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November 2018 Newsletter from the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey

Our newsletters are currently being written by a revolving group of Board members and guest writers drawn from our membership list. We encourage readers who wish to submit prospective future newsletters to do so. Topics can range from neighborhoods, businesses, camps, or community centers and could include family memories or personal experiences you have had in the north Jersey area. Rabbi Harold Berman, a member of the JHSNJ, has written our November 2018 newsletter.

Memories of Growing up in Jewish Paterson  

I have now lived in Ohio for nearly forty years, but Paterson is in my thoughts every day.

Both of my parents were born in Paterson.  My father, Oscar Berman, was born shortly after his parents arrived from Lodz, Poland, where his father had worked in the textile mills.  The textile business in Paterson never offered my grandfather great opportunities, but my father always remembered times when he had worked with his father, and later, as an attorney, he would represent a number of Paterson textile mills.

My maternal grandfather, Ben Charney, who came to America, and to Paterson, in 1901, was related to a distinguished family of Yiddish writers.  I believe my grandfather came to Paterson because some other Charney relatives had already made it their home.  My grandfather was the first member of my family whom I watched wearing tefillin {phylacteries} and dovening {praying}every day when he stayed at our house.  In later years, the two of us often shared Shabbat dinners together. I learned much by observing the simple piety of his Jewish life.

Both of my parents were among the first members of their families to earn college degrees.  My father went to N.Y.U. and what was then New Jersey Law School (now Rutgers) and my mother, Bea, earned Bachelor and Master’s degrees at Montclair State, and taught Latin at Eastside High School until my sister, Sylvia, was born.  She went back to Eastside as a regular substitute when I was in high school.

My parents felt a strong loyalty to their home town, and stayed in Paterson all their lives.  My father served as president of Jewish Family and Children’s Service and the Jewish Community Council (later Jewish Federation of North Jersey) and was a trustee of Temple Emanuel for decades.

The Eastside neighborhood of Paterson was a wonderful place to grow up.  It was full of baby-boomer kids, with Eastside Park nearby.  You could see the Empire State Building from atop the rolling hills of the park. You felt as if you were close to the center of everything important, but also sheltered by a community in which nearly everyone seemed to know everyone else.

My family lived on East 40th Street when I was born, then moved all the way to East 38th Street when I was seven.  We were two blocks from School 20, which I attended from Kindergarten through eighth grade.  Summers we spent at Lake Hopatcong, close enough to Paterson so my father could commute back and forth daily.

Temple Emanuel was a major part of our life.  Hebrew School was three times a week, with Jr. Congregation on Shabbat and various holiday observances as well.  I can’t say that I ever really liked Hebrew School, and certainly I didn’t like having to be there after a full day at school, but there was something about the atmosphere and the social setting that made me feel at home and made me come back even when my parents stopped making me go.  I went through Hebrew High School, and somehow I learned something – not all that I was supposed to, but enough to make me feel at home in a synagogue.

My sister gets the credit, or the blame, for involving me in United Synagogue Youth, Temple Emanuel’s high school youth group.  Its local and regional programs became a central focus of my high school years.  USY also gave me the opportunity, and a scholarship, to go to Israel in the summer of 1964.  That changed my life.  I decided I wanted to go to a college where I could be involved in an active Jewish community (Rutgers) and ultimately I determined that Jewish learning and teaching would be the focus of my professional life.

Meanwhile, back in seventh grade at School 20, a new student entered our class the first week of school in 1959.  Her name was Beth Shapiro.  Beth also had strong Paterson roots, her father having been everyone’s dermatologist and her grandfather having been the senior doctor at Barnert Hospital.  We went to different temples, but we had many friends in common.  But after two years at Eastside, Beth transferred to College High in Montclair and we didn’t see each other again for ten years.

In 1973, while I was in my fourth year of Rabbinical School at the Jewish Theological Seminary, my father had a rash.  He went to see the dermatologist everyone saw, Dr. Joe Shapiro.  They started talking about their kids. It turned out that Beth and I were both in graduate school in New York, and both living on the Upper West Side.  We got together for dinner, started dating, and were married within the year.  In Paterson, of course.

Beth and I have shared forty-five years of love, raised four sons and added a teenage daughter to our family when a single parent friend passed away.  Our sons all went to Camp Ramah and were active in USY.  Two of our sons are lawyers.  I only wish my father had lived to see that.  Another son works professionally for Hillel and our youngest son is now a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary.  Our daughter is a librarian/archivist.  All have spent time in Israel. We visit Israel often.  We also visit Paterson, although there is no immediate family left there.

Both of my parents passed away, much too young, when I was in my twenties.  My sister Sylvia has bee’s parents, on retirement, came to live near us in Columbus, Ohio, our home since 1979.  Dr. Joe Shapiro passed away in 2004.  Beth’s mother, Elise Shapiro, is still with us at age 97.

I served as Rabbi of Congregation Tifereth Israel from 1979 to 2016.  Now, as Rabbi Emeritus, I am still active in community and interfaith work.  Although I no longer have pulpit responsibilities in Columbus, I now lead High Holiday services for the Jewish Community of Bermuda.  Two of our sons, and all three of our grandchildren, live in Columbus.  All my kids are Buckeyes, but Paterson still has, and always will have, a very special place in my heart.

Rabbi Harold Berman, Member of the JHSNJ

Newsletter 1

My father, Oscar Berman, with his parents, Harry and Rebecca (Brenman) Berman  at about age one. (c. 1912)

Newsletter 2

My parents: Oscar and Bea Berman

Newsletter 3

Eighth Grade graduation class of 1961 from School # 20 in Paterson.  Beth Shapiro is in the first row, fourth from the right.  Harold Berman in the second row, sixth from the left. The rest of the ID’s follow:

First row, from left: Ilene Hofher, Butch Lubinsky, Lorraine Shereck, Carl Kuhnen, Shirley Domin, the Principal Joseph Goldberg, Alan Levine, Beth Shapiro, Jack Susser, Judy Sandow, Larry Barnette.
Second row: Sima Gerber, Beanie Bromberg, Hayda Nussman, ?, Rita Sinofsky, Harold Berman, Mardee Senack, David Rosenfelt, Ellen Lipschitz, Michael Bornstein(?), Julie Bromberg, Joel Levine, Leslie Greenwald, someone Geller.
Third row: Aron Smith, ?, Lee Donow, Lois Pasquariello, Morris Schnur, Louise Koch, Sandy Einstin, Wendy Schnee, Seymour Taub, Anita Opper, Julian Greengold, ?, Gary Dorman, Paula Goodgal, Morris Orens.
Fourth row: Angela La Fera, Bram Bluestein, Debbie Schwartz, Ed Smith, Gale Halpern, Arnold Schwartz, Joan Markowitz, Bill Vellekoop, Fran Hertzberg, Danny Zweig, Gilda Ezorsky, Bill Steinberg, Virginia Miller(?), Leonard Barnette, Arlene Feit.
Fifth row: ?, Fred Feldman, Carole Golden, Bobby Sirota, Barbie Simon, Angelo Rosario, Roberta Kimmel, David Caro, Ellen Leinoff, Stuart Light, Deborah McCrae, Amy Greenberg, Bobby Feldman, Sandy Silver, Lee Ginsburg, Susanne Robinson, Arnold Chesney.
Sixth row: (sort of botched up…..not a straight row): Diane Fenster, Alan Singer, Isabel Markel, Tommy Schwartz, Myra Holtzman, Aaron Jay, Meepies, Jimmy Krugman, Joel Fowler, Marcia Gottfried, ?, Bonnie Tuber, John Simpson, Sandy Schreiber, Ronnie LeVine.
Seventh row: David Schwartz, Rebecca Reichert, Haya Aronowicz, Dolores Maybe, Paula Pliskin, Ina Wallace, Marsha Kobre, Carol Zachman, ?, Roy Van Horn, Roz Rosenkranz, Jay Mandelbaum, ?.   The JHSNJ wishes to thank Rabbi Berman’s former classmate, Beth Aronowitz Krakower, for identifying the rest of their School 20 fellow graduates.

Newsletter 4

Rabbi Harold and Beth Berman

Our current JHSNJ exhibit features photos, documents, the time capsule from the Wayne “Y”, and other memorabilia from the YM/YWHA’s of Northern New Jersey. If people still have any memorabilia , photos, etc. to share we’d love to include them so please contact us at 201-300-6590. Visitors are welcome to visit on Mondays and  Wednesdays from 11:00am – 3:00 pm.

Our mailing address is:
Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey
17-10 River Road, Suite 3A
Fair Lawn, NJ 07410
Telephone #: (201) 300-6590

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