Prior to the building of the first synagogue, religious services were held in various halls in the city. Mrs. Solomon Hart and her daughters conducted religious teaching at a Sunday school held in their home.
The first synagogue, the Ahavith Achim (Brotherly Love), was established in 1898
and was supported by a building campaign that was well supported by citizens of all faiths.
A second synagogue, the Hazen Avenue Synagogue was established in 1906
that formalized the social-cultural division between the long-established English-speaking Jews and the newly arrived Yiddish-speaking immigrants. The Eastern Europeans adopted the Ahavith Achim as their place of worship. Both congregations were Orthodox and had their own Rabbi and religious teaching for the children.
By 1918 many of the differences which had separated the two groups had been overcome
and the decision was made to amalgamate the two congregations into one. The former Calvin teaching for the children. The former Calvin Presbyterian Church was purchased and became the home for Congregation Shaarei Zedek (Gates of Righteousness) for the next ninety years. Records from the 1920s show that there were two hundred paying members and with the average-sized family of about five children, the estimated number of Jewish souls was approximately fourteen hundred.
The former Ahavith Achim Synagogue housed the Hebrew School meeting rooms, gymnasium and Mikvah. until the Jewish Community Centre building on Wellington Row was purchased in 1951. With the sale of the Shaarei Zedek Synagogue and the adjacent Community Centre, the Jews of Saint John relocated to a new home on Leinster Street better suited to the needs of the current community and with new hopes for a revitalized future for their community.
A committee was formed to encourage new immigration to the city from Israel and elsewhere to rebuild the Jewish Population. To date, more than 60 new families have settled in Saint John, with more to follow.
The Shaarei Zedek Synagogue Building was built in 1897 by Mr. Peters, who was a prominent Saint John businessman. It was built for his new bride and took 7 years to build. It was considered a mansion in those days. He lived there until he sold to Senator and Mrs. Emerson in the 1930’s. In the 1960’s, Senator Emerson had died, and Castle’s funeral home bought it. It was bought by the Saint John Jewish community in 2008.