April 2011

The festival of Passover is a story of a land and its people.

 What kind of a people does it tell about?  A people whose founding fathers were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob;  whose leading women were Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel.  This people developed a set of ideals which like stars for the mariner, have lighted the way for all mankind.  For this people the land of Canaan became the Promised Land, as well as a Land of Promise.

 What kind of a land is it?  In ancient times it was a land flowing with milk and honey.  It was frequently a battle field as the forces of Egypt would fight the armies of Syria and Babylonia.  It was a land of prophecy, on whose hills trod the feet of Isaiah and Jeremiah.  It was a land whose atmosphere had an effect on the climate of the world.

 The story of Passover is an account of how that people in its exodus from Egypt sought to reach that Promised Land.  Today, thirty-five hundred years later, the Passover story has the same motif and the same principles, although circumstances may be different.  It is still the story of a people called Israel which seeks to be replanted in its land.

 Today it is necessary to plant trees in that desolate and harried wilderness.  Trees will not only change the appearance of the land but will affect its humidity and climate.  The very replanting of the trees is part of the replanting of a nation.

 It is gratifying to know that Paterson’s Jewish Community has risen to the responsibility and privilege of this hour in Jewish history and has supported the local Jewish Fund Council in its effort to plant thousands of trees in memory of Chaim Weizman.

 Thus, as Passover comes to us this year, I know that it will be a happy and significant one for all in our community because we have indicated our understanding of the Passover story which is the union of a Land and its People.

The above was written By Rabbi Dr. Arthur T. Buch for Temple Emanuel, Paterson in the 1950’s…..

 It will soon be Passover and just like the people of the Exodus, the Society has been wandering for over thirty years.  Must we continue to wander for ten more years in order to find the Promised Land?  Will I see the Promised Land?  Only He knows.  This will be our second anniversary at Barnert.  Yet we continue to wander.  The Haggadah was derived from the memories of those who left Egypt, the participants of the Exodus.  Will there be another Haggadah?  Another Exodus to Israel?  Let us be prepared and gather our experiences.

The Jews of the Holocaust were forced to leave their treasures and memories behind.  What is our excuse?  We have the facilities to record and save these things yet we turn our backs on them.  One doesn’t need a Holocaust, a tsunami  or a fire to be devastated.  On March 7, to a much lesser degree, we were devastated when someone hacked into our computer site.  In doing so they deleted our contacts and emails.  Hopefully no one was generous enough to send money to ransom me from the UK. Were this scenario true, I feel Scotland Yard would have deported me in any case on direct instructions from the Queen who would have feared I might abscond with valuable British Judaica.  I am not computer-wise enough to have avoided such a tragedy.  We are grateful to Ahmed Tanveer, Security Officer, at Barnert and Lou Mechanic, who have guided us along.  We have been able to retrieve our contacts but not our emails.  We would like to find people with computer expertise willing to give time and knowledge to these neophytes.  Our mission is much more than a one or two person operation.

By preserving our records and artifacts we celebrate our Jewish heritage.  When Edie Sobel edited the Jewish Community News from Clifton we were constantly exposed to the Jewish communities of North Jersey.  Since Edie has retired we are an occasional item randomly appearing somewhere or other.  Twice in the past four years we have been cover stories for the Jewish Standard, one article in the Record and occasionally in L’Chaim, a BergenCounty publication.

We have tried to reach out and ask people to work with us.  Our requests appear to fall on deaf ears.  We have attempted to re-institute our oral interview program, to learn what life was like in the early years, how we got to this place and time and about the people who brought us here.  Reeva Isaacs recorded almost 100 interviews of local people in the 80’s and 90’s.  A small number of those interviews were transcribed by Richard Epstein before he passed away.  Some of the cassette recordings were borrowed and never returned.  Knowing how fragile these tapes can be we have been reluctant to replay them, especially after loaning several to NPR, Washington, DC where they discovered one was blank.  In this modern age of technology why can’t we reach someone knowledgeable who can transfer these cassettes to discs or any other method in order to preserve them?  Of the nearly 100 tapes we have in our archives, we have no idea how many can be preserved.  The JCC’s are rampant with activities.  Why can’t they add another activity to their list and conduct oral interviews?  They have the resources in their membership and should do this before the seniors move away or pass away.  We constantly get calls that someone should be interviewed but there is just so much five people can do.  How about getting our teens involved?

By preserving our records and artifacts we celebrate our Jewish heritage.  Our thanks to Judy Mechanic Glick and Alvin Reisbaum for the time and effort they expended by attending Paterson Day in Florida and exposing the Society to those people who were present.  Our mission is the preservation of Judaism and your help is needed to this end.  What we have collected is gold and should not and cannot be lost or destroyed.  One never knows when or where another earthquake, tsunami or fire will occur.  Join us in preserving our Judaism.  The only benefit we derive from what we are doing is the satisfaction of knowing we are preserving and leaving a legacy to our children and future generations.

Our parents and grandparents crossed an ocean most knew nothing about.  They traveled in ships the size of which many had never seen.  They came to America not knowing where they were going, what they would encounter or do or how they would exist.  There are yet so many questions to be answered.  Years ago we rarely asked questions of where they came from or how they got here, and then it was too late because there was no one to ask.  Today we have the facilities by voice, video or digital means to record and preserve the answers.  The Holocaust is something we should never forget, but what about the good things in life?  Thousands of recordings have been made of the experience of the Holocaust.  What about those who fortunately escaped that vile part of history and found new life in America?  In order to escape the miseries of life in Eastern Europe some men even mutilated their bodies in order not to be conscripted as cannon fodder for the Czar.

This is a Jewish community project and we invite the Jewish communities of North Jersey to help and support us.  We need an archivist to show us the way in order to proceed properly.  People are awed by what they see that we have accumulated. Yet few drop by.  If you know someone who should or would like to get our newsletter please give them our email address or send us their email or postal address.  Please do not shut us out.

Have you checked your closet lately?

Jerry Nathans, Pres.

Lou Mechanic

Alison Faubert