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Spiritual Comforts Take Root

SOURCE: Taylor, Mildred "History of Teaneck," pp.98-103.

All was not politics in Teaneck during the booming 1920s and laconic thirties. Mane good people came to live in the township, among them Ferde Grofe, composer of "The Grand Canyon Suite" and other fine music. The senior John Gambling of Radio Station WOR lived in Teaneck with his wife and his son John, who now heads the program that keeps the area posted each morning. Jim Bishop, syndicated columnist, built a fine home in Teaneck.

Many impressive homes were built, including the handsome residence of David T. Bofinger, late president of the Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company. The house, with a 310 foot frontage on Queen Anne Road at De Mott Avenue, is standing today, but is obscured by two large residences facing Queen Anne Road. These were built after the house was sold in 1952. The entrance today is on Carroll Place.

Newcomers to Teaneck began to organize during the twenties-a trend that has kept up at a remarkable rate to this very day. Mrs. Bernard Lippman, wife of an industry promoter, decided that the women of the town needed to get together. On May 5, 1925 she invited all those interested to a meeting in her thirty-two room home near Minell Place. (Her given name was Minna.) The purpose was to form Woman's Club "as a medium for sociability, the dissemination of culture, the exercise of philanthropy and participation in civic affairs." A hundred and twelve women joined the club that day. Mrs. Lippman was elected president and the next day took a train to Atlantic City where the day-old club was received into the State Federation Of Women's Clubs, then in session.

Churches were established as a result of meetings in neighborhood homes. The Presbyterian Church of Teaneck began in 1905 when Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Oliver invited a group to meet in their home on Forest Avenue. The church was officially organized with thirty-two charter members on May 24, 1906 in the brown shingle building on Church Street that then housed the Washington Avenue Sunday School. Mr. and Mrs. Phelps had conveyed the land to the Sunday School for $1 in 1890. The building was completed in 1894, Captain Frank S. DeRonde, Marvin S. Coe, and Mr. Phelps each having contributed $ 1 00. The Presbyterians got title to the building when they paid the Sunday School Association $3,000. The little brown church has been replaced by a large colonial style church and education building.

St. Anastasia Roman Catholic Church, largely the gift of Mrs. Anastasia Kelly, was Teaneck's second house of worship. The simple stucco structure at Teaneck Road and Robinson Street was dedicated on August 1, 1908.

John Sullivan, who took many of the pictures now treasured by old timers, kept the sacred vessels in his home at 15 Fairview Avenue. There was no water in the church, so he would take a pitcher of holy water over in the morning, hoping in winter time that it would not freeze before he got there, according to his daughter, Jane Sullivan. She recalled that Father Peter used to come from Englewood to teach children their catechism in a daisy field near their home.

The Teaneck Methodist Church was the outgrowth of the Lower Teaneck Sunday School Association, which first met in the little school on Fort Lee Road. Later meetings were held in the chapel on property at Teaneck Road and Fenimore Avenue, given in 1905 by Mrs. Rachel Moore DeGraw. The Sunday School began holding church services in 1911. It became a Methodist Church on May 2, 1915 with the Reverend Victor A. Wood as pastor. Trustees were Charles Riper, Elmer Mabie, B. K. Green, Fred Campbell, E. W. Proctor and William Potter. The Reverend Harold N. Herbert, who succeeded Mr. Wood in 1918, stayed only six months. He married Adeline Farrant, a parishioner, and went into military service. The Teaneck Road property was sold after the growing congregation acquired property on DeGraw Avenue and Hickory Street, where a large church now stands.

Christ Episcopal Church started at a meeting in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild N. Ferry in 1913. Their son Leland, who later became judge Ferry, was kept busy on Sunday mornings trundling hymnals, prayer books and a homemade prie-dieu to other homes where services were held. The group was organized as a mission of the Newark Diocese in 1914. Dr. Fleming James of St. Paul's in Englewood pedaled to Teaneck on his bike to conduct services in members' homes until a church was erected at Rutland Avenue and Rugby Road. This building became the temple of Congregation Beth Sholom when Christ Church moved to its present building at Essex Road and Warwick Avenue.

First religious services in Glenwood Park were held in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Shulenberger. The group was organized as an Episcopal mission known as the Church of the Epiphany on January 6, 1921. The Shulenbergers turned over their home for a bazaar which brought in $265 for the building fund which resulted in the erection of a small structure near their home.

Roy Wilhelm started building the Teaneck Baha'i Temple in 1916. It is one of the most unusual houses of worship in this area. Louis Bourgeois, who had a stationery store in West Englewood, worked with Wilhelm in building the log cabin at 130 Evergreen Place. Great logs arrived from Canada and were hewn by hand. Stones from all over the world were used for huge fireplaces. Wilheln, who was in the coffee business, selected the stores during his travels and sent them to Teaneck.

There were a rock garden, pools and a fountain with colored lights. Bourgeois was such a fine architect that his design was selected for the beautiful Balia'i Temple in Wilmette, Illinois. William Beaumont, a neighbor, recalled that Bourgeois' mother was so proud of her son's model of that imposing structure that she displayed it in a bay window of' her home.

The Community church of Teaneck began with prayer meetings in tile homes of families living near the Bogota boundary line in 1919. Later they met in the Kenwood Place Fire House and started a Sunday School. A community house and chapel was built in 1921 at Elm Avenue and North Street. A new congregation was under the wing of Bogota Memorial Church.

William N. Smith was such a leading light that when the congregation decided to leave the mother church and strike out on its own it chose to be called the William N. Smith Community Church. It was organized under the classis of Bergen of the Reformed Church in America on January 26, 1922. The Reverend F. K. Shields was the first minister. Ground for the present structure was broken May 2, 1954.

Many Norwegians bought homes in Teaneck during the twenties. They continued to attend the Norwegian Evangelical Free Church in Hoboken. The Hoboken church purchased the chapel formerly used by the Lower Teaneck Sunday School Association in 1925. A mission was established in 1927 and in 1932 the Teaneck church was enlarged to accommodate both congregations. Services were conducted in English after immigration from Norway and Denmark came almost to a standstill.

St. Marks Episcopal Church was organized in 1925 as a mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark. It was the outgrowth of a Sunday School started by Mrs. Floyd Chadwick in her home on Cedar Lane, today the site of a supermarket. Later an adult class was formed. Mrs. Richard Copley, Mrs. J. G. Boutier and Mrs. Charles Riehler began raising funds for a chapel, aided by Mr. Copley. A 150-foot lot at Grange and Chadwick roads was purchased from the Phelps Estate. The building was dedicated with the Reverend William J. White officiating and Stanley Chadwick as acolyte. A modern house of worship was dedicated in 1958.

St. Paul's Lutheran Church began in 1925 when a missionary superintendent observed that many newcomers to Teaneck had no church affiliation. The church was organized January 3, 1926, at a meeting in the home of a parishioner, with thirty-five charter members. Services were held in a parsonage until a small church was erected on Church Street at Longfellow Avenue and dedicated October 7, 1928. The original church has been replaced by a large house of worship and a Christian Education building.

Grace Lutheran Church started as a mission in 193O. The Reverend Carl Bergen, pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church in Leonia, served both congregations. He hastened from services held in rooms at 405 Cedar Lane in Teaneck at 10 A.M. to conduct services in Leonia at 11 o'clock. This schedule proved too much for him and in 1934 the Reverend Theodore W. Beiderwieden, assistant pastor of a large congregation in St. Louis, came to Teaneck at a salary of $25 a month. He soon started a building fund. Property was purchased at Helen Street and Claremont Avenue in 1936. The basement was used as a sanctuary until the builging was completed in May, 1937. That building is now the home of Congregation Beth Am. Grace Lutheran Church now has a fine church and school on River Road.

The first services for Jews in Teaneck were held in the studio of Israel Doskow, an artist who lived on Elm Avenue. More than seventy people attended High Holy Day services led by Rabbi David Pearlman. Leaders were Dr. J. Dewey Schwartz, Mr. Doskow, Dr. Barnet Bookstaver, Dr. Nathaniel Saviet, Dr. Morris Kleit, Judge George Marcus, Benjamin Gordon and Miss Fanny Feinstein.

Religious school classes began in 1933 at 780 Palisade Avenue. The group then moved to the Masonic Square Circle clubhouse on Monterey Avenue in 1935 when 400 attended High Holy Day services. The congregation later Purchased the building at 1075 Queen Anne Road, now the home of the First Church of Christ, Scientist.

That served until 1949 when the Teaneck Jewish Community Center on Sterling Place was dedicated. Attending the ceremony were Mayor Clarence Brett, Township Manager James T. Welsh, Councilmen Cecil Haggerty, Walter Cummins, and Milton Votee, with Dr. Lester Neulen, superintendent of schools. The premises have been enlarged to include a swimming pool, athletic health club, and youth facilities. The Conservative congregation led by Rabbi Judah Washer is the largest Teaneck's six Jewish congregations.

Temple Emeth, a Reform Congregation, began in 1947 when members of fifty families met in the Hackensack Y.M.H.A. They later met in the Odd Fellows Hall in Hackensack and in a large residence on Larch Avenue, Teaneck, now the home of the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County. The group purchased a tract on Windsor Road and in 1959 dedicated a large meeting hall there. A sanctuary was completed in 1965. The temple's facilities today include classrooms, youth lounge, sanctuary, and the Joshua Trachtenberg Library, named for the late rabbi emeritus. Rabbi Louis Sigel now leads the congregation.

Congregation Beth Shalom, Teaneck's second conservative synagogue, was formed in 1950 through the efforts of twenty-eight families and Rabbi and Mrs. Barry Schaeffer. First meetings were in two store buildings on West Englewood Avenue, the group having established its congregation and Hebrew school simultaneously.

In 1951 Congregation Beth Sholom purchased the former home of Christ Episcopal Church at Rugby Road and Rutland Avenue. This was expanded to include a sanctuary, auditorium, youth lounge, classrooms, and a gymnasium. Rabbi Schaeffer has been the cantor and spiritual leader from the start. Mrs. Schaeffer conducts a Hebrew class for handicapped children.

B'nai Yeshurun, Teaneck's first Orthodox congregation, was formed in 1958. The first service was held in the basement of the home of Irving and Lillian Kopitnikoff. Soon the group of fourteen families was being called facetiously "Congregation Lil's Basement." Rabbi Label Dulitz was the first spiritual leader.

A house at West Englewood Avenue and Jefferson Street was purchased in 1959. Until 1970, High Holy Day services were held in Whittier School. The house was replaced with a modern Orthodox synagogue with a larger sanctuary, a balcony for women worshippers, and a social hall. Adult education and youth activities are conducted and a nursery school will start soon. Rabbi Macy Gordon heads the congregation, which serves more than 200 families. B'nai Yeshurun sponsors an annex chapel on West Englewood Avenue at the Plaza for members who do not live near the synagogue. Since it has no Hebrew school, most members send their children to yeshiva.

Congregation Beth Am, Teaneck's second Reform temple, was formed in 1964 by thirty-one families. Its first leader was Rabbi Emanuel Green who, as a young rabbinical student, had been associated with the Teaneck Jewish Community Center. First meetings were held in the homes of members, then in the Hackensack Y.M.H.A. The group purchased the former home of Grace Lutheran Church on Claremont Avenue, remodeled it extensively, and moved in on New Year's Eve, 1965. Rabbi Stanley Gerstein is the spiritual leader and Rabbi Green rabbi emeritus.

Congregation Beth Aaron was organized on January 1, 1971 by several females who felt the need of an Orthodox congregation in the Cedar Lane area. Rabbi Meir Uri Gottesman had a dream of naming an Orthodox congregation in memory of his father, Aaron. First services were field in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell Rudich. Later members met in the home of Mr. and Mrs. M. R. Faber and in Eugene Field School. The congregation then bought the combined home and office of Dr. Stuart Littwin on Queen Anne Road. Rabbi Stanley Fass is spiritual leader of the congregation, which has active adult education and youth programs.

Christian Scientists held their first meetings in Emerson School before purchasing from the Jewish Community Center the property at Queen Anne Road and Route 4. Their first service in that building was held March 5, 1950. The imposing colonial structure was emerged in 1963.

The Lutheran Church of Our Savior dedicated its building on Cedar Lane, South of the Municipal Building, on September 23, 1951. Nearly all of the construction labor was contributed by members. The Rev. H. C. Anderson officiated at the dedication.

The First Baptist Church of Teaneck was organized in 1935 by the Rev. Lester Van Saun, a former banker who was attending Bible School. Meetings were held in a rented hall until 1936 when property at 1592 Teaneck Road was given the congregation by Mrs. Maria Decker.

A small church was built. In the 1940s the congregation became integrated as blacks began to moving into that sector of Teaneck. Steady increases in attendance made it necessary to enlarge the church. Pastor Van Saun retired in 1972 after thirty-six years in the ministry of Teaneck's only Baptist Church. The Rev. M. C. Langston, Jr. was elected pastor in 1973.

Unity Church of Teaneck was founded by the late Esther Zimmerman in 1958. The group, affiliated with Unity School of Christianity in Lees Summit, Missouri, met in the basement of a Bergenfield real estate office until 1963, when it purchased a residence at 735 Rutland Avenue. Mrs. Zimmerman was killed in a traffic accident in 1959. Katharine M. Brookman became head of the church in 1960.

The New Early Christian Church, Seekers After God, was formed in 1938 and occupied a large residence at 251 Frances Street until the early 1970's, when the entire congregation of seventy families moved out West. The Rev. Erich Zimmerman, husband of Esther Zimmerman, was the group's leader for many years. Miss Ellen-Ann Dunham, an ardent member, home economist and brilliant businesswoman, headed the exodus from Teaneck.

The Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County was established in 1952 by a group of parents who had been taking their children to meetings in New York. First meetings were held in the Woman's Club auditorium. In 1959 the society bought the house at 687 Larch Avenue, the former- home of Temple Emeth.

Jehovah's Witnesses opened their Kingdom Hall at 292 Willow Street in 1954 under the leadership of the Rev. Herbert Gabrielsen. Several congregations of 100 members each are offshoots of this group. Roman J. Homiak is the presiding minister today.

With this wide selection of churches, who can say that Teaneck is not concerned with spiritual uplift?

 

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