The Saint John Jewish Historical Museum, located at 91 Leinster Street in Saint John, was established in 1986 to preserve and share the history of the local Jewish community with visitors from around the world. The museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and displaying documents and artifacts related to the Saint John Jewish community and features both permanent and temporary exhibits.
The Saint John Jewish community was founded in 1858 with the arrival of Solomon and Alice Hart and their family from England. The first synagogue, Ahavith Achim (Brotherly Love), was dedicated in 1899. The community initially consisted of around thirty families, many of whom were affluent cigar makers. The second wave of Jewish immigration began in 1892 and continued through the 1920s, with many men working as peddlers. Within a few years, they opened stores and factories along Main, Mill, and Dock Streets.
To accommodate the growing population, a second synagogue was established on Hazen Avenue. The merger of the two congregations into Congregation Shaarei Zedek in 1919 marked the beginning of the Golden Years for the Saint John Jewish community, which lasted until the 1960s. During this period, the community had 250 to 300 families, totaling over 1,400 people.
Various Jewish organizations thrived during the Golden Years. Many individuals held national office positions in Hadassah and other Zionist organizations. Over 85 Jewish businesses operated throughout the city, offering clothing, shoes, furniture, and groceries. More than seventy men and women served with distinction in all branches of the armed forces during World War II. Later, others assumed leadership roles in various service organizations in the city.
By the 1960s, the immigrants’ grandchildren were leaving the city to pursue educational and employment opportunities in larger Canadian and American cities. Most did not return, and many parents joined their children after retirement.
By 2000, the Saint John Jewish community consisted of fewer than thirty families, most of whom were descendants of those who had arrived in the early 20th century. In 2010, a dedicated group of community members formed a committee to encourage Jewish immigration to the city. Since then, over 40 families have moved to Saint John from Israel, contributing to synagogue services and bringing the sounds of their children, reminiscent of the “Golden Years.”
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