Congregation Sons of Israel in Asbury Park, an Orthodox Jewish congregation, was founded in 1904. The congregation has since moved away from Asbury Park, but for several decades it was housed in this building in Asbury Park. A few weeks ago we rented a four wheel cycle (pedal car) from Brielle Cyclery on the Asbury Park boardwalk and cycled past the building, which now belongs to a church (First French Speaking Baptist Church).
The building now has two large crosses in the front: one has to look carefully to see signs that it was built as a synagogue. Details to notice are the stained glass windows.
What do you see in those windows? I see a Torah, menorah, ner tamid, a book, a dove, and possibly someone praying in a prayer shawl on the right.
Also, if you look carefully at the carvings in the front you will see the Hebrew date of 5709 and the corresponding Gregorian date of 1949, the year the building was built for Congregation Sons of Israel.
For more information on the history of Jewish Asbury Park, see Asbury Park: Pictorial History in Brief.
See also a photo in this book Asbury Park.
See more Our World Tuesday.
47 thoughts on “Sons of Israel in Asbury Park”
sad, but doesn’t this happen a lot in the states?
I don’t know how often this happens. Often Jewish communities move, but the old buildings don’t necessarily become churches. In New Brunswick, one old synagogue had a fire, so that gave them insurance money to move to Highland Park. One old synagogue is still in New Brunswick and still used as a synagogue.
And one old synagogue is now (and has been for years) a church. (update — there was a fire in the synagogue still in NB — the shell of the building is still there and the congregation does still meet — I think it’s on campus now???)
Yes, it is sad. Interesting glass window though.
The good news is many of those who grew up going to this synagogue are now part of more vibrant Jewish communities. And a good number have moved to Israel.
Re: the windows, as well as what you said:
Top row: second from right: megillah and gregor,
Middle row: second from left: chanukiah and dreidels,
Bottom row: far left: scales and sword [represents justice, presumably]; second from left: arbah minim [appropriate!]; far right: hands of kohen duchaning possibly with tallit.
There’s a building in the East End of London that was a Huguenot church originally, then a shul in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and is now a mosque.
Daniel, good eye. What I thought was someone praying seems to be, as you say, a kohen duhaning (priestly blessing).
Interesting about the old church/synagogue/mosque.
Once upon a time I spent davenned there. * sigh *
Wow, that was before “my time” – i.e., before I met my husband and visited his family in 1992 (?).
It must have been about 1983-1984
It looks a beautiful building – it has an art deco feel to it. Then on closer inspection you see that amazing stained glass window with so much going on. Enjoyed reading your post.
Leora, it is a beautiful building. I always love the stained glass windows. Thanks for sharing, have a great day!
A lovely building with an interesting history! Great post for the day, Leora!! Hope you have a good week!
Nice place. The designs in window railings are wonderful.
I wonder how often this happens. I know someone who bought an old chapel and renovated it for his home. It must be hard when there are people living who remember what was once a sacred place for their religion and is changed either for secular use or for use by a different religion. Interesting post.
I would find it hard to live in a building that was once a house of worship for any religion. I know of some beautiful condominiums that were created from a renovated church in Brookline, MA. Obviously, some people don’t mind at all.
I used to walk by the church in Brookline as a teen and fantasize about living in the apt. with the rose window. In DC a shul became a church and is now a synagogue again. It wasn’t really sad when it was a church because there was no Jewish community in the neighborhood and the community had moved. In fact, many of the formerly DC (city) communities moved to the suburbs but kept their names–so you can really see that they are vibrant communities in a different location. It’s neat that the shul in DC–now known as 6th & I synagogue–is a shul again. It’s nondenominational and has various services and other cultural events. The change has nothing to do with losses in the Jewish community and much to do with the changing fortunes of the neighborhood–now trendy all over again.
All interesting tales, Miriam! As the world changes…
at least it didn’t become some tacky store
it stayed a house of worship
it’s a sweet building
I lived, and davened there until 1984, my parents were there since the early 1950’s. It is quite sad that this is the outcome of the building that housed so many beautiful teffilos and mitzvos for decades.
We moved aaway before the last Rabbi was installed and ulitmiately, it is what it is. Not a great testament to the historic beauty of it’s past.
Thank you for sharing those memories.
Dear, dear Leora,
I have been searching for several years now for any information on what happened to the stained glass windows when the building was sold. I am 89 years old now, and my parents donated the money for more than one of those windows, so I am thrilled to see that they are still intact. May many more generations of congregants enjoy and be inspired by them, no matter their religion.
Thank you so much for doing what no one else has been able to, show me photos of that grand old building. I am drowning in memories right now, and they are all blissful. I can’t wait to show your blog to my children and grandchildren, and tell stories of “the old days in Asbury Park”. I cannot thank you enough for bringing me such pleasure.
I’m glad to hear our trip to see the building is such a pleasure for you – I can understand how the memories of your parents and the windows are important to you.
I was a congregant of this shool, went to Hillel day school and was Bar-Mitzva’d here. It was financed into perpetuity by my grandfather Samuel Banker of Banker’s Furniture Asbury Park.
“Notwithstanding no devoted thing.. shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto the Lord.”
The misappropriating of this Shool into idolatry and theft of it’s funding is a shameful thieving heresy.
I’m sure you are not the only saddened by this sale.
This wasn’t a sale it was a theft. Not saddened but ANGRY. And there is murder of my kid sister Shari involved who was Valor Dictorian in Judaic studies at Hillel day school.
And what “vibrant” Jewish community here are you speaking of? Haven’t you been hearing about all these so called Rabbis getting busted for various criminal activities? Is that your idea of “vibrant”?
Anger is fine. I live in Highland Park – our community is certainly vibrant. I answered a friend with the word “vibrant” and was thinking of my own community.
Mr. Schwartz, my father , Rabbi Meyer Cohen, was the Rabbi of this Shul from 1927-1950. I remember the name Banker as being one of the prominent Jewish families in Asbury Park when I was still a young boy. I agree with you completely about the abomination of selling a Shul to a church. It is a very tragic footnote to the Jewish history of Asbury Park.
I grew up in this Shul…Rabbi Schmidman, Rabbi Goldstein….I have met Rabbi Carlebach….i can close my eyes and hear Cantor Blau….close my eyes and be transported back…sitting with my family on the women’s side of the mechitzah….peeking through the mechitzah to see the rest of my family….following along in a siddur…..looking at the memorial trees….sitting in the park across the street during Yizkor services….so many memories….and so many people from then now in Chesed Shel Emes in Neptune….it was my home…it will always be my home…regardless of who “davens” there….it remains a House of G-d…..
Thank you for sharing your own history.
My late wife’s grandfather was Rabbi Benjamin Naar, the longtime spiritual leader of the New Brunswick & Highland Park Sephardic community and who the Etz Ahaim Hebrew School is named after.
How interesting. The Etz Ahaim Hebrew School no longer exists. The name Naar is certainly famous in the Etz Ahaim history.
And if you attended services as a kid, who will ever forget Mr. Lindner who used to prick your ear if you were talking. Cantor Blau was my bar mitzvah teacher. My twin brother and I were also the first twin bar mitzvah to occur there or so we were told. They sent out a minyan so that both of us could recite the haftorah. We always looked forward to a kiddush when it was catered by Ruth Meistrich. I once visted the building after it had been sold. You get a very strange feeling but the Mogen David that was cantilevered over the pulpit was still there. The good old dyas
Thank you for sharing your memories, Paul.
I had my bar mitzvah davening extravaganza in 1968 at Sons of Israel. Chazan Blau was also my hebrew school teacher after school at the Talmud Torah on Logan Ave in Ocean Township. (He was a really good occer player and if enough of us boys showed up wearing tzitis any given day, he’d agree to play against all of us during a brief recess in the auditorium.
I like his incentive to get you involved.
It was Bar Mitzvah’d there in 1945 after a preparatory “crash course” of 3-4 months with their ledgendary Hebrew teacher Solomon Reisman.
Now that goes back quite a while! Thank you for sharing.
Well, I realize this post is old but I was searching on Congregation Sons of Israel in Asbury today and came upon this. What is interesting to me, aside from it now being a church, is that my family attended Sons of Israel in the 1960s and 70s AND prior to that we were members of Polie Tzedek, the shul that “recently” was destroyed by fire in New Brunswick where our roots run deep.
I am glad you are sharing your memories.
I was also bar mitzvahed in 4/23/1966. Schmidman and Blau were there. Sid Cohen was the president and Sylvia Meistrich headed the sisterhood. I went back a few years ago to visit and meet with the minister of the church. He allowed me enter into the church and as I walked down the aisle, I had the same buzz as my bar mitzvah day with both my grandfathers, family and friends accepting this joyous occasion. True, Cantor Blau was a great soccer player. Schmidman was always about Politics…
I just came across this blog, while attempting to find someone from long ago. So amazing that you remember my father. Cantor Blau. The soccer tidbit and tzitzit really made us smile! Maybe you have a photo of him that you can email? We’d love it!
I am his son and read him what you wrote. You made his day.
We hope all is well.
Every so often, I visit this site. My family has roots in Sons of Israel, the Goldstein family (Grandparents Harry & Rose, Parents Marvin & Lorraine). My Father was Bar Mitzvahed in 1941 in Asbury Park. I graduated from Hillel in 1969. I remember your Mother…Morah Blau and your sister Pearl, both of blessed memory.
Please respectful regards to your father.
i am Dona Gochnour’s son and my mother would love to connect with some of the people from the shul. She was part of sons of israel in the 1950’s and now lives in Lakewood NJ
Mr Holland, I too live now in Lakewood and would enjoy talking to your mom about Asbury Park of old. My father, Rabbi Meyer Cohen, was the Rabbi of Sons of Israel from 1927-1950. I attended a Jewish kindergarten in the Shul as a youngster. We moved from Asbury Park in 1950. You can reach me at: [email protected].
My grandfather, Rabbi Meir Cohen was the rabbi of Asbury Park during parts of the 1920s through the late 1940s. Any information you would have about him would be appreciated.
I’m so happy to come upon this site. I bought the house next door last year and have been researching the neighborhood, and only just learned the Haitian Church used to be a Temple (I used to live on the north side of town.) Does anyone have a photo of the building as a Shul? I would be so grateful to see it; I love history. Thank you for all I’ve learned here.