Oheb Shalom Congregation in South Orange is paying tribute to its history by helping to further renovation of its former home in Newark and revitalization of the city.
On Oct. 8, representatives of the synagogue presented the Greater Newark Conservancy with a check for $2,500 to help renovate the Prince Street building that housed the congregation from 1884 to 1911. The location is now the site of the conservancy’s new Outdoor Learning Center.
The building is the second-oldest synagogue structure in New Jersey and one of the country’s 35 oldest buildings originally constructed as synagogues and still standing.
Since its relocation to South Orange in the 1950s, Oheb Shalom has maintained ties with its former home. “We are very pleased to be able to give back to the city where we began and worshiped for nearly 100 years,” said Oheb Shalom president Michael R. Schechner, in a prepared statement. He is the great-great grandson of Rabbi Isaac Schwarz, who founded the congregation in 1860.
The donation is the result of the synagogue’s “Walk of Ages” event held in May as part of its 150th anniversary celebration. Members of the congregation and of Wells Cathedral Church of God in Christ walked from the Prince Street Synagogue to the High Street Synagogue — the synagogue’s home from 1911 to 1958 and since then the home of the church. Each participant was asked to make a donation to be shared equally by three designated beneficiaries, including the conservancy. A total of $7,500 was raised.
Robin Dougherty, executive director of the conservancy, said the congregation’s ongoing interest in its former home and commitment to the work of the conservancy are “inspiring.”
Purchased by the City of Newark in 1993, the historic building narrowly escaped demolition when it was bought by the conservancy in 1995 to serve as the interior education programming space for the environmental center. The conservancy has restored the exterior and is now transforming the 15,800-square-foot building to include a large lecture hall/community space, environmental classrooms, a demonstration kitchen/laboratory, exhibit galleries, and a computer library.
“Linking Newark’s past and future through the relationship between Oheb Shalom and the Greater Newark Conservancy is a hopeful sign for the city’s continued revitalization,” said conservancy board member Mark Gordon.