The Lichtenstein Shul:
Congregation B'nai Abraham
aka Congregation SHomra Sabbath
335 Liberty Street

Camden is well known for its ethnic communities. The large Polish, Italian, Irish, German, and Jewish communities played a great role in Camden's history in the 19th and first part of the 20th century, while Black and Puerto Rican families have given the city much of its recent flavor. There are other, lesser known ethnic groups that have made up the fabric of the city's life over the years. Greeks, Armenians, and Ukrainians  grouped together in the city in Camden's growth years. More recently, Mexicans, Vietnamese, Jamaicans, Dominicans, Haitians, and Koreans have come to the city to live and seek the American dream. 

Congregation B'nai Abraham, best remembered as the Lichtenstein shul, was, depending on who one hears the story from, either the first or second synagogue organized in Camden. It's main patron was Abraham (Avram) Lichtenstien, whose family had a successful business around the corner on the 300 Block of Kaighn Avenue. Mr. Lichtenstein, who lived on South 4th Street, south of Kaighn Avenue, procured a rowhouse at 335 Liberty Street and had it converted into a small synagogue in the 1890s. As there were a good number of Jewish families in the immediate area... roughly from Mechanic to Chestnut Street between South 2nd and Broadway... the synagogue filled the immediate needs of the local residents. Another congregation, Sons of Israel, came together on the other side of Broadway. Neither had a full-time rabbi in the early years. Rabbi Louis Segal was the community rabbi during the 1900s and through most of the 1910. Rabbi Naftali Riff came to Camden in in the late 1910s and by September of 1918 was leading Congregation Sons of Israel, who soon had moved to South 8th and Sycamore Street, gaining the name "Eighth Street shul".

Even though most of the Jewish families that were originally part of Congregation B'nai Abraham had moved to Parkside and elsewhere by the 1950s, the synagogue was still operating at the end of the decade as "Congregation Shomra Sabbath, Sons of Abraham". Further loss of membership and crime put an end to the synagogue. In December of 1967 the property at 335 Liberty Street was sold to Congregation Sons of Israel in Parkside, who inturn sold it to a private party in September of 1968. There still were a few Jewish families in the neighborhood in 1969, who then attended services elsewhere. In a few short years they, too, had left and so had Congregation Sons of Israel.

The building itself at 335 Liberty Street was used as a church for many years. In recent times the church that was housed their disbanded, and the building was used as a residence. On August 28, 2009 at 6:00 AM, a fire was reported. Units of the Camden Fire Department under the command if Battalion Chief Edward Glassman responded and quickly put the blaze out, but not before the old synagogue and the home next door at 337 Liberty Street were badly damaged. Fortunately, no one was badly hurt, although one person escaped the fire by jumping out of a second-floor window. 

On this page you will find a number of articles and accounts written about Congregation B'nai Abraham also known as the Lichtenstein shul. There are some discrepancies between what was written from memory and the documented record as to what actually was, most notably in the address of the the synagogue. 

Phil Cohen
August 2009


Rabbi Louis Segal
circa 1910

NOTE: This artocle refers to 312 Liberty Street, which is an error. The address was 335 Liberty Street

NOTE: This artocle refers to 312 Liberty Street, which is an error. The address was 335 Liberty Street