Collection includes a detailed map of burial sites, a database, obituaries where published in the Saint John newspapers and photographs of all gravestones. The synagogue section of the archives includes minutes, committee reports and annual reports, constitutional documents, mortgages, correspond…
Collection includes a detailed map of burial sites, a database, obituaries where published in the Saint John newspapers and photographs of all gravestones. The synagogue section of the archives includes minutes, committee reports and annual reports, constitutional documents, mortgages, correspondence, information on Rabbis, presidential files, financial records, membership lists and ledgers, programmes, Hebrew School records, Bar and Bat Mitzvah invitations and memorabilia, wedding invitations, notices and registrations as well as assorted memorabilia, burial records for the Shaarei Zedek Cemetery, general information on Jewish Holy Days and traditions. Records encompass those of the Ahavith Achim, Hazen Avenue and Shaarei Zedek Synagogues.
c.1890-2012 [electronic records created 2011]
The Louis I. Michelson Memorial Archives of the Saint John Jewish Historical Museum preserve the documentary heritage of Saint John's Jewish population. Compiled by the Saint John Jewish Historical Museum, this rich resource draws on over 180 years of listings, including burials information dating back to 1873, hundreds of full text obituaries, detailed photographs of tombstones, and business and residential directory details about all the known Jewish residents of this Eastern Canadian city from 1863-1999. The Archives are organized thematically - synagogues, organizations, community life, and people. The Synagogue Records contain a wealth of diverse information concerning obituaries and burials of Saint John Jewish community members.
The first Jewish resident of Saint John, New Brunswick was David Gabels who arrived with Loyalists in 1783 after the American Revolution. He established a butcher shop and bakery in the city. When he died in 1816 he was buried in what is known as the Loyalist Burial Grounds. The stone which had marked his burial site has since disappeared.
A permanent Jewish presence in the city dates from the arrival of Solomon and Alice Hart from London, England in 1858. They were followed by other English Jewish families with whom they were related and inter-married, including the Green and Isaacs families.
The Jewish community grew with the arrival of Jews from Eastern Europe who came to Saint John to escape persecution and poverty in their homelands and to re-establish themselves and their families in a country that offered more opportunities.
The growth of the Jewish community led to the creation of two synagogues. The Ahavith Achim (Brotherly Love) Synagogue was dedicated in January 1899. Initially the congregation was drawn from the first wave of immigrants, but after 1906 most of the congregants were Eastern European. The Hazen Avenue Synagogue was established in 1906 in the wake of a social and economic split between the Western and Eastern European Jews. Most of the more assimilated and wealthy members of the community made up the congregation who purchased a former Unitarian Church.
An elaborate Holy Ark was constructed for this building that was transferred to a third synagogue in 1918. The building was sold to the local school board and demolished in the 1930s.
The Shaarei Zedek (Gates of Righteousness) Synagogue was formed in 1918 when the earlier congregations set aside their differences and purchased the former Calvin Church that had been built in the 1860s. At the time the building was dedicated in March 1919 there were 200 male members and perhaps more than 1500 members through the "Golden Years" of the community's history. The building included a large sanctuary with a balcony reserved for female members until the early 1960s and a large social hall. The congregation moved from the Orthodox to the Conservative affiliation in 1960 and by the late 1990s had become egalitarian. At the end of 2008 the building became the property of the City of Saint John and the congregation relocated to a building built originally as a private home and use more recently as a funeral home. This building is more suited to the Congregation's current needs and also provides space for the Saint John Jewish Historical Museum.
With the death of a child in 1873, Louis Green purchased land that became known as the Green-Hart Cemetery. Only members of the Hart, Green and Isaacs families and their direct descendants were buried within these plots.
Neighbouring pacels of land were purchased over the years to establish other cemeteries for the adherents of the Ahavith Achim, Hazen Avenue and Shaarei Zedek Synagogues and for small family plots. The family plots are reserved for members of the Boyaner, Gordon, Meltzer, Levine and Garson families. Collectively all of the lots are known as the Shaarei Zedek Cemetery.
The cemetery grounds are maintained by the staff of the adjacent Fernhill Cemetery (lawn care, snow plowing of the roadway, opening and closing of graves, repair of stones as needed). Records of burials are also kept in the Fernhill office.
In 1950, a chapel was dedicated in the cemetery to the mothers of film producer Louis B. Mayer and corporate giant, Nathan Cummings and his brother Max Cummings. Sarah Mayer and Elizabeth Komiensky are buried in the cemetery. This chapel may have been for some funeral services, but in more recent years the building has been used only rarely.
A complete database of internments in the cemetery has been compiled by the Jewish Museum staff.
A database is available containing information on dates of birth, death and burial dates, names of parents, spouses, siblings and children as well as references to related material on obituaries, gravestones, and memorial plaques in the Shaarei Zedek Synagogue. This database is accessible through the Family History section of the Canadian Jewish Heritage Network.
Contact the Saint John Jewish Historical Museum directly for information on accessing this collection.
The archives may also have additional information of the individuals recorded in the database.