Global True Lithuania Lithuanian communities and heritage worldwide

New Jersey

Jersey City (the largest city in New Jersey) is part of the New York City conurbation. It is separated from New York proper by merely a river that is crossed by bridges and tunnels. As such, the New Jersey and NYC Lithuanian communities are closely related.

The heart of the local Lithuanian community is Elizabeth suburb of Jersey City with its old and massive Lithuanian St. Peter and Paul church (211 Ripley Pl.) - the mass is celebrated in Lithuanian and English. It houses an Our Lady of Šiluva altar dedicated to the earliest church-recognised Maryan vision in Europe (took place in Šiluva, Lithuania). Since 2006 the parish shares its priest with the Polish St. Adalbert parish (but both churches are open).

The Elizabeth Sts. Peter and Paul church. Google Street View.

For 65 years a Lithuanian bakery (131 Inslee Place) operates in the district offering Lithuanian bread among other Eastern European meals.

Lithuanian bakery. The front façade is covered by wood to remind of the Lithuanian traditional architecture. Google Street View.

Elsewhere too Lithuanian parishes indicate Lithuanian presence. The trend was the same: the Lithuanian parishes established in Jersey suburbs ~1910 with the first Lithuanian migrant wave, however, the current churches constructed in 1950s-1970s modern or semi-modern style as the small communities became rich enough and post-WW2 refugees needed to be accommodated. In 1980s-2000s Lithuanian language services were abandoned as new generations replaced their parents and grandparents who spoke Lithuanian well.

A small towerless St. Michael Lithuanian church stands in the southern suburb of Bayonne since 1977. Its address is 15 E Twenty-Third St but the nearby Church St. is also known as Matulis Way after the church's priest who passed out in 2000. Bayonne has ~400 Lithuanians (~0,6%). St. Michael church was, however, closed and transferred to Syriac Catholics in the 2010s, making its history especially short (less than 40 years). The inscriptions remained.

St. Michael church in Bayonne, a typical example of a Jersey small town Lithuanian church. Google Street View.

Another area that has been popular among Lithuanian immigrants was the Kearny suburb. In 1915 when a Lithuanian parish has been established there, there lived 400 Lithuanians in Kearny and 700 in nearby Harrison (~450 and ~150 today). ~1954 a new larger towered church of Our Lady of Sorrows has been constructed (136 Davis Ave). On the parish's 850th anniversary Reverend Pocus wrote, "Second- and third- generation families may never fully appreciate the fervent longings of their forebears for the sights and sounds of their homeland. But certainly, our older parishioners can recall the poverty of our people, their loneliness in a strange land, their youth and energy, and feeling of unity which they felt with their fellow Lithuanians".

Entrance to the Our Lady of Sorrows church at Kearny. Elaborate wooden crosses are a recurrent theme of ethnic art in old Lithuanian parishes. Google Street View.

After World War 2 (1962) the Paterson Lithuanian parish also constructed its modest St. Casimir church (147 Montgomery St; closed 2014, sold to non-denominational Christians). Two-floored like Holy Trinity church (207 Adams St, Newark) would remind of the office building if not a large Lithuanian wooden cross nearby; it has also been built in 1960s-1970s.

Recommended literature: Barbara Krasner "Kearny's Immigrant Heritage" pg. 67-76.

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  1. Jersey City is not the capital of NJ. Trenton is.

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