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Now the beating heart of a dedicated Jewish community, Shomrei Emunah came into existence over a century ago when 18 local merchants – yes, 18 – gathered to help a friend say kaddish after a loved one’s death. Moved to do more, they formed a new congregation to serve the still small number of Jews living in Montclair and Bloomfield.
With a borrowed Torah scroll, they set up shop in the back of a business and asked for annual dues of 40 cents. The year was 1905.
Five years later, Shomrei Emunah – then often referred to by its English name, Guardians of the Faith – purchased its first permanent home: a church building on Bloomfield Avenue in Glen Ridge. The building was remodeled as World War I broke out in Europe, and the first permanent teachers were soon hired for the synagogue’s Hebrew school.
In 1919, the congregation affiliated with the six-year-old United Synagogue of America, the forerunner of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and hired its first full-time rabbi a year later. It also affiliated with the Jewish Theological Seminary, and rabbinical students began leading Sabbath services.
As membership grew rapidly in the years after World War II, construction began in 1949 on a new synagogue building at its current location, on Park Street in Montclair. Under the spiritual leadership of Rabbi Jeshaia Schnitzer, of blessed memory, the first bat mitzvah was held in 1955. The congregation also identified itself with the civil rights and women’s movements, making headlines in 1963 when Rabbi Schnitzer orchestrated a mass departure from a swimming club that refused to admit a black family that belonged to Shomrei, and including women in Saturday morning services as early as 1975.
After a merger with B’nai Israel of Nutley in the late 1990’s, Shomrei Emunah extended and updated its synagogue complex, adding a modern social hall, expanding the school, and introducing a preschool that has already tripled in size and continues to attract more and more children.
Still vigorous in its second century, Shomrei Emunah continues to provide a beautiful and inspiring spiritual home to hundreds of residents of Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Nutley, Verona, and other nearby towns.