February 2012

We appear to be the best kept secret in North Jersey.  Many people never heard of us and many are surprised when they discover that we have been collecting and preserving the Jewish history of North Jersey for over thirty years.  We have received requests for information from as far away as Israel and Australia and visitors to our office at Barnert Medical Complex are amazed at what they see.    Recent visitors such as Helen Jay and Gayle Schiff Felton dropped in on us for a short period of time just to look and then stayed for an hour or more reminiscing and talking.

It appears we are going full steam.  We keep receiving more items for our archives and have received acid-free folders and boxes to preserve them, thanks to a grant from the Koar-George Foundation of the Paterson Historic Preservation Commission.  The next step is to begin cataloging items – even without an archivist.

We are beginning to solicit membership in the hope that the Jewish community will respond and support our mission.  Your support in any manner is very important in order for us to continue collecting and preserving our heritage.  Our membership starts at $18 per person and $36 per family and we please ask that you mail in your dues now and show that you believe in our mission.  We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and monetary contributions are tax deductible.

We are amazed when people confront us and remark that they are aware of what the Society is accomplishing.  Then we hear about people that are unaware that we exist.  We decry the fact that public exposure has been at a minimum, aside from our monthly Newsletters.  It has been several years since we have been given exposure in either the Jewish Standard or the Record newspapers.  The response to David Wilson’s Facebook site has been overwhelming and beyond our wildest dreams.

At one time there were mikvahs in Paterson.  One was at 38 Paterson St. and we are looking for any information about it or about Harry Alexander who may have been the administrator of the mikvah, or his daughter Helen Alexander Wolfe.  Several years ago I was given Helen’s telephone number in Fair Lawn but I mistakenly covered it over and neglected to call her.  Helen has since passed away and we seek her family in hope they may have information or photos.  Then there was the mikvah at 329 Fair St., administered by Samuel and Rose Calka.  We understand that there was a mikvah at this location prior to the Calka family moving in.  We have learned that the Fair St. mikvah had a connection to Rabbi Meyer Greenberg and the Orthodox community.  Anyone having any information or photos is asked to please contact us.  We have photographed the site but a modern building has replaced the original structure.

When clipping articles, we suggest you tear out the entire sheet and mark the article to be saved with a pen or marker but do not infringe upon the article.  This will give us the date and source of the article which are important parts of it.  Unfortunately, we have loads of articles minus dates and the source thereof.  We ask that you allow us the final decision of what should be saved.

November 26, 2011 Benjamin Kosiborod became a bar mitzvah at TempleEmanuel in FranklinLakes.  We wish him well and thank the Kosiborod family for sharing copies of Benjamin’s speech as well as speeches by his parents.  These are now a part of our archives. If anyone wishes to share their bar/bat mitzvah speeches or any other speeches, items, photographs or biographies with us, we would be delighted to preserve them.  Through the effort of Sally Whitmore we have received autobiographies from Jeanette Berman and John Heller.  On a chance meeting at the Wayne Staples I met Michael Shacham and received a copy of his autobiography telling about his Israeli experience during the Six-Day War in 1967.  Michael is a bronze sculptor living and working in Totowa, NJ.  In January Michael had a successful exhibit at TempleB’nai Or in Morristown.

In December we received a beautiful hand-made menorah by Mohamed Khalil, a mixed media sculptor who works at the PatersonMuseum.  I am grateful to Jack DeStefano and Bruce Balistrieri of the PatersonMuseum for their help and advice.  Jack has shown me how to mine City Directories for information I never realized existed.  We continue to learn even in old age.

I have met people who tell me about the many boxes of items they had collected and recently trashed because they no longer had space, items they had been collecting for many years. That hurts.  Then there is the person who told me her son-in-law, a professor out-of-state who took many items of Paterson history as learning material for his students; however, we have not even gotten copies.

In the near future we hope to begin oral interviews at the “Y” in Wayne.  These will be done by students of Professor Robert Wolk of WilliamPatersonUniversity who will supervise the program.  We hope to have more information about the program in the coming months.

We still seek information about the family of William Bernstein.  Bill was born in Passaic, NJ. His parents were Phillip and Sophie and his siblings were Morris and Francis.  The family moved to San Francisco in 1936.  Bill was killed aboard the Exodus off the coast of Israel when the British attacked the ship.  His body was buried in Israel.  People in Israel wish to add family names to his grave-stone.

Our thanks to Dorothy Greene and Miriam Gray for their time spent clipping obits and to Lou Mechanic who offers his two cents in editing this newsletter and Alison Faubert for leading us down the path to professional organization.

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?”  This quote is from Joni Mitchell in Big Yellow Taxi.

Have you checked your closet lately?

Jerry Nathans, Pres.

Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey