February has ended on a high note. It was one of the warmest winter months on record with very little snow to shovel. For the Jewish Historical Society someone has lit a light at the end of the tunnel and whether it remains lit remains to be seen. This month we were visited by two distinguished former Patersonians, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D.N.J.) and Leonard Zax, Pres. of the Hamilton Partnership for Paterson. Also, in February there was a visit from Rob Hyman, Community Planning, Co-Managing Director of Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. Rob’s visit was a follow-up to two visits by Jason Shames, Chief Executive Officer, Executive Vice President, who apparently was impressed by what he saw and wishes to expose us and our mission to the Jewish communities of North Jersey. Lou Mechanic and Dorothy Greene shared the visits and assisted in showing the visitors around. David Wilson’s postings on Facebook, Jewish Paterson continues to attract many people and their comments. We are also deeply indebted to Ahmed Tanveer of the Barnert staff for his computer acumen and invaluable aid in solving our computer glitches. We are a mini museum crowded into a closet. We would like to soar as an eagle but are thus far constrained / restricted.
We will be working with Prof. Robert Wolk of WilliamPatersonUniversity in Wayne, N.J. Students will conduct limited oral interviews that will be added to our collection. Hopefully students will also avail themselves of our archives for research and other purposes.
Thinking back, I remember speaking to Al Shulman, the original editor and publisher of the Paterson Jewish Post. Al told me there were two bound volumes of the original newspaper but he had no idea what happened to them. If anyone knows of the existence of any early issues of the Paterson or Passaic Jewish Post we would appreciate hearing from you.
Also, sometime back, when the BarnertHebrewFreeSchool was closing, the Society was promised the original student record book and other early records, by Rabbi Harry Bornstein. When I returned to pick up the promised items, they appeared to be gone and Madam President refused me access to the office. In going through the hallway on my way out I noticed several framed pictures that no one apparently wanted and I was allowed to take them. In taking one of them apart to clean and reframe it, I discovered one half of a poster advertising s synagogue picnic. In an old book I found a ticket to a “Chaunkah” Party. Often serendipity plays a role in our Society acquisitions!
If I have a tendency to repeat myself I apologize. For thirty years a small group of Wayne-Patersonians had a dream, a dream that we would be able to collect and preserve the Jewish history of a vibrant local city and the surrounding areas. This same group has attempted to collect and preserve over one hundred seventy years of Jewish presence in North Jersey. It began when the first German Jews left Europe in search of a better way of life and began settling in Paterson and Newark. Unfortunately no one along the way had the foresight to collect and preserve their early history. People are moving or die and what they had collected over the years was and continues to be destroyed or trashed. The next generation often could not understand why their parents or relatives were collecting organization records, some written in Yiddish, and newspaper clippings among other items, sans dates and sources. People who come to visit us at Barnert Medical Complex are amazed and excited by what they find. We are indebted to our very dedicated volunteers who continue the work begun thirty years ago.
If you have seen the pictures David Wilson has posted on Facebook you know what treasures we have saved from the garbage men. If you haven’t seen them, open “Jewish Paterson.” If you haven’t opened Facebook, try it. You may see yourself as a Paterson youngster. You may see your parents, relatives or old friends. The photos are certain to bring back lost memories. You must not, you cannot allow us and our treasures to disappear. This is why your financial support is so important to us. Visitors have found family members, relatives and friends in the thousands of photographs we have collected. Unfortunately their words of admiration cannot be converted into American dollars to help sustain us and ensure that what we have collected will be preserved for future generations, and that the Society will not disappear. Recognition of old time family and friends gives a new meaning and life to these photos. Please support us by becoming members or making a generous contribution to help sustain us. Individual membership is $18. and $36. for a family and your contribution is tax-deductible.
Like Martin Luther King and the many who followed him, Jews included, we also have a dream, a dream that one day we will be recognized and exposed to the Jewish communities of North Jersey. We also have needs. First and foremost we need funds in order that the Society continues its mission into the future and does not disappear. We need someone to look through our boxes of Hebrew books and tell us what should be buried and what can be given away for others to use. We have written Yiddish records that need translation. We have photos of gravestones in Hebrew and Yiddish that need translation so that we can trace family roots and catalog names. Until the rise of the feminist movement editors did not list women’s first names on photos, records and in newspaper articles. We could also use a part-time secretary if anyone wishes to volunteer. Our prime need is an archivist, someone to show us the proper way to store, catalog and preserve what has thus far been collected.
We have begun to transfer papers and other items into acid-free boxes that have been obtained through a grant from the Paterson Historic Commission. In transferring items we have discovered items long forgotten. We still collect Jewish business / professional cards, especially old ones. We ask that new ones be autographed on the face if possible.
In case you hadn’t heard before, there is a place to deposit memorabilia. For over thirty years we have been collecting Jewish memorabilia. If items do not pertain to the Jewish communities of North Jersey we see that the items are deposited in the proper location. If you know someone who hordes memorabilia, please tell them we exist and are available to take their memories. Our newsletter is distributed through email. If you know someone who should or would like to receive our newsletter and doesn’t, please send us their/your email address or a USPS address. Exposure of the Society and its workings are very important to the Jewish communities of North Jersey so please share this newsletter with others.
We continue to receive inquiries from around the world from people seeking family. Some of the families being asked about are: the Borzykowski and Zajdel/Seidel families from Poland who lived in Paterson and the family of Ike Ulman who died May 25, 1913. If you recognize any of these names please contact us.
This month, the Jewish month of Adar, we celebrate the Festival of Purim, in part a celebration of the memory of the daring Queen Esther. It is perhaps the only celebration in honor of a Jewish woman. There have been so many Jewish women who should be so honored but she alone has attained that position and to her we are grateful for what she did and that many of us are here and able to celebrate this holiday. We of the Society wish you a joyous Purim. “Purim Sameach”.
Have you checked your closet lately?
Jerry Nathans, Pres.
Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey