Sunday, March 22, 2009

New Jersey: The Alliance Cemetery

The Alliance Cemetery in New Jersey may be getting some help. The Garden State Preservation Trust ratified and sent to the state legislature a recommendation to fund a project to help the Jewish Federation of Cumberland County help preserve the cemetery and synagogue near Vineland.

The Alliance Colony was settled by 42 families who fled late 1800s Russian pogroms to start one of the first Jewish agricultural settlements in the US.

The federation, which handles Jewish activities in Cumberland and Salem counties, would receive more than $400,000 to restore Moshe Bayuk's brick house. Born in Eastern Europe, Bayuk was a lawyer, Jewish scholar and farmer. He died in 1932. The house is across the steet from the Alliance Synagogue. According to the plan, $50,000 in state funds would make the house the Alliance Heritage Center.

The Philadelphia Daily News story reported on the plans.

Another phase of the plan - about $4 million - would relocate two abandoned synagogues - Beth Israel, on Garton Road, in Deerfield Township, Cumberland County; and Crown of Israel, on Centerton Road, in Monroeville, Salem County - in front of the Alliance Cemetery.

Not everyone connected with the Alliance Synagogue, which still has a small congregation, is happy about the plan. Some call it a land or power grab and wonder why the Federation wants to do this now when they've ignored the place for 50 years; others fear the site will become a theme park.

In 1882, the German-Jewish philanthropist Baron Maurice de Hirsch and the Paris-based Alliance Israelite Universelle - for which the colony was named - paved the way for 42 settlers to seek out a quieter, albeit difficult life by tilling the soil instead of fighting it out among the masses in squalid, inner-city tenements.
In Pittsgrove Township and its communities - Alliance, Brotmanville, Norma, Six Points - the immigrants found acceptance and friendly neighbors. Many immigrants raised chickens and also worked in cranberry bogs and clothing factories.

The small community spread to Vineland with a Jewish population that reached about 12,000 after World War II; today the Jewish population in Salem and Cumberland counties is only 1,100. Younger generations moved away from the land in the late 50s-60s, but their parents stayed.

The story quotes US District Judge Stanley S. Brotman, whose grandfather founded the cemetery, said he supports any action to shed light on all the names whose roots were planted in South Jersey, and that the area should be given the historical significance it deserves.

A heritage center would be a fitting voice for the dead, said Vineland lawyer Jay Greenblat whose father was a carpenter and butcher in the colony. "It might be centered on Alliance, but it's something for the entire area to take part in," he said. "It's quite a story. I don't think too many people are aware of it."

Keeping watch over the generations of Jewish farmers were piles of pebbles, neatly placed atop the grave markers by loved ones who had made the trek down these scenic roads.
Alliance Cemetery has a website. Although much of it appears under construction, there are two maps and more is promised. Read the complete story at the link above.


  1. Is there a record of the names of the forty two families? My husband's family may be one of the families. They settled in Vineland, Cumberland County, New Jersey. They were from Vitebsk, Russia / Belarus. Their surname was Kasushkin.

  2. Gail Hamberg RosenAugust 8, 2009 at 1:18 PM

    The Crown of Israel Synagogue in Monroeville NJ is not abandoned. It has always had services and been cared for by the Bolnick Family. Crown of Israel has services for the Jewish Holidays three times a year, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover. It was renovated several years ago by the Bolnick Family in memory of Simon Bolnick, son of Abraham Bolnick who started the synagogue in 1915. Sincerely, Gail Hamberg Rosen,daughter of Minnie Bolnick Hamberg and granddaughter of Abraham Bolnick

  3. carol(Rudnick)-Porter-KesslerMay 9, 2010 at 11:17 PM

    My relatives were one of the 1st founding persons of the settlement in Norma, N.J. and were there with their families from either Russia or Poland. The names are Levin, Rudnick- Fred, Benjamin and Minnie. Benjamin Minnie were the 1st couple to be married in the group. There were two or more major reunions and places and address of all the people with updates. I was told that most of the records are located in a chapel near by or in a Vineland, N.J. temple. I have more important information which was from the Vineland , N.J. Library and Gratz College large library outside of Phila., Pa. There was a book written before 1990 by the woman who lived across from the cemetery as a child and the village. I do not know where they 1st arrived? was it in Norma or at at other seaport on the east coast? Were were the records be? There detailed census records which can be looked up. If any one wants to reach me ; I would happy to work on this special history. My cousin, in Chestertown, Md. has some more facts and names. Her name is Anita Rudnick and Milton Rudnick. Carol( Rudnick)- Porter-Kessler 215-698-0313; Phila.,pa 19115 Please reply. Thank you.

  4. I am planning a trip there this summer. My wife is related to the Goldhaft family.

  5. Beth Israel Synagogue at Garton Road is also NOT abandoned!! We (Temple Beth Hillel-Beth Abraham of Carmel NJ) hold services there annually on Shabbat Shuvah. This year marks the 15th anniversary of renewed services at that shul. Helyn and Morris Ostroff maintain and care for the building and ready it for services each year.