Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple, the fourth Jewish congregation founded in New Jersey, was established in New Brunswick on October 11, 1859. The congregation, which was then named Congregation Anshe Emeth, began in a small storefront on Peace Street. In 1897, the congregations’s first synagogue was built on Albany Street. In 1930, a beautiful new synagogue, designed by local architect Alexander Merchant, was built on Livingston Avenue. By this time, the congregation had been renamed Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple “in honor of the Jewish dead of New Brunswick.”
The congregation grew steadily through the decades, providing leadership to the local Jewish community and the city of New Brunswick. In the 1970’s, at a time when many urban congregations were following the migration of Jewish populations to the suburbs, the members of Anshe Emeth voted to remain in New Brunswick and participate in the city’s growth and renaissance. Anshe Emeth, the oldest synagogue in Middlesex County, is also the oldest synagogue in New Jersey to still be located in its city of origin. Currently, Anshe Emeth serves families living throughout the county, as well as in a portion of Somerset County, with a great variety of opportunities to celebrate Jewish life, including Sabbath and Holiday worship and activities, a religious school spanning Pre-K through 12th Grade, an extensive offering of adult education programming, and a full-day Early Childhood Education Center.
Since 1930, the Temple’s building has expanded, as has the programming which is dedicated to improving life in New Brunswick. Over the years, Temple members have rolled bandages during World War II, and had a similar program later for cancer patients needs; established a reading program at the Redshaw School (next door to the Temple); substituted for staff members at the local hospitals on Christmas Day; regularly staffed the kitchens at Elijah’s Promise; and with New Brunswick’s Interfaith Overflow Men’s Shelter, provided a safe place three weeks every winter for homeless men to spend the night. The Temple’s most recent innovation is the Anshe Emeth Community Development Corporation, which offers both a free medical equipment loan service, and legal advice to Middlesex County’s low-income families. In addition, the CDC’s “Bebe Bell” lends car seats and baby furniture, as well as donating formula, diapers, and other essentials, to mothers without sufficient resources to provide these items for themselves. The congregation maintains a warm relationship with other houses of worship in New Brunswick, celebrating with them annually at an Interfaith Thanksgiving Service.
The latest additions to the Temple’s building provide an amphitheater, a modern media center with books, computers, and expanded facilities for the preschool center, a beautifully renovated sanctuary, housing for the archives of the Jewish Historical Society of Central Jersey, and several new rooms for meetings, classes, and social gatherings. At a time when many houses of worship are closing their doors or having to combine with others in order to survive, Anshe Emeth mounted a successful capital fund drive to secure all the needed additions and renovations, and now has a thriving program of Judaic importance which enriches the lives of so many people.