Woodbine, New Jersey --- A press conference will take place on Friday, June 6 at 11:30 a.m. announcing the Grand Opening Celebration of the Sam Azeez Museum of Woodbine Heritage and Restoration of the Brotherhood Synagogue, and will be combined with the inaugural of the 1st Annual Woodbine Festival on Saturday, June 7.
Founded in 1881 by wealthy German philanthropist and industrialist Baron Maurice de Hirsch, Woodbine became the home to more than 600 Jewish immigrant families from Eastern Europe who moved to Woodbine in search of a better life. It became the most successful Jewish-American agricultural and industrial settlement in the country and was known as the first self-governing Jewish community since the fall of Jerusalem. The Sam Azeez Museum chronicles the heritage of the town from its early settlers to today. The museum located in the historic Brotherhood Synagogue, preserves a wealth of history, personal accounts, historical images, documents and artifacts that detail the story of the town’s original settlers and dates back to 1896. Religious services were held at the synagogue from 1896 through 1999. The synagogue will now be available for services.
The museum is dedicated to the memory of Sam Azeez, a longtime resident of Woodbine and member of the Brotherhood Synagogue. Son Michael Azeez is working with experts from the Philadelphia Jewish Archives to properly preserve all of the original donated items that will he housed in the museum. Both father and son worshipped at the synagogue.
“On the day of my father’s death, he was to be honored by a local Jewish day school. The acceptance speech he was going to deliver shared his experience of growing up in Woodbine and the positive impact the town had on his life. I thought the synagogue museum would be an appropriate tribute to dedicate in his name,” said Azeez.
The museum also provides an interactive portion where visitors can record their memories of Woodbine. Items in the museum were obtained through personal donations and images of original documents contributed by various organizations. The museum designer/planner working with Azeez is Alice Dommert, from Dommert-Phillips in Philadelphia.
Dommert/Phillips recently completed projects for the Morris Arboretum, the Mercer Museum, and the Foundation for Architecture (Discover Philadelphia Sign Program).
The celebration will be hosted by Michael Azeez and Mayor William Pikolycky, along with federal, state, county and local officials. Special guest speaker will be Vineland, NJ resident Miles Lerman, Chairman Emeritus of the United States Holocaust Museum Council and Museum, who was a driving force behind the creation and development of the Holocaust Museum.
The 1st Annual Woodbine Festival, scheduled for Saturday, June 7, will celebrate the 100th year of incorporation of the Borough of Woodbine. It will include a fun-filled, educational weekend for the entire family. Activities include the Gentilini antique car show, tours of the Sam Azeez Museum of Woodbine Heritage, a Centennial Celebration of the Incorporation of Woodbine, dedication of the New Jersey State Police Barracks, the Festival of Friends Air Show at Woodbine Airport, the reunion of the Woodbine School, crafts and food.