May 2012

Members and non-members, ladies and gentlemen, and it has come to pass that the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey is at last again up and running.  It has been several years since we have had a legal and active elected Board of Trustees.  The first meeting of our new Board was held on April 22ndat the Barnert Medical Complex.  The officers are:  Jerry Nathans, President, Dorothy Greene, Vice-President / Secretary and Marty Rittenberg, Treasurer.  Because of an active and concerned Board of Trustees, we now qualify for Foundation grants.

Our success, both financially and physically depends upon the support of the Jewish community.  We need volunteers with sorting and cataloging skills to make order out of thirty years of collecting.  We await word from the Jewish Federation to see if we qualify for funding an archivist. 

As our archives grow, people have been visiting and helping to identify photos.  Please visit and lend your memories to help in giving names to pictures.  Our visitors and volunteers are having a wonderful time sharing great memories and stories.  As we sort some of the records we possess we have discovered many priceless items heretofore unknown.  A new brochure is being planned and prepared by Ina Cohen Harris explaining the contents and workings of the Society.  It will feature photos from Bergen County where we believe our future existence belongs.  We are not forsaking Paterson and Passaic County because there is still a wealth of records to be collected and preserved.

To show support of our mission, please join as a member – $18 for an individual, $36 for a family or anything extra to help sustain us.  If you care to visit, and please do, we are there Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 – 3 or by appointment.

We also need the Jewish community to help us fill in files from people around the world seeking information.  Where is the family of Helen Alexander Wolfe whose family oversaw the Paterson Street mikvah or a picture of the Fair Street mikvah that was overseen by the Calka family?  We still seek information about the Bernstein family, originally from Passaic who moved to San Francisco about 1936.  William Bernstein was killed aboard the Exodus in 1947 in the waters outside Israel and is buried in Israel.  There are many more open files.

The month of May ushers in the holidays of Mother’s Day, Shavuot and Memorial Day. 

“The Festival of Shavuot is one of the most important of three festivals although it very often falls by the wayside.  Perhaps this is due to the fact that it does not have the lasting symbolism of Passover or Sukkot, perhaps it is  also due to the fact that it is the only one of the three that is celebrated for only two days and hence is practically gone before we even have a chance to notice that it has arrived.

The incident in Jewish history however which it commemorates is certainly the most important of the three – the revelation of G-d and the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai to the Jewish people and through them to all humanity…..The burden of the Torah is indeed a heavy one but life would be intolerable and meaningless without it.  Man needs Divine Law to give him direction.  He needs Divine Law to give him discipline and an inner moral fortitude.  Without the civilizing influence of the Bible human society would turn in chaos.  The choice would become the law of G-d or the law of the jungle.  The Torah for the Jew is a ‘tree of life…..’  As we usher in the Festival of Shavuot, let us, as Jews and Americans, give thanks to G-d for his precious of all gifts, the gift of His Holy Word without which we would only regress to the jungle.”

The above is a condensed excerpt by Rabbi Jerome H. Blass from the Bergenfield-Dumont Jewish Center – Membership Chat – May 15, 1964.

Let your memories wander back to childhood days and recall the countless good deeds which Mother performed, things that were not asked of her, things she did simply because that was the way a Jewish woman lived.  Do you know that in all Eastern Europe there was scarcely a Jewish orphanage?  Why?  Not because there were no orphans – of these unfortunate ones there was always plenty – but because there was always some woman who had room in her house and room in her heart to take in and care for one more person.  The Bible tells us that the first woman in the world was Havah (Eve), because she was eym kol hai (the mother of all the living).  To the mother of all the living, the caretaker of all those in need, the rescuer of the orphan, and the provider of all who are hungry – this has been the role of the Jewish woman in every age.”

The above condensed excerpt is from Dr. Samuel Dresner’s book:  The Jew in American Life.  

For Memorial Day we humbly thank the many men and women who sacrificed so much for the protection of our country and our people.  To all of them we are deeply indebted and very grateful.

Have you checked your closet lately?

Jerry Nathans, Pres.

The Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey