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Saint John Jewish Historical Museum

This interesting museum, located at 29 Wellington Row, is open daily from 10AM to 4PM; Sunday 1PM to 4PM in summer. Admission is free. For information , call 506-633-1833.

It is currently adjacent to Shaare Zedek Synagogue, formerly an 1860 Church. It is still used for Friday evening and Saturday services. There has not been a rabbi for 15 years, but High Holy Day services are conducted by a rabbi from Israel.

In the 1920s, there were 1400 Jewish people in the area which was reduced to about 300 in the 1960s. Today there are only 35 families as many of the young adults have relocated to larger cities in Canada.

In 1889, Solomon and Sarah Hart, who were Orthodox Jews, built the first synagogue, the Brotherly Love Synagogue. From 1913 to 1920s, Jewish cub scout and boy scout troops were founded with the highlight occurring when the Queen of England met with a Brownie troop. The YMHA was formed featuring basketball, boxing, lectures, plays, a choir, the Annual Y Ball (social event of the year) and the Jewish Community Players, a troop of actors.

The Jewish people thrived in business, initially as peddlers then as store owners. Presently, only a few remain as many of the latest generation became professionals and moved on. Saint John actually had a Jewish mayor Sam Davis. More recently, Myra Freeman was appointed in April, 2000, as Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia. However, the most well known Jewish native son was motion picture mogul Louis B. Mayer, who came to Saint John as a young child.

In 1982, the Saint John Jewish Historical Museum was founded by Marcia Kovan to collect, conserve, display and educate. The underlying principal is that education eliminates discrimination. This is only one of seven Jewish Museums in Canada. It is wonderfully organized and so interesting and worthwhile it should not be missed.

There is a short video about the history of the Jewish community. There are displays of old documents, photos, Judaica, an actual ritual bath, bris dresses and instruments, an old Hebrew school classroom, ancient Israeli artifacts, and an archive and library.

Kosher food is available at the Atlantic Super Store which carries many Kosher items as well as meat which is brought in from Montreal. One restaurant in Saint John, the Union Deli (506) 642-5252, is owned by a Jewish couple and serves vegetarian meals.


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