Hoboken (New Jersey) Star of Israel Synagogue Begins Restoration
By Samuel D. Gruber
ISJM, October 23, 2008
The United Synagogue of Hoboken used the High Holy Days to begin the restoration of its synagogue, built in 1915, and known as the Star of Israel. A program of renewal for the congregation began during its centennial in 2005 and since then, the synagogue has been placed on the New Jersey and the National Registers of Historic Places and the synagogue recently received a $280,000 matching grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust to aid in the restoration.
USH has also received a grant from the Legacy Heritage Fund for a program to recreate Jewish neighborhood vitality in Hoboken. State and local political officials and leaders of the Jewish community attended the Restoration Kickoff Celebration at the historic sanctuary.
Though now serving a Conservative congregation, the synagogue is one of a fairly small group of intact and in use (originally) Orthodox synagogues of a type that once filled American cities. The design essentially follows the Orthodox East European model favored by first and second generation East European Jewish immigrants. Outside, the flat facade still maintains vestigial corner towers, each surmounted by an onion dome. Inside, a women's balcony fills three sides of the sanctuary, which culminates at the Ark wall with a tall two-story Aron-ha-Kodesh that mixes classical and East European motifs. A large carved eagle is set in the middle of the Ark, which is surmounted by seated lions flanking a Decalogue.
According to the congregation, the restoration will take place in phases in order minimize disruption of synagogue life, and to stay within our budget.
Phase one, upgrading infrastructure, includes: installing new wiring throughout the building; examining the strength of the roof structure and adding a new roof; placing steel beams on the roof to support air conditioning units; replacing masonry on the parapets; and refurbishing the onion domes. Much of the roof work is eligible for fifty percent reimbursement from the New Jersey Historic Trust grant.
Phase two (still in planning stage, dependent on available funding): continue work on the roof and install the air conditioning; or continue work in the sanctuary and install the replacement period light fixtures.
For more information and photos see:
United Synagogue of Hoboken added to National Register of Historic Places by Carly Baldwin
The following information has been adapted from the congregation's website:
The Star of Israel community was formed by recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, on October 10, 1905, just after Yom Kippur. After ten years of fund raising and planning, the synagogue was dedicated on May 16, 1915. The Star of Israel remain shuttered, during an extended period following World War II, when the local piers became obsolete, factories closed, and young families migrated to the suburbs. Except for the High Holy Days, when services would be held at the Star of Israel, the diminished community met at another Hoboken location.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Hoboken was a major immigration port, and the Port of Embarkation for the Allied Forces in World War I. Many local commercial and retail businesses were owned by Jewish residents of Hoboken, who probably numbered over 3,000 men, women and children. Jewish life in Hoboken was at its peak just after World War I, when there were six synagogues.
The United Synagogue of Hoboken was organized in 1947 through the union of the Hoboken Jewish Center -- founded in the 1920's as a Conservative congregation -- and the Congregation Star of Israel -- organized in 1910 as an Orthodox congregation.
The Hoboken Jewish Center was established by former members of the Star of Israel seeking a more liberal environment in the then-emerging Conservative movement. They purchased, occupied, and renovated a circa-1890 brown stone residence at 830 Hudson Street, adding a 120-seat sanctuary, gymnasium, and offices; and upstairs residences, occupied by the rabbi and the rabbi's family, a Learning Center teacher, and, at times, a caretaker.
Revitalization began slowly, during the 1970s, when Jews were among the new generation of residents arriving in Hudson County. In 1989, the Star of Israel was reopened to accommodate a small but growing congregation and a learning center. In 1997, the community sold its other Hoboken property and used the proceeds to help fund construction of a building next to the Star of Israel, consolidating the community at the location where it started. The community dedicated the new building, in 2002, as a venue for administration and education. Growth has exceeded expectations.
Further information about the restoration and other aspects of the United Synagogue of Hoboken is available at www.hobokensynagogue.org.