On June 24, 2008, the Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County officially opened to the public. The Museum is dedicated to the promotion of public awareness of the County’s Jewish heritage for the education and enjoyment of both children and adults. Its mission is to present exhibits, programs and publications that celebrate, preserve, explore and illustrate the rich and unique history of the Jewish residents of Monmouth County, and their contribution to the community.
Monmouth County attracted Jewish settlers, typically Sephardi peddlers from New York, as early as 1720. The first resident, Isaac Emanuel, a Freehold merchant, appears in documents in the early 1720s. By the 1750s, Jonas Solomon and Levy Hart, both married to local Protestant sisters, were well known as Jewish merchants and tavern keepers. Solomon lived in Freehold, and Hart in a small settlement further east that was to be labeled “Jewstown” by his colonial neighbors and by the British during the ensuing Revolutionary War. The original Freehold home and tavern owned by Jonas and Hannah Solomon was burned by the British during the Battle of Monmouth in 1778.
The Solomon Barn and house, circa 1800, owned by Jonas and Hannah’s son Levi, who farmed nearby, was registered as a historic landmark in 1994. On July 28th, 1999, the Barn was moved to its current location in Freehold, and renovations begun to convert the space to house the new Museum.
The Museum features a permanent exhibition: “Three Centuries of Growth & Change: A History of the Jews of Monmouth County, ” a multi-media display of photographs, artifacts, and collected stories that bring this unique history to life.
On September 14, 2008, the Museum hosted its first featured exhibit, ”Jacob Landau: Humanist and Visionary,” featuring 23 works of art by Jacob Landau (1917-2001), the Monmouth County-based (Roosevelt) printmaker, painter, humanist and teacher. Landau was “an artist whose works explored the basic themes of human existence and morality with an insight that was both passionate and indignant.”
The Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County is located at 310 Mounts Corner Drive in Freehold, and is open Tuesdays & Thursdays from 10:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M., and Sundays, 11:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M.