WOODBINE - The Planning Board on Wednesday approved the expansion of the borough's Jewish museum for use this year by The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

The Sam Azeez Museum of Woodbine Heritage will see a new wing at the back of the synagogue, with construction starting as early as this spring.

The college plans to add classroom and exhibit space to this synagogue and museum dedicated to Woodbine's founding by Jewish settlers.

The addition will feature a red-brick exterior in keeping with the museum, which was built in 1893 by the borough's first Jewish settlers. The synagogue still holds religious services on Jewish holidays.

Woodbine native Michael Azeez, who restored the building and founded the museum, donated the historic building and the museum's contents to the college last year along with a $5 million endowment to help Stockton incorporate the site into its educational programs.

Azeez said Wednesday the expansion still needs approval from the Pinelands Commission, which is expected soon.

"It's going to be a quite beautiful building," borough engineer Lewis Conley Jr. said. "They hope to be working on this in the spring and be open for fall classes by September."

Azeez said the museum will complement Stockton's Sara Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center.

Mayor William Pikolycky said Stockton's presence in Woodbine is fitting since the borough was home to one of the nation's first agricultural colleges. The college offers Holocaust studies that will use the museum's resources, he said.

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