Congregation Poile Zedek, New Brunswick

Sketch of Poile Zedek
Sketch of Poile Zedek


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.

Poile Zedek minutes written in Yiddish
Poile Zedek minutes written in Yiddish

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

Hurricane Sandy Three Years On

Sinclair New Jersey Broadsides Collection
Sinclair New Jersey Broadsides Collection

By Christie Lutz

Three years ago today, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on New Jersey, New York and the surrounding region. Since then, a plethora of books have been published that document Sandy’s impact, both physical and emotional. They include powerful photograph collections, meteorological explorations, children’s books,  and works of fiction.

A number of these books feature the Jet Star, the Seaside Heights roller coaster that famously fell into the Atlantic when Sandy destroyed the Casino Pier, on their covers. The powerful image of the giant coaster sitting in the ocean became a symbol of Hurricane Sandy. The image is perhaps at its most poignant on the cover of Richard Ford’s collection of Frank Bascombe stories, entitled Let Me Be Frank With You, set in the months following the storm.

Below is a list of Hurricane Sandy-related books in the Sinclair New Jersey Collection.

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Pork Roll, Egg, and Cheese, Please

Cover to the Taylor Pork Roll cookbook
Taylor Pork Roll — SNCLY TX749.5.H35T39 1940

By Tara Maharjan

Do you call it “Taylor Ham” or “pork roll?”  Either way, today would be the birthday of John Taylor, the man who created John Taylor’s Pork Roll [formerly known as Taylor Ham].  To make things easier we will be calling it “pork roll” because the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 forced Taylor to change the name, “Taylor Ham,” because it did not fit the new definition of ham by the Food and Drug Administration. He changed it to “Taylor’s Pork Roll,” however many people in North Jersey continued to call it by the original name, while South Jersey slowly transitioned to simply calling it pork roll, leaving those in Central Jersey using both terms.

Beyond creating the NJ diner staple, John Taylor was a businessman, member of Trenton City Council, and was elected to the New Jersey State Senate for Mercer County.

Today make sure to celebrate the day with a pork roll, egg and cheese, or maybe one of these pork roll recipes.

Taylor Pork Roll Recipes for Baked Stuffed Tomatoes and Pork Roll and Macaroni

New Jersey and Banned Books


By Tara Maharjan

Each year the American Library Association celebrates Banned Books Week the last week of September.  This weeklong celebration focuses on banned and challenged books.  What defines a banned or a challenged book?  A banned book is one that has been removed from the shelves completely.  Books that have been challenged are an attempt by a person or group to remove or restrict materials to protect others.  Books have been challenged for being considered “sexually explicit,” for having “offensive language,” or for being “unsuited to any age group.”

This week, we celebrate New Jersey authors who have had material banned or challenged.

Title page for "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark."

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz.  This series of children’s books based on folklore and urban legend is on the American Library Association’s list of most challenged series of books from 1990–1999 and is listed as the seventh most challenged from 2000–2009 for violence.  Schwartz lived in Princeton at the time of his death in 1992.

Covers of Judy Blume's "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" and "Tiger Eyes."

Tiger Eyes and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret both by Judy Blume.  Tiger Eyes was challenged for its depiction of violence, alcoholism, and discussion of suicide.  Whereas, Are You There God?  It’s Me, Margaret was challenged for sexual references and alleged anti-Christian sentiment.  Blume was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey.  As an added fun fact, she serves on the National Coalition Against Censorship.

Cover of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl"


Howl by Allen Ginsberg.  The poem was part of a 1957 obscenity trial for the topics of illegal drugs and sexual practices.  A California State Superior Court ruled that the poem was of “social importance,” and dismissed the case.  Ginsberg was born in Newark and grew up in Paterson.

1855 title page for "Leaves of Grass."

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.  This poetry collection was considered obscene upon its release in 1855.  We are sorry to say that libraries refused to buy the book, and the poem was legally banned in Boston in the 1880s and informally banned elsewhere.  Whitman spent the later years of his life until his 1892 death in Camden.

Greetings from New Brunswick, New Jersey to the Boss on His Birthday

"The Scarlet Letter," v. 103, 1977. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University, 1977.
All images: The Scarlet Letter, v. 103, 1977. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University, 1977.

By Christie Lutz

We’re the New Jersey Collection, so it would be unthinkable not to  acknowledge Bruce Springsteen’s 66th birthday today. We’re featuring  a selection of images from his October 12, 1976 Rutgers show at The Barn, aka the College Avenue Gym, where Springsteen and the E Street Band played to a crowd of nearly 3000.

"The Scarlet Letter," v. 103, 1977. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University, 1977.

"The Scarlet Letter," v. 103, 1977. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University, 1977.

The Sinclair NJ Collection holds dozens of published materials on Springsteen including biographies, pictorials, and readings of his music and lyrics. We also have works of fiction inspired by Springsteen songs,  a number of guides to the musical history of Asbury Park and Springsteen’s Jersey Shore stomping grounds, and the fan magazine Backstreet. Most recently, we added Springsteen’s picture book for children, Outlaw Pete.

Interested in knowing where to find Greasy Lake, pondering a comparative study of Springsteen and Walker Percy, or contemplating a photo of Springsteen pulled over by a Holmdel Township, NJ police officer? Below are some curator’s picks of books separate from the major biographies by Dave Marsh and Peter Ames Carlin and Springsteen’s own Songs.  All of the Sinclair NJ Collection’s Bruce Springsteen holdings can be found with a quick search of the Rutgers University Library catalog.

Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey: A Look at the Local Scene by Chuck Yopp, 1983.

Greetings from E Street: The Story of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band by Robert Santelli, 2006.

A Place to Stand : A Guide to Bruce Springsteen’s Sense of Place by Bob Crane, 1997.

Reading the Boss: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Works of Bruce Springsteen edited by Roxane Hard and Irwin Howard Streight, 2010.

Springsteen: Saint in the City: 1949-1974 by Craig Statham, 2013.

Streets of Fire : Bruce Springsteen in Photographs and Lyrics, 1977-1979 by Eric Meola, 2012.






By Christie Lutz

As we mark the second anniversary of “some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” we take a look at the magisterial George Washington Bridge during an earlier, more innocent time.

Images below from George Washington Bridge Over the Hudson River at New York: built and owned by the Port of New York Authority, fabrication and erection of towers and floor by McClintic-Marshall Corporation. Bethlehem, Pa. : McClintic-Marshall Corp., 1932. (Sinclair New Jersey Rare Books Collection)


While the towers, floor and girders were fabricated by McClintic-Marshall, a subsidiary of Bethlehem Steel, the bridge’s cables were made by Trenton’s John A. Roebling’s Sons.  Special Collections holds the  Roebling Family Papers and related collections. The Sinclair New Jersey Collection includes numerous books on the Roebling family and business as well as company catalogs and brochures.




So long, summer…



By Christie Lutz

While it’s the beginning of the blog, it’s the end of summer. In New Jersey the shift to autumn means we start to vacate our beaches and boardwalks. Summer itself is ephemeral—so before Labor Day arrives, take a long, last look at just a few items of our ephemera that capture long-ago summers spent down the shore.


Asbury Park Pennant [GB Banners]Postcard -- Wildwood by the Sea -- Playland by Night

Postcard -- Manasquan -- On the Sands

Souvenir of Atlantic City Cover [SNCLY F144.A8S68 1900z]