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Morris and Sussex Counties

MORRIS AND SUSSEX COUNTIES, counties in New Jersey, U.S. The combined area of Morris and Sussex counties, located in western and northwestern New Jersey, is 1,000 sq. miles (2,700 sq. km.). In 2002, the Jewish population in Morris County was estimated at 33,000; Sussex County was estimated at 4,100. Morris-Sussex Federation merged with the Jewish Community Federation of Metropolitan New Jersey in 1983 to establish United Jewish Communities of Metro West. A series of interstate highways, including Routes 280, 80, 78, 24, and 10, have made Morris County attractive to commuters. Hence, there is an active demographic shift of Jewish families from neighboring Essex County to portions of western New Jersey.

Sussex County Synagogues

There are three synagogues in Sussex County, located in the towns of Franklin, Newton, and Lake Hopatcong, and one "chavura," or social group, Congregation B'nai Emet, located in Sparta. The membership of Newton's Jewish Center of Sussex County (100 member families), and Franklin's Temple Shalom of Sussex County (150 member families) is predominantly intermarried. Lake Hopatcong Jewish Center has a scant 45 member families and has offered to sell its building to the MetroWest federation. There is one Chabad Center located in Sparta.

Morris County Synagogues

There are 19 synagogue communities in Morris County. The oldest congregation is Pine Brook Jewish Center (1896); the oldest Orthodox congregation is Shaya Ahavat Torah (1974); the oldest reform congregation is Temple B'nai Or (1954). There are three Chabad Centers and the Rabbinical College of America, which is located in Morristown.

Early Settlers and Synagogues Before World War II

There are six congregations over 100 years old located in Morris and Sussex Counties. The four in Morris County are Pine Brook Jewish Center (1896), Morristown Jewish Center-Beit Yisrael (1899), Dover Jewish Center (1917), and Mount Freedom Jewish Center (1923). Dover Jewish Center merged with Temple Shalom of Boonton in 1988 to form Adath Shalom, now located in Morris Plains. The two in Sussex County are Temple Shalom of Sussex County, formerly Congregation Sons of Israel (1909), and Jewish Center of Sussex County (1924), formerly Congregation Reuben Shimon.

The history of the Jews of Morris County dates back to the Civil War when Morristown's Henry and Rosena Sire owned the local stable and racetrack and sold remounts to the Union Army. The history of Dover's Jews, who referred to themselves as a "group of Israelites," is found on the pages of original minute ledgers dated October 4, 1882. Morristown's and Dover's Jews established Jewish business districts on Speedwell Avenue and Blackwell Street, respectively. At this time, Dover was located on the Morris Canal.

Newton was also a market town. Jewish merchants set up shop on Spring Street and from their stores went around the corner to attend services at the synagogue located on Washington Street. Franklin's Jews, never more than 25 Jewish families at one time, opened storefronts on Main Street, where they provided goods and services to the miners who worked for the New Jersey Zinc Company from the 1920s to 1955, when the mine closed. Sam Mindlin was Franklin's first Jewish settler in 1902.

Pine Brook and Mount Freedom were farming communities. Jews in both towns opened boarding houses and resort hotels as early as 1896 and 1903, respectively. Well known were Josef and Lena Konner's Sunrise Hotel in Pine Brook and Saltz's Hotel in Mount Freedom. Word-of-mouth and newspaper advertisements promoted the healthy air and virtues of New Jersey's countryside. Guests were primarily from Newark, New York City, and Brooklyn. Mount Freedom was home to nine kosher hotels and 45 bungalow colonies from 1920 to 1974. In both instances, local farmers were not enthusiastic about the influx of Jews to the area.

Synagogues and Lake Communities after World War II

A significant influx of Jews from New York City settled in and around the Morris and Sussex lake towns of Lake Hopatcong, Rockaway's White Meadow Lake, and Parsippany Troy-Hills' Lake Hiawatha immediately after World War II. Initially these were summer communities. Developer Benjamin Kline advertised affordable summer homes to New York City residents and Jews flocked to the New Jersey countryside. Residents winterized their summer homes, commuted to New York City by bus and train, and stayed year-round. Synagogues followed. Lake Hopatcong Jewish Center was founded in 1946, Lake Hiawatha Jewish Center (now merged with Pine Brook Jewish Center in 1995) was founded in 1945, and White Meadow Temple was founded in 1952. Other synagogues established after the war were Morristown's Temple B'nai Or in 1954 and Temple Shalom of Succasunna in 1965. Other synagogues located in Morris County include Congregation Beth Torah in Florham Park, Temple Hatikvah in Flanders, Congregation Ahavath Yisrael in Morristown, Temple Beth Am in Parsippany, and Congregation for Humanistic Judaism of Morris County.

Morris County's Alex Aidekman Jewish Community Campus

With the 1983 merger of Essex, Morris, and Sussex Counties into one umbrella federation, attention was paid to the demographic shift to western New Jersey. Hence, in 1990 the MetroWest community opened a second "Y" located in Whippany which moved Jewish services and agencies closer to Morris County. The Jewish Historical Society of MetroWest is located on this campus.


L. Forgos, The Jews of Morris and Sussex: A Brief History and Source Guide (2003).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.