Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home


TRENTON, capital of the state of New Jersey, U.S., situated between Philadelphia and New York City. Greater Trenton has a population of about 341,000 (2003); the Jewish population of Greater Trenton numbered about 10,000 in 1970, but by the mid-1990s, the Jewish population numbered approximately 6,000 as Jews from the city migrated to surrounding suburban areas. Greater Trenton in 2005 included most of Mercer County and its Jewish population remained at some 6,000 in 2005.

Trenton was founded in 1679. The first Jew connected with Trenton was Simon *Gratz, of Philadelphia, who bought shares in the Trenton Banking Company when it was established in 1805. In 1839, Daniel Levy Maduro *Peixotto, of New York City, became editor, for a few months, of the Emporium and True American, a daily and weekly newspaper. Judge David *Naar, who bought the True American in 1853 and was its editor until 1869, played a prominent role in the political life of New Jersey as well as in local civic and educational affairs. German Jews began to settle in the late 1840s. The first prominent Jew was Simon Kahnweiler, a merchant and manufacturer. The Mt. Sinai Cemetery Association was incorporated in 1857 and the Har Sinai Hebrew Congregation held its first service in 1858 in rented quarters, and held its first formal services in 1860 when the congregation formalized its organization. In 1866 it bought a small Lutheran Church. Chevra Bikkur Cholim, "for the mutual relief of the sick and the burial of the dead," was incorporated in 1877.

The East European immigration, started in the late 1870s, was composed mainly of Lithuanian, Polish, and Hungarian Jews. They organized the synagogues Achenu Bnai Yisroel (1883); Anshey Emes (1891); Ahavath Israel (1909); and Poaley Emes (1920). Until 1903 Jewish education was conducted by private teachers, after which the Brothers of Israel Synagogue founded a Hebrew school. Later, in 1945, it became partly a day school, under the leadership of Rabbi Issachar Levin, who served the community from 1927 to 1969. In 1969 it became a full-fledged day school, the Trenton Hebrew Academy. Renamed in 1981 as the Abrams Hebrew Academy (named for a local foundation that made a significant endowment to the school), it moved from Trenton, New Jersey, to Yardley, Pennsylvania. In 2006, the school had 30 faculty teaching 300 students from nursery school through eighth grade in a secular/religious day school curriculum.

An influx of Jews into Trenton after World War I resulted in a proliferation of social, literary, and recreational societies as well as political groups. Har Sinai joined the Reform movement in 1922. Adath Israel was organized in 1923 as a Conservative congregation. The Workmen's Circle began its activities in 1924. The YMHA was organized in 1910, reorganized in 1916, and acquired its first building in 1917 – the forerunner of the Jewish Community Center (1962). Zionist societies started in the early 1900s. The Jewish Federation of Trenton was organized in 1929. The Jewish Family Service (1937) dates back to its predecessor the Hebrew Ladies Aid Society (1900). The Home for the Aged Sons and Daughters of Israel, now called the Greenwood House, was organized in 1939 and had 132 beds in 2006. An assisted living center, Abrams Residence, was added in 2003 using money provided by a local Jewish foundation called the Abrams Foundation. It was created from the fortunes of the last surviving members of the Abrams family, brothers Samuel and David and sister Susan. The family's fortune came from diversified holdings financed originally by a retail furniture operation; they began their diversification by purchasing single shares of General Motors Corporation stock during the Great Depression. The Abrams Foundation also helped finance the activities of the Abrams Day Camp, a Jewish day camp operated by the Jewish Community Center since 1963. An eight-week program, it offers activities for about 400 Jewish children each summer. In 1937 a Jewish census study showed that there were 7,191 Jews, or about 6 percent of the population; 32 organizations including 6 synagogues; and that 59 percent of the Jewish population was in trade, 13.3 percent in mechanical and manufacturing enterprises, and 12.3 percent in professions. The 1949 and the 1961 census showed increases in the professions which in 1970 probably amounted to nearly 30 percent. In 1970 there were 40 organizations, including three Conservative congregations as well as two Orthodox and one Reform. By the beginning of the new millennium, the community within the city limits had diminished to two congregations, one Conservative and the second a Reform congregation.

It was the culmination of a general migration of Jewish families out of the city and into surrounding suburban communities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In 2006, the last two congregations within the city limits, Congregation Brothers of Israel (200 families) and Har Sinai Temple (500 families), were each in various stages of relocating. In 2006, Brothers of Israel was in the process of purchasing land for a new synagogue in Yardley, Pennsylvania, and Har Sinai was building a new facility approximately 15 miles north of Trenton, in Pennington, New Jersey. At that time, Har Sinai announced its intention to remain vested in the city of Trenton by continuing its charitable programs there.

The Jews have been well-integrated in the communal life of the city, participating actively in the United Fund and other charitable and educational institutions. Outstanding leaders in the general and Jewish community include Judge Phillip Forman, United States Circuit Court; Judge Sidney Goldmann, presiding judge of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New Jersey; Bernard Alexander; Leon Levy; comedian Jon Stewart; and Expressionist painter Max *Weber.


Trenton Historical Society, History of Trenton, 16791929, 2 (1929); J.S. Merzbacher, Trenton's Foreign Colonies (1908); Kohn, in: AJHSQ, 53 (1964), 373–95; S. Robinson, Jewish Population of Trenton, N.J. (1949).

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