History of Congregation AABJ&D
The history of Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob and David is a chronicle of the merger of many congregations, which can be traced back more than one hundred years to the founding of Ahawas Achim Anshe Warshaw. Established by a small number of immigrants from Eastern Europe, the original congregation grew and prospered and by 1900, was able to erect a permanent structure, complete with a mikvah, in what is now the Central Ward of Newark. By the 1930’s, with movement of the Jewish population of Newark out of the central ward and into the Clinton Hill and Weequahic areas, the leaders realized the congregation would have to relocate. In 1935 they welcomed the opportunity to merge with Anshe Lemberg B’nai Jacob. That year, Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob was founded.
Anshe Lemberg B’nai Jacob was founded in 1903 and was originally located on Barclay Street in Newark’s Central Ward. In 1931, it took over an imposing building on Avon Avenue, which had previously been occupied by Congregation Tzemach Tzedeck. Tzemach Tzedeck had been formed in the 1920’s and the cornerstone of the Avon Avenue structure had been laid in 1937. Unfortunately, Tzemach Tsedeck experienced insurmountable financial difficulties because of the Great Depression and was unable to maintain the Avon Avenue property. The congregation had no recourse but to be absorbed by Anshe Lemberg B’nai Jacob. The newly formed congregation was named B’nai Jacob.
In 1936 Rabbi Hershel Cohen was hired as the congregation’s chazzan and in 1939, he was elected rabbi, a position he held until he was named Rabbi Emeritus in 1969. Rabbi Cohen passed away on January 20, 1989. Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob was a large, dynamic congregation with a membership of some four hundred families. By the mid 60’s, most of the Jews in the Clinton Hill area had moved to the suburbs and it was imperative that the congregation relocate. Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob began negotiations with B’nai David of West Orange resulting in another merger and the creation of Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob and David.
B’nai David, named after the father of Bernard and Lee Kahn, had been formed in 1961 by a small group of West Orange residents. B’nai David was eager to build a strong Orthodox community in West Orange and so it welcomed the inquiries of Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob. The merger was concluded in 1966 and an edifice was purchased on Pleasant Valley Way for a sanctuary and a Talmud Torah. Alvin Marcus became Rabbi in time for Rosh Hashanah, September 1968.
The continuing exodus of Jews from Newark in the 1960's and 1970’s resulted in two additional synagogues being absorbed by Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob and David. The first, Tifereth Zion, became part of AABJD in 1970, and the second, Toras Emes, in 1974. Tifereth Zion had been located in the Weequahic section of Newark ever since it was founded in 1924. Toras Emes, the Ferry Street shul, had been located in the Ironbound section of Newark ever since its beginning in 1905. The congregation prospered until the 1930’s, when the Jews of the Ironbound area slowly began to move to other parts of Newark and to the suburbs.
Another affiliation included Emunath Israel of East Orange. A
Rabbi Alvin Marcus served as Rabbi through August 1998, when he was installed as Rabbi Emeritus. Rabbi Yaakov Sprung served as Rabbi from then to August 2004 and was followed by Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler, who currently holds this pulpit.
Today, Congregation AABJ&D boasts a membership of 450 families and is one of the largest and most robust Jewish congregations in the country. AABJ&D has a well-deserved reputation for being a shul that possesses uncommon warmth, hospitality and chesed. Our Shul’s reputation has been built through the quality of our Rabbis, the people within our community and the huge array of programs and activities the Shul runs day in and day out. Our Shul is a house of worship, with daily minyanim and five minyanim on Shabbos mornings. It is also a place of learning with individuals and groups meeting daily to enrich their lives with Torah study. The Shul has a successful pre-school program, an extensive youth program, a varied adult education program, an enjoyable and enlightening seniors program and so much more.