Current Newsletter

September 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. 

By Richard Polton, President

Welcome to the inaugural issue of the revived newsletter of the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey. My name is Richard Polton, president of the JHSNJ, and I am a Paterson aficionado.

I feel connected to the city in many ways. My family came to Paterson in the late 19th- and early 20th centuries. Two of my grandparents were born in Paterson, and two were immigrants who settled there. Both of my parents were born in Paterson. My parents loved Paterson and enjoyed a broad network of friends and family. I had a childhood on the east side of the city shaped by family, the neighborhood, local cuisine (can I call it that?), schools, mostly Jewish organizations, and a collection of characters who were friends and neighbors. Even in college, when I took history courses, I found ways to research Paterson’s history.

I grew up, married a wonderful girl from Teaneck, moved away, and had kids, but was always intrigued by my hometown and its story. When eBay came along, I found Paterson memorabilia that was readily available at bargain prices. This was a giant flea market, online, with a huge selection of Paterson stuff. I bought maps, silk jacquard ribbons, photographs, and architectural plans and stacked them up in my closet and hung the best on my walls. My wife and kids were merciless in their teasing and abuse.

One cold winter night over 10 years ago, I was on eBay and saw a listing for a book called “Fred Wesley Wentworth, Architect, Paterson, NJ,” published in 1929. It listed several of his buildings. They were all buildings that we know. The Alexander Hamilton Hotel, The Fabian Theater, the Masonic Temple, and yes, all the buildings of Jewish life in Paterson — the Barnert Hospital, Temple Emanuel, the YMHA. Who was this man, Fred Wesley Wentworth? How did it come to pass that he was designing all of these buildings for our Jewish community? Why had I never heard of him? I spent the next six years reconstructing his life and answering as many questions about him as I could. It was a project that was an absolute labor of love, taking me to Dartmouth College, the Catskill Mountains, the New Hampshire Coast, and of course, Paterson. (Ask me about it the next time you see me.)

One of the places I went to research the project was the basement of the old Barnert Hospital where Jerry Nathans was presiding over a vast repository of Paterson Jewish history. Jerry, co-the founder (along with Sylvia Firschein) and a longtime member of JHS, is a remarkable resource. I was taken with how much material was in his collection. I asked Jerry if he had any pictures of the groundbreaking of the Barnert Hospital. Lo and behold, he dug in the file and came up with a photograph of a black-tie dinner at the old Paterson Hebrew Free School on Broadway near Straight Street. In the picture was Nathan Barnert, Jacob Fabian, and Fred Wesley Wentworth, dining together and looking rather elegant. Jerry knew exactly what I needed, and it became a part of my book. I also found so much more in the JHSNJ archives that was of interest. I had a wonderful time with the research project and writing a book about Wentworth and the Paterson Jewish community, offering lectures and guiding walking tours of Paterson, showing off Wentworth’s work.

Following up on the book project, I became interested in the organization and I have been a board member or officer ever since. It’s been a joyful experience.

The JHSNJ is a collection of volunteers, each of whom has their own special reason for staying involved. While we started out based on our Paterson roots, we understand that, in order to thrive, we need to broaden our focus to include the entire North Jersey community. We have made an enormous amount of progress in the past six years and I take real pride in being a part of the group.

The JHSNJ is a repository for the history of the northern New Jersey Jewish community and are here for everyone. We need you to share your history with us. We welcome donations — of documents, of photographs, of yearbooks, and synagogue bulletins and brochures. We depend on volunteers to help organize the collection in our archive. Feel free to come and meet us. Our offices are open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. We have great programs and exhibits.

And let me know if you want to hear more about the architectural history of the Paterson Jewish community. Play your cards right and you will get more information than you ever imagined. It’s still a passion of mine.

“Y” Days Exhibit to Open in October
By Ina Cohen Harris, secretary

In October, the JHSNJ will present a new exhibit on the history of the YM-YWHAs of North Jersey. Did you spend your childhood at a Y in North Jersey? Maybe you were a Scout, attended a dance or Purim carnival, or you swam in the pool, played basketball or tennis, or attended a cultural performance. Maybe your parents belonged to a parents’ group or the Panthers; maybe your grandparents belonged to the Golden Age Club. For so many of us growing up in North Jersey in the 1940s, ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, the “Y” was our second home.

The exhibit will feature photos and memorabilia from the Paterson/Wayne Y, the Passaic/Clifton Y, and the Hackensack/Washington Township JCC, among others. Items on display will include the original deed for the Paterson Y, a 1923 photo of the Passaic Y, and the time capsule which was placed in the Wayne Y at its dedication.

We hope you will join us at the exhibit’s opening reception, which is tentatively scheduled for October 28 at 11 a.m. and share your memories with us. The exhibit will then be available for viewing through January 2019. Stay tuned for more information!

Expert Preservationist Visits JHSNJ Archive as Part of a $6,000 NEH Grant

On May 30, an expert preservationist visited the JHSNJ offices to examine the way we preserve the artifacts in our collection. The visit of Dyani Fiege, director of preservation services for the Philadelphia-based Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, was paid for by a $6,000 grant awarded to the JHSNJ by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Ms. Fiege spent the day with staff and board members, looking at our collection, storage areas, and exhibit space and studying our current practices and future preservation needs. The $6,000 NEH grant paid for a pre-visit survey, Ms. Fiege’s visit, and a full report she will make to the JHSNJ of her findings. This information can be used to create future preservation goals, and to apply for more funding to protect our collection and make it more accessible to the public.

Ms. Fiege’s report is expected to be “the blueprint for several years of preservation work,” said Joy Kurland, JHSNJ executive director. The Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts was founded by an entrepreneurial conservator who saw a need for treatment options for institutions with limited resources.

The grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is called “The Preservation Assistance Grant for Smaller Institutions.” The grant helps small- and mid-sized libraries, museums, historical societies, archival repositories, cultural organizations, town and county records offices, and colleges and universities to improve their ability to preserve and care for their significant humanities collections. The grant was secured by JHSNJ board member Alison Faubert.

The NEH is a federal agency that supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.

Alison said she was thrilled with Ms. Fiege’s visit. “The kind of things Ms. Fiege looked at ranged from the policies of who can use what and where, how papers and artifacts are stored, to the issue of pests and mold, which we were happy not to have!” she said. “She researched building maintenance and security; and the temperature, humidity, and light where the collection is stored and displayed.” She added that the grant “is confirmation of the really amazing good work of our founders in 1982 that continues to this day with devoted volunteers, generous donors, and an active supportive membership.”

JHSNJ Vice President Marty Feitlowitz said he “was impressed by Ms. Feige’s knowledge of mechanical and fire suppressions available to protect our archival storage areas. She presented options, knowing that our budget would require economically effective solutions.”

Treasurer Debbie Grossman was impressed by the need for disaster planning. “Ms. Feige’s discussion of disaster situations and disaster plans, whether water or fire, was something I don’t ever remember having been discussed and was important to have been brought to our attention.”

Some of the treasures in our collection include original portraits of Paterson mayor and philanthropist Nathan Barnert and his wife, Miriam; Torah covers from synagogues long since disappeared; Verein banners; city directories from Paterson; newspapers; family documents; organizational papers from synagogues, womens’ groups and benevolent associations, Jewish sports and social clubs, especially the Paterson YMHA; and many photographs identified and not…

Golden Book Tributes
by Ina Cohen Harris, secretary

Share a simcha, extend a get-well wish, or offer wishes of condolence or a tribute in memory of a loved one with a donation to the JHSNJ Golden Book. With a minimum donation of $18, the JHSNJ will send a card to the recipient of your wishes and gratefully acknowledge your generosity in our newsletter.

To make a donation: Please send your check by mail to the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey, 17-10 River Road, Suite 3A, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410. You can also make your donation by credit card or PayPal. For more information or for questions, please call our office at (201) 300-6590 or email us at

A New Archivist for the JHSNJ

Executive Director Joy Kurland announced at the September monthly meeting this past Sunday that we have hired Teresa Schmittroth of Beacon, N.Y., as our new archivist. We employ an archivist on a part-time basis, for eight hours each week, to help us with the daunting task of organizing our collection. Among other responsibilities, the archivist directs the many volunteers who come to assist in going through the many boxes of items in our two collection rooms.

In June, our archivist Stephanie Diorio stepped down from her position after accepting a full-time job with the Hoboken Public Library. Steph had worked for us for almost two years and we were very sad to see her leave. We then hired Karen Pankovcin, who started in mid-July but accepted a full-time position elsewhere and resigned in early September. We received assistance from Pro Libra, a library services staffing company based in New Jersey, to conduct the search to fill this position, as they have helped us in the past. Teresa accepted the position last week.

Teresa will be working in our Fair Lawn office from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, starting on September 26. Our office will still be open on Mondays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for volunteers to work on the collection boxes.

Teresa has a background in art collections and archives management, and has experience in cataloguing, research and developing databases, digital archives, websites, and catalogues for archives, exhibitions, and collection. Most recently she worked as the archivist for the estate of conceptual artist Dennis Oppenheim and maintains the databases of his collection, and also as the archivist for the nonprofit organization Art in Context Center for Communications, where she supervised programs, co-developed the website and online database.


After September’s monthly meeting this past Sunday, a packed room listened to a delightful presentation about the famous Red Apple Restaurant on Route 17. Elaine Freed Lindenblatt, author of “Stop at the Red Apple: The Restaurant on Route 17,” is youngest daughter of restaurant founder Reuben Freed. She told stories about the history of the famous 24-hour-a-day eatery, which was part of a vacation tradition for about one million customers — including entertainment royalty — from the 1930s through the 1980s. The Red Apple Rest sat halfway between New York City and the Catskill Mountains on Route 17, which at one time was the only highway from the city to the country. The audience enjoyed the presentation very much.


The 2018 annual meeting of the JHSNJ will be held on Sunday, Dec. 16 at 10 a.m. We are in the process of scheduling a speaker to make a presentation after the meeting. All are welcome. Please watch your emails for more information in the weeks ahead.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of North Jersey

Are you interested in researching your family roots? Do you need help in navigating the many resources online or need information on how to get birth or death certificates for your ancestors or find the ship manifests of their arrival in the U.S.? The Jewish Genealogical Society of North Jersey is based in the Charles & Bessie Goldman Judaica Library at the YMCA (formerly the YM-YWHA of North Jersey), 1 Pike Drive, Wayne. Founded as a sister organization to the JHSNJ in the late 1970s as an offshoot of the Goldman Judaica Library, the nonprofit organization helps members with their genealogical research.

The group’s website, , has lists of many helpful resources, including links to websites for cemetery searches, links to other Jewish genealogical websites, and lots of articles and webinars.

For more information, including directions to the Y, please visit or contact JGS President Susan Kobren at Annual membership is $15. The next meeting will be Thursday, Oct. 18, at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome. The JGS of North Jersey is a member of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, Inc.

JHSNJ Officers

President: Richard Polton
VP/Operations: Marty Feitlowitz
VP/Programming: Miriam Gray
VP/Membership: Moe Liss
VP/Fundraising: Allen Zaks
Treasurer: Debbie Grossman
Assistant Treasurer: Benson Chapman
Corresponding Secretary: Ina Cohen Harris
Recording Secretary: Chuck Oremland
President Emeritus: Jerry Nathans

Don’t Throw It Out!

Cleaning out your parents’ house? Don’t Don’t throw out those those old old pictures, documents, or other other ephemera. Please contact us and let us look at what you have. We will gladly scan and return your materials. materials. Call our office at (201) 300-6590

The Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey appreciates your financial support. Please donate through the link below or by sending a check made out to: Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey 17-10 River Road, Suite 3A, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410. We are a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. For further information about charitable giving, click here.

Membership Levels

Single: $25
Couple: $50
Family: $72
Friend: $100
Patron: $250
Benefactor: $500
Lifetime: $1800

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