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Ahavas Achim Synagogue
Norma, Salem County
Although the initial Jewish settlers arrived in the early part of the eighteenth century, it was not until the 1840s that sizable numbers of German Jews arrived in New Jersey, largely in Newark and Passaic. In the 1850s, additional immigrants, largely Orthodox Jews from Poland arrived and in the 1880s, following persecution in Russia and eastern Europe, thousands immigrated to New York and New Jersey. Since many of the earliest immigrants had been largely assimilated into the social and cultural life of the Jersey cities, they were uncomfortable with the mass of Orthodox, Yiddish-speaking Jews flooding in from eastern Europe, whose dress and customs, they felt, might jeopardize their social standing. One result was that money was raised by organizations such as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of New York, to sponsor agricultural colonies in south Jersey, Texas and North Dakota. The first such colony was established in Alliance in 1882, joined shortly thereafter by similar colonies in Woodbine, Carmel, Rosenhayn, Norma, Brotmanville, Six Points, and Mizpah. The congregation in Norma may have been one of the last ones organized in the nineteenth century.
The synagogue was built in 1888 (or perhaps as late as 1900—the record is unclear) in what is now a small residential neighborhood. There is nothing about the building to suggest it is a house of worship except for the unusual footprint of the building and the small, stylized star of David high in the gable.
There are only seven synagogues in the state remaining from the nineteenth century and four of them are in south Jersey.
See Ellen Eisenberg, Jewish Agricultural Colonies in New Jersey,
1882-1920. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1995.