Jewish Heritage Report
Vol. I, Nos. 3-4 / Winter 1997-98
Southern New Jersey Synagogues Photographed for New Book
Bridgeton, New Jersey. Beth Israel Synagogue. Photo: Mark Olsen, 1997.
A project by Anne Fox and Mark Olsen documents the rural and small-town synagogues of southern New Jersey. Ms. Fox, a journalist, is writing about the synagogues and their communities. Mr. Olsen, aided by a $500 research grant from ISJM, is photographing the synagogues in both black and white and color to create a forty-print photo exhibit that can be shown in museums, galleries, and community centers. At the conclusion of the project, which the authors plan to include a book and exhibition, Olsen will donate the 35mm slides to the International Survey of Jewish Monuments.
In southern New Jersey there are numerous synagogues dating from the late 19th century. These small shuls, located for the most part in the farming communities developed by Barons DeHirsch and Rothschild, and other philanthropists are now mostly vacant and unused, except for the required once a year ceremonies. In a few cases the former synagogues are now churches. Despite the presence of larger, more modern synagogues in nearby towns, such as Vineland, there remain those who care for these places of worship because they themselves, or members of their family, were part of the communities.
The project is divided into two parts. The first is to photographically document as many of these synagogues as possible; the second is to interview the present caretakers. Much has been done to document temples worldwide, however at this local level the opportunity still exists to not only photograph these old, clapboard structures, but also to interview and gather a history of these synagogues from a most intimate perspective---from the people who grew up and worshipped at these temples.
List of Synagogues photographed:
Agudath Achim, Vineland
Agudath Achim, Norma
Alliance Chapel and Cemetery, Norma (formerly Alliance)
Beth Hillel, Carmel
Beth Hillel, Millville
Beth Israel, Bridgeton
B'nai Anshe Estereich, Brotmanville
Crown of Israel, Elmer
Shaare Tikvah, Brotmanville
Sharis Tiferet Israel, Norma (formerly Alliance)
Woodbine Brotherhood Synagogue, Woodbine
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