The massive, circular structure that today belongs to the Deliverance Evangelistic Center (DEC) on Clinton Avenue, Newark was built in 1924 as the home of the Temple B’nai Abraham. It was designed by Newark architect Nathan Myers who later designed the iconic Hersch Tower in Elizabeth. In 2007 the Temple was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and locally registered with the Historical Preservation Committee of Newark.
Beginning in 1853, a small group of Jewish émigrés from Poland decided to form their own congregation in Newark following Eastern European ritual. After leasing several sites and building at two other locations, the congregation raised $1,250,000 to build the circular Temple B’nai Abraham on the corner of Clinton Avenue and 10th South Street. The construction of the new complex allowed Temple B’Nai Abraham to assume the leadership of Jewish worshippers in Essex County. The temple functioned as a house of prayer, a school, and a social center. The congregation struggled through the Great Depression and the 1929 stock market crash that wiped out the fortunes of many of the congregation’s contributors with yet unpaid pledges. But under the leadership of Dr. Joachim Prinz, membership soared and debts were paid off. Dr. Prinz was a supporter of the United States Civil Rights movement and a friend of Martin Luther King, Jr.
By the 1940s, Newark’s Jewish community had grown to over 50,000 with 40 synagogues to serve its needs. Temple B’nai Abraham was the largest synagogue building in New Jersey with a 2,000-seat Sanctuary. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a large percentage of the Temple B’nai Abraham membership was moving to surrounding suburbs, and the congregation eventually relocated to Livingston the following decade.
Deliverance Evangelical Ministries purchased the former Temple B’nai Abraham in 1972to serve as its present headquarters church. Arthur Skinner created and financed the Deliverance Evangelistic Centers, Inc., in 1957, which he saw “as an organism of the Body of Christ.” He accomplished this through weekly DEC radio broadcasts and various Crusade caravans that traveled cross-country in search of lost souls. DEC outreach ministry spread throughout the world. In 1971, Reverend Skinner filled the Felt Forum of Madison Square Garden for a crusade with the theme: “A Supernatural Christ for a Superficial World” and over 16,000 people attended the four-day service. Apostle Ralph G. Shammah Nichol succeeded Skinner in 1975, and his daughter, Rev. Dawn Nichol, continues the mission of the church today.
In recent decades, the DEC congregation dwindled and many of the programs at the church closed. The small congregation continues to fight to maintain the integrity of the ministry and building, but currently, the building sits empty and the property enclosed by a chain-link fence. Utility bills and maintenance have overwhelmed the congregation, and they currently meet in the community center across the street. The still majestic structure needs a new boiler, roofing, piping, and numerous other repairs.
DEC Ministries hopes to partner with the local government and spiritual and civic groups to put this landmark building back to good use to benefit the community. One of the first steps is to get the power back on after a large unpaid utility bill has left the building dark. The congregation envisions getting their kitchen up and running to help feed the community and using their administration building as a learning center and adult care facility. Preservation New Jersey encourages local community leaders to join the church to revitalize this valuable cultural and historic resource.
Preservation New Jersey