Immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe built the Star of Israel in 1915, ten years after they incorporated as a community. Several synagogues and Jewish schools existed in Hoboken when they erected the Star of Israel in the center of a thriving neighborhood of Jewish residents and businesses. The congregation grew through the 1920s, when a group split to form still another Hoboken synagogue. The congregations recombined to form United Synagogue of Hoboken soon after World War II, when the Hoboken Jewish population began its steep decline.
By the 1960s, the Star of Israel became too expensive for the few Jews remaining in Hoboken to maintain. They closed it except for the High Holidays and held services in a townhouse. In the mid-1970s, a real estate consultant recommended selling the Star of Israel. The community rejected the proposal. Soon after that fateful decision, a first wave of newcomers, including a few Jewish individuals and families, rediscovered Hoboken. They helped the small remaining community sustain the Star of Israel. And they eventually hired part-time rabbis and tutors to teach a handful of kids. With the community slowly growing, the first full-time rabbi reopened the Star of Israel year-round, in 1989. At the end of the next decade, the community built a school building adjacent to the Star of Israel.
As part of its Centennial Celebration, in 2005, the community launched a capital campaign that raised more than $1 million to restore the Star of Israel. The New Jersey Historic Trust awarded the community a $280,000 grant for structural improvements. And the synagogue was listed in the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.
Phase one of the restoration work began in November 2008, and focused on improving safety and security. The community replaced ninety-five-
Phase two began in May 2010 focused on renewing the beauty of the sanctuary. Work included plastering and painting the walls and refinishing the floor, woodwork and pews. Restoration specialists stripped layers of lacquer from the ark wall and applied finishes and gold leaf. It was completed by August, in time for the High Holidays.
“After refinishing the ark and gilting architectural details, the sanctuary has been restored to its former glory,” said co-chair of the capital campaign Talya Schaeffer. “The Star of Isreal synagogue now feels ethereal -- light, airy and beautiful.”
Today, the restored Star of Israel is home to a revitalized community of almost three hundred households. Jewish life again thrives in local neighborhoods as it did 100 years ago. More than 125 kids attend the Learning Center. In just ten years, the Kaplan Family Cooperative Preschool has become one of Hudson County’s most respected centers for early childhood education, with an enrollment of over 250 children.
“The survival of the Star of Israel synagogue secures a home for nurturing Jewish life in the urban towns along the Hudson waterfront,”
Along with the menorah candle lighting, the rededication ceremony also will feature the presentation of a specially commissioned work of art inscribed with the names of the hundreds of people who contributed to the restoration of the Star of Israel. Musical performances, a video presentation about the restoration and comments from elected officials will complete the program. A celebratory party will follow immediately with hors d’oeuvres, wine and live jazz in the social hall.
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The United Synagogue of Hoboken (USH), founded in 1905, is Hobokenʼs center for Jewish life, offering educational opportunities for all ages, religious services, and a wide range of Jewish cultural events. See http://www.hobokensynagogue.org