Freehold Jewish Center

Freehold Jewish Center
Freehold Jewish Center;
Congregation Agudath Achim
Basic information
Location 59 Broad Street, Freehold; corner of Broad Street and Stokes Street
Geographic coordinates 40°15′31″N 74°16′48″W / 40.258716°N 74.279894°W / 40.258716; -74.279894Coordinates: 40°15′31″N 74°16′48″W / 40.258716°N 74.279894°W / 40.258716; -74.279894
Affiliation Judaism
State New Jersey
Status Active
Leadership Rabbi Dr. Tal Sessler
President Barry Hochberg
Architectural description
Groundbreaking 1947
Completed 1957 (prior building completed in 1916)[1]

The Freehold Jewish Center, also referred to as "Congregation Agudath Achim", is a synagogue in Freehold, New Jersey. Founded in 1911, it completed its first synagogue building by 1916, and its current building in 1957.

Eli Fishman was the congregation's rabbi from 1970 to 1997. He was succeeded by Kenneth Greene, who served for 13 years. As of 2011, the rabbi was Dr. Tal Sessler, and the president was Barry Hochberg.



Early history

In July 1911, a charter was drawn up for the formation of an Orthodox synagogue named Congregation Agudath Achim Anshai.[2][3][1][4] Many of the founders had immigrated to the United States from Russia and Poland, and many of its leaders were merchants and professionals in the area.[2][1] Raphael Riemer, who immigrated to Freehold from Russia in 1906, was the synagogue’s first rabbi and cantor.[4] Louis Finegold, a clothing store owner, was the first President of the synagogue.[3][1] In 1911, the synagogue had a membership of 40 families.[4]

The synagogue was first built, at a land and construction cost of approximately $1,000, as a small (32' x 50')[5][6] wooden structure on the corner of First Street and Center Street in Freehold between 1911 and 1916, by the Freehold Hebrew Association, which had been established in 1894.[7][8][3][1] The synagogue's religious school started at that location in September 1914.[6] Dues were $6 ($120 today).[4] The synagogue added a second floor to the building in 1916.[8]

The synagogue formed a sisterhood in 1920, and that year a mikva was constructed below the synagogue.[4][6] The synagogue also established a cemetery on Route 33 in Freehold, which it has maintained for over 90 years.[9]


In the 1940s, the Ku Klux Klan became active in the Howell Township area, and members of the synagogue regularly patrolled the synagogue grounds armed with shotguns to protect it against Klan members.[4] In 1943, during World War II, American soldier and Freehold Jewish Center member Jack Steinberg found an old Torah covered in soot and ash in the burned wreckage of a synagogue in a small Jewish village in Italy. He shipped it back to the synagogue, where it was restored 47 years later and is now displayed.[10][11] Synagogue membership in the synagogue had grew to 100 families by 1943,[4][6] and 184 families by 1950.[6]

During the 1950s and 1960s, synagogue membership in the synagogue reached 400.[4] It changed its name to Freehold Jewish Center in the 1960s.[4] Eli Fishman was the synagogue's rabbi from 1970 until he retired in 1997.[3][1] He was succeeded by Kenneth Greene.[2]

21st century

In 2002, the synagogue commissioned the writing of a new torah scroll, for $30,000.[12][13] The following year, it was one of a number of area synagogues that took part in helping fund the building of a new home for a family, under the auspices of the Freehold Area Habitat for Humanity.[14] In April 2003, the synagogue named its chapel the Oglensky Chapel, after David Oglensky, a synagogue member and soldier who had been a lieutenant and commander in the 740th Tank Battalion of the U.S. First Army killed in the Battle of the Bulge, who for his gallantry was awarded posthumously the Purple Heart and the Silver Star.[15][4] Family members had constructed the synagogue's ark and benches by hand after his death.[4]

In 2006, the synagogue had a membership of 260 families.[4] By 2010, membership had fallen to 175 families.[5]

In 2011, to commemorate its centennial year, the synagogue planned a series of events.[2][5] Past president Jerry Einhorn said: “I think it’s absolutely wonderful we have reached our 100th year. It’s a beautiful synagogue, and I look forward to its next 500 years.”[5] That year marked Greene's 13th year as the congregation's rabbi.[2]

As of 2011, the congregation's rabbi was Dr. Tal Sessler and the president was Mr. Barry Hochberg.[16]

Broad Street Synagogue building

Ground was broken in 1947 for a new synagogue, on lots 250' x 175' that were purchased in 1943 and 1945, responding to the need for a larger one.[1][4][6] In 1957, the new synagogue was completed on the corner of Broad Street and Stokes Street.[7][3] The synagogue was dedicated on August 25, 1957, with Governor Robert B. Meyner and his wife as guests of honor.[1] David Metz was president of the synagogue at the time.[1] In 1973, an addition was added to the synagogue, containing classrooms and offices, and expanding the sanctuary.[6]

The synagogue's sanctuary and extension are flanked in stained glass windows.[2] The building also houses 12 classrooms, social halls, a 350-person formal ballroom, a youth lounge, a library, a gym, and kosher kitchens.[2][4][5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dick Metzgar (June 21, 2006). "Temple to mark 95 years of life with dinner-dance". News Transcript. Retrieved September 26, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Freehold temple celebrates its place in local history". News Transcript. November 3, 2010. Retrieved September 26, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Alison Herget (June 26, 2006). "Synagogue celebrates community". Asbury Park Press. Retrieved September 26, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Jill Huber (June 15, 2006). "Freehold Center celebrates 95 years". NJ Jewish News. Retrieved September 27, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Jill Garbi (December 6, 2010). "Shul celebrates century of ‘tradition and caring’". New Jersey Jewish News. Retrieved September 27, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Freehold Township: History of Religions in Freehold Township". Retrieved September 27, 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Barbara Pepe (2003). Freehold: A Hometown History. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0738524182. Retrieved September 26, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b Lee Shai Weissbach (2005). Jewish life in small-town America: a history. Yale University Press. ISBN 0300106718. Retrieved September 26, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Our 100-Year History". Retrieved September 30, 2011. 
  10. ^ John A. Harnes (December 16, 1999). "Torah at the center of Jewish center; Ancient scroll rescued by G.I. in 1943 from Italian synagogue". Asbury Park Press. Retrieved September 27, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Torah at the cent of Jewish center Ancient scroll rescued by G.I. in 1943 from Italian synagogue". December 16, 1999. Retrieved September 27, 2011. 
  12. ^ Dan Kaplan (October 31, 2002). "Freehold Jewish Center commissions Torah scroll". Asbury Park Press. Retrieved September 27, 2011. 
  13. ^ Tom Troncone (September 22, 2003). "Freehold Jewish Center celebrates new Sefer Torah". Asbury Park Press. Retrieved September 27, 2011. 
  14. ^ Clare Marie Celano (July 2, 2003). "Jewish congregations will aid Freehold Habitat project". News Transcript. Retrieved September 27, 2011. 
  15. ^ Dan Kaplan (April 10, 2003). "Chapel rededicated to Jewish soldier". Asbury Park Press. Retrieved September 27, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Officers/Trustees". Retrieved September 27, 2011. 

External links

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