Meet the Trustees of Shawrith Israel Congregation of Alliance
Tifereth Israel (Alliance Synagogue)
Shawrith Israel Congregation of Alliance
Location: 9 Shiff Ave, Elmer, NJ 08318
Synagogue Years of Operation: 1889- Present (Special Programs)
Origin & Inception:
Founded in 1884, Tifereth Israel (Splendor of Israel) was constructed under the leadership of Jacob Greenblatt and William Cohn and completed in the Spring of 1889. The first officers elected were Simha Luborsky, president, Isaac Krassenstein, Secretary, and Lazar Perskie, Treasurer. The Baal Korei (Torah reader) was Gershon Agronsky who later moved to Palestine to begin the newspaper, The Jerusalem Post.
The synagogue construction was overseen by Mr. Zager. Isaac Krassenstein donated prayer books to the new shul. Moses Bayuk, who originally surveyed the land in Southern New Jersey for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, resided across the road from the new shul and became very involved with synagogue’s operations.
Constructed entirely out of wood, the Tifereth Israel structure was smaller than the Eben Ha Ezer (Emanu El) Synagogue and lacked a brick foundation and exterior. Constructed to operate as a Beit Tefilah (house of prayer) it lacked a Beit Knesset (gathering place) and Beit Midrash (study area) similar to Eben Ha Ezer. Typically young boys worshiped downstairs with the men, while girls gathered upstairs in the balcony. On Simchat Torah the entire congregation met downstairs to celebrate with a parade in the shul. Early services were conducted by Mr. Zager and Mr. Krassenstein with Moses Bayuk serving as Gabbai. After public school hours, the chazzan operated a cheder (Hebrew school) in the synagogue space. Additional education was introduced through the Federation of Jewish Farmers, sponsoring cultural events and an English language Jewish newspaper, The Ark. The Chautauqua Society also assisted with its publication, opening a Sunday school near the Tifereth Israel Synagogue in the 1910s.
By the 1920s, the bima, once in the center of the shul was repositioned to the front, likewise the chazzan now faced the congregation instead of the Holy Ark, changing the Shabbat service experience. Tifereth Israel gathered about thirty men together every Shabbat with more joining after the close of the nearby Eben Ha' Ezer Synagogue.
Many German Jews arrived in Southern Jersey in the 1930s and 1940s fleeing rising anti-Semitism and Naziism in Europe. Many Germans settled in the Alliance Colony, joining Tifereth Israel, often giving up or adapting their rituals to become part of the congregation. This was in sharp contrast to the wave of more religious Polish and Eastern European immigrants that influenced Jewish life in the surrounding area after World War II, continuing into the 1950s and 1960s.
The synagogue’s membership dues were not set and now adapted to the individual and what their family could afford. Aliyahs were also auctioned to offset the cost of operations. Voice pledges were paid throughout the year to afford the salary of a Chazzan and a Shabbos Goy to keep the stove burning during services.
By the 1970s many in the congregation were elderly or had passed away with few new members brought in to replace their numbers. With few young families, synagogue rituals changed. Now only men danced with the Torah during the Simchat Torah holiday. The older women of the congregation were unable to climb the steps to the balcony and prayed on the main level, sitting off to the side to represent older traditions.
In 1976, a plan was put in place to alternate Shabbat services with the nearby Brotmanville Synagogue in order to gather a minyan. When ten congregants were unavailable, a Torah was brought out to substitute. The two congregations exchanged members and coordinated services through the decade with the Brotman Synagogue closing its doors in 1979. In the 1980s, Tifereth Israel remained the only synagogue in the former Alliance Colony holding services on High Holidays. The building needed a lot of repairs including a new roof, and balcony floor had caved in. Prayer books were more than eighty years old and in need of replacement as well. An appeal was sent out to past members to assist with these repairs, helping keep the Tifereth operational through today. It remains at its original location and is used occasionally for religious services and as a historical resource. It is under the auspices of ACRe (Alliance Community Reboot) a non-profit organization thats seeks to rebuild a Jewish farm-based community on the site of the Alliance Colony. ACRe is building an active farm rooted in the values of sustainability, food justice and Jewish education.
Current Status: Open for special programs