By Ron Becker
We at Rutgers University Libraries were saddened when on October 23rd, we learned that Congregation Poile Zedek suffered a terrible loss when fire ravaged their beautiful historic synagogue building damaging the structure and its contents including the loss of most of their sacred Torahs. Founded in 1901, Poile Zedek was part of a once thriving New Brunswick, NJ Jewish community centered in the downtown Hiram Market area. Poile Zedek was one of four synagogues in the neighborhood which included Ahavas Achim, Etz Ahaim, and Ohav Emeth. In their early years, each had a predominance of members who hailed from different parts of Europe. Poile Zedek was Polish, Ahavas Achim was Russian, Ohav Emeth was Hungarian, and Etz Ahaim was Sephardic (Spain and Portugal). The other three congregations are now centered in Highland Park where the majority of the New Brunswick Jewish community migrated. Ahvas Achim suffered a similar tragic fire and rebuilt in 1987 in Highland Park.
We at the Rutgers University Libraries extend our best wishes to the members of Poile Zedek in their desire to rebuild in the wake of this tragedy. One very small consolation is that they had the foresight to donate their congregational records to Special Collections and University Archives in 1987. Consisting of the Constitution, minutes of meetings, financial documents, building committee files and other memorabilia, the materials date from 1917. All the early records are in the Yiddish language. The public is invited to visit our repository to examine this material which is described in detail through the finding aid which can be accessed at