Congregation Shomrei Emunah, Montclair, NJ

  • Dates: 1905-1969
  • Size: 3.0 linear ft.
  • Number of Boxes: 4
  • Languages: English
  • Location: Special Collections Reading Room, Jewish Theological Seminary Library.
  • Restrictions: Reproduction of fragile items is not permitted; consult the archivist about literary rights.
  • Gift Of: Rabbi Perry Rank, Congregation Shomrei Emunah
  • Date: June 29, 1987

MCS, 8/1/94

Table of Contents:

A Note on Folder Headings

Individual folders are identified in the following way on the left side of each folder: Name of Collection, box #/folder#, as in Ben Zion Bokser Papers, 4/22. Please use this format in citations and when referring to files for any other reason.

Historical Note

Temple Shomrei Emunah was founded in 1905 to serve the Jewish community of Bloomfield and Montclair, New Jersey. Initially operating without a building and with a Torah borrowed from Newark's Congregation Anshe Russia, the temple was formally incorporated in December, 1905 as Congregation Shomar Amuno of Bloomfield and Montclair. During its early years the congregation was frequently referred to by its English name, Guardians of the Faith. In 1907 the congregation purchased a church building at Highland and Bloomfield Avenues in Glen Ridge, midway between Bloomfield and Montclair; it began using the new building in 1910. In 1914, the building was remodeled and improved after a community-wide fundraising drive.

Shomrei Emunah had no rabbis during its early years, and congregation members led the services. The congregation also had difficulty maintaining a Hebrew school during these years, as it had neither enough money to hire a teacher, nor a large enough population of children. The synagogue did, however, play a large role in the Jewish community, hosting festive and social events as well as religious ones. In 1910, a sisterhood was founded. In 1912, the growing congregation purchased cemetery space.

In 1919, Shomrei Emunah became affiliated with the United Synagogue of America and The Jewish Theological Seminary. Beginning in the mid-1920s, rabbinical students in their final year at JTS began coming to lead the congregation on weekends. In 1927, a part-time rabbi from The Jewish Theological Seminary, Morris Goldblatt, began conducting Friday evening services. These services marked a step in Shomrei Emunah's gradual change to the full embrace of Conservative patterns of ritual and worship. Several years later, the congregation acquired a full-time rabbi.

In 1919 the Hebrew school was reorganized, and permanent teachers were hired. It became associated in the 1940s with the Jewish Education Association of Essex County, and strove to raise its academic standards.

In 1949, construction began on a new synagogue building to serve the growing congregation. Located at 67 Park Street in Montclair, the building was dedicated in 1951.

In 1955, Bat Mitzvah observations for girls of the congregation began; at the same time, a constitutional amendment allowing women full membership was proposed. The synagogue also identified itself with the civil rights movement, contributing to the NAACP and making news by withdrawing from a swimming club which refused to admit a black family which belonged to the congregation.

Collection Description

This group of records of Congregation Shomrei Emunah, while limited in quantity, contains essential items dating back to the congregation's founding in 1905 and material dating up until the late 1960s. The bulk of the collection consists of minutes of meetings of the congregation, 1905-1955, the board of trustees, 1949-1969, and the sisterhood, 1940-1948. Also included is a letterbook, 1937-1940, and some additional loose correspondence, 1942-1955; bulletins, newsletters, flyers, dedication volumes, and other synagogue publications, ca.1930-1969; and a group of odd records which sparsely document clubs and committees, the 1954-1955 constitutional amendment on membership, financial matters, the synagogue's 1955 jubilee, its name change in 1951, support of a black family in the congregation when it was excluded from membership in a swimming pool, and contributions to the United Jewish Appeal, 1935.

Loose correspondence and correspondence in the letterbook (which has been disbound by the Ratner Center for preservation reasons) consists of letters to and from congregants, donors, and various organizations and is largely concerned with such routine matters as the payment of dues, arrangement of meetings and events, announcements of sermon topics, requests by Jewish organizations for use of the vestry rooms, production of commemorative journals, committee memberships, etc. Also included in the letterbook is printed publicity material from lecturers and entertainers on Jewish themes. Of note is a 1955 letter from a congregant which reads as follows:

"due to the refusal of my daughter Lynne Andrea to continue with her Sunday school, and after a full five years of trial, Mrs. Leon and myself have made a firm decision to resign as members of the Temple."

Here we have documentation of a phenomenon historians have already noted - the tendency of twentieth century American Jews to be drawn in or led out of the Conservative synagogue by their children.

Also included in the collection are minutes from the founding meeting, held in June, 1934, of the Montclair Jewish Community, and minutes of the Montclair Camp of the Order of the Sons of Zion, 1935-1944. The Montclair Jewish Community was made up of all the Jewish organizations in Montclair and its purpose was to "create a central group or council, linking all the existing organizations." Its aim was to address "Civic, Cultural, Educational, Religious, Philanthropic, Recreational, and other matters of importance which might come up from time to time which shall be deemed of interest to the Jewish community."

Meetings of the Montclair Camp of the Order of the Sons of Zion whose minutes, 1935-1944, are included here, were apparently held at the synagogue.

Box List

Box  Folder(s)  Description
  I. Minutes, 1905-1969
1 1-9; 34 (oz.)Congregational, 1905-1930; 1935-1955
 10-11 Sisterhood, 1940-1948
 12-28 Trustees, 1949-1967
2 1-8 Trustees, 1967-1969
  II. Correspondence, 1937-1955
 9 Loose Correspondence, 1942-1944; 1950-1955
 10-16 Letterbook (disbound), 1937-1940
  III. Publications, 1930-1969; n.d.
 17-22 Bulletin, 1936-1952
 23 Constitution (printed booklet), n.d.
 24 Fiftieth anniversary volume, 1955
 25 Hebrew school anniversary volume, 1938
 26-28 Newsletters, 1953-1960
3 1-5 Newsletters, 1961-1969
 6 Programs and invitations, 1930; 1939; n.d.
 7 Temple dedication volume, 1951
 8-10 Weekly flyers, 1953-1956
  IV. Other Synagogue Records, 1935-1955; n.d.
4 1 Club and committee records (Building Fund, Mr. and Mrs., Parents Association, Sisterhood), miscellaneous items, 1954-1955; n.d.
 2 Constitutional amendment on membership, 1954-1955; n.d.
 3-4 Financial records (miscellaneous), 1936; 1942-1945
 5 Jubilee, 1955
 6 Name change certificate (Shomar Amuno of Bloomfield and Montclair to Temple Shomrei Emunah), 1951
 7 Press release: "United Synagogue Supports Congregation [Shomrei Emunah] in Rejecting Bias Against Jewish Negroes," n.d.; certificate from NAACP in appreciation for contribution towards "the fight against injustice in Mississippi," 1955.
 8 United Jewish Appeal, 1935
  V. Montclair Jewish Community
 9 Minutes of founding meeting, June, 1934
  VI. Montclair Camp Order of the Sons of Zion
 10 Minutes, 1935-1944