Explore Jewish Life in New Bern
New Bern, a picturesque colonial town, has a rich history as a port city. Jews were present in colonial days, and a deed refers to a Jewish burial ground in 1802. The Jewish community, never large, organized after the Civil War. The historic neo-classical temple B’nai Sholem, dating to 1908, is still in use. Although a few mercantile families persist, the Jewish community is now largely supported by retirees drawn by its charming riverfront setting. Jews have also been relocating to nearby Oriental, a recreational sailing center.
Meeting in a historic building downtown, B’nai Sholem now counts over 100 members, most of whom are retirees new to the area. The Reform congregation is served by lay leaders and visiting rabbis.
The Institute of Southern Jewish Life communal history features Jacob Henry from nearby Beaufort, who was elected to the state legislature in 1808 and delivered a famous defense of religious freedom. African Americans helped elect sheriffs Meyer and Joseph Hahn during the racially tumultuous 1880s and ‘90s.