depression, when most of the industrial giants ceased to produce, the American Cigar Company kept on working. In the 1950’s automatic cigar machines eventually replaced the individually wrapped cigars made in Trenton.
Two other cigar companies also operated at a lessor scale: Cigar FaCo (Sam Levy); MopoCuba (Isidore Klein).
A small congregation, which did not sustained itself, was the Anchi Chedek, or People of Justice, which was founded in October, 1907, by the Shochat Rabinowitz. This congregation held its functions the second floor of 6
Its spiritual leader was Meyer Rabinowitz, who, by training in Russia, was a sanitary expert.
Congregation of the Workers of Truth filed incorporation papers in 1919. A few years later the organization purchased two dwellings on Union Street, near Market Street, and remodeled them into a house of worship.
The first officers of the People of Truth congregation were : S. Silverman, president; Jacob Fein, vice-president; Isaac Gutstein and Solomon Kohn, secretaries, and Zushman Fein, treasurer. The trustees of this congregation were Jacob Albert and Mr. Saperstein.
In 1923, in Alexander’s Budson’s law office, a committee formed to build another synagogue in the Western section of Trenton. Committee members were: Alexander Budson, David Gross, Solomon Urken Harry Millner, Harry Bernstein, Harry I. Gross, Samuel Lavinthal, Joseph Lavine, I. S. Rednor, Samuel Levin, Michael Galinsky, Israel Kohn, Harry Siegle, Israel Goldberg, Israel Vine.
The Adath Israel Congregation was organized at a meeting held on September 30, 1923. On October 15 the congregation was incorporated. Services were held in the Progress Club on West State Street until the time of the erection of the temple on Bellevue Avenue. The formal opening of the temple was on Friday evening, July 23, 1926, and in October of that year it was dedicated.
At the opening, the Toast Master was Alexander Budson. Speakers were Rabbi Holzberg (Har Sinai), Mayor Donnelly, Rabbi Israel Bunin (Brother of Israel and Anshei Emes), and the Rector of St. Michaels’s Methodist Episcopal Church
Oct 1926 Podmore Messinger; Ozzie Zuckerman NJN 12/19/99
Interestingly, Zionism was never a big issue in old Trenton. Indeed, Rabbi Lavinthal and of Philadelphia and Rabbi J. I. Bluestone of New York returned from the first Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland (1898) spread the message. In that year, Trenton’s Jews formed Sons of Zion (B’nai Tzion) with Isaac J. Millner as President and David Aroniss as secretary. Meetings were held at both Brothers of Israel and People of Truth Synagogues. Incorporators were A. M. Elfman, Isaac A. Onkelsky, Samuel Brodner, Frank Morris and Nathan Aroniss.
Around 1905, the local body affiliated with the national organization – Federation of American Zionists Officers were Albert H. Millner (President); Robert Lavine, Vice-President); M. Cohn, (Secretary) and B., Budson, (Treasurer). Again in 1911, they affiliated with a reconstituted national organization, Order of Sons of Zion, a fraternal and benevolent society. I Its leaders were Hyman Forer, Dr. Fuchs, Harry Heller, Reuben Lavine, Albert Millner, Max Movshovitz, Henry Millner, Re. Max Gordon, Mendel Dietz, Joseph Radinsky and David L. Samachson.
Zionists believed that Israel should be the national Jewish homeland. However, there was a disagreement as to what type of Zionism it should be. The Mizrachi branch thought the Jewish state should be constituted as a religious state. The Paoli Zionists felt a socialist nation should be built in Israel.
The Paoli Zionist branch opened in 1913 at the home of Samson Donskoy at 56 Union St. He, with Nathan Kramer were the leaders of its incorporation which ultimately housed it operations on Warren St., below Fall St.
The Zionist organization pursued Zionism through the World Jewish Congress, funding the Zionist movement and funding educational activities.
The Ladies’ Zion Aid Society incorporated in 1900. Trustees were Rebecca Lavinson, Hende Bash, Elke Galinsky, Dora Goodstein and Charles Bash. Headquarters were on 100 Union St.
One of these activities was the founding of a Talmud Torah or school where the youth are taught Hebrew and the traditions and religious precepts of their People. Dr. Herzl's Zion Hebrew School on Union Street serves the local community in this capacity. The institution began as a school maintained by the Congregation of the Brothers of Israel. Prior to this time there was a Hebrew school which held sessions in a rented hall on Union Street near Fall Street.
This body in 1904 erected a school house (the first of its kind in Trenton) on Union Street, opposite the temple, which was named in memory of Dr. Theodor Herzl, father of political Zionism, who died during the same month that the cornerstone was laid (July 1904). The institution did not come up to the anticipations of its sponsors. The building was subsequently sold to the city for a public school house. This school resumed operations in the 1910’s on Cooper and Market Sts.