June 2013

Jerry’s night is behind us. It was a spectacular evening attended by over 130 delighted people. Before we move on I should like to take the opportunity to say “thank you” to all those who attended and supported the ‘gala’. To the three ladies who organized and produced the affair goes everyone’s gratitude. They produced an unusual affair. The feed-back has been tremendous. The Kosher Nosh served an excellent meal and everyone was delighted. To Temple Emanuel of Franklin Lakes goes our gratitude for allowing us the space in order to expose the Society.

Our attention now turns to our future and the preservation of what has been collected for more than thirty years. If Sylvia Firschein had not called upon the Jewish communities of north Jersey to record a once vibrant and vital Jewish presence we would probably not have a fraction of what is in our archives. Dorothy Greene posts pictures that people have never seen and some cannot even remember. We have scrap books, the pages of which are being transferred into plastic sleeves in order to be able to handle and preserve them. Some of our newspaper articles crumble at the touch of a hand, if they have not already done so. We have a vast collection of additional pictures that we are still sorting and enclosing in acetate sleeves, also to preserve them and make them easier to handle. There is still much out there to be collected and preserved. I read the Jewish obituaries that we also collect and read of people who have passed away. What happens to their records, papers and photos that the family would like to save but never do anything with? We are here to collect and see that these items are preserved. Please tell others about our mission. Make them aware that a place exists in order to preserve our ‘collectibles’ for future generations.

Jerry Nathans, President Emeritus

Jerry Nathans had his big bash on May 21st. For all those who did or did not attend, here is the inside scoop……Anne Friedman Meyers, Ina Cohen Harris and Mireille Lipsitz Shuck did an extraordinary job putting the party together. Ina designed and created perfect decorations on a “shoe string” budget. Pearl and Moe Liss tapped into all their business and personal contacts and put together a great ad journal in “break neck” time. Chaim, Avi and Magda of the Kosher Nosh were most generous to the Jewish Historical Society in every way possible but most of all in spirit. They enjoyed the party more than anyone. Everyone was so happy to honor Jerry. Lewis Stone of Morristown, formerly of Fair Lawn, bailed us out when we realized no one thought to take photos or bring a camera, but he did. Not only did he have a professional camera but also took professional photos. We wonder if he’s ever done this before. Everyone was so pleased to be together…….all friends from the past, present and the future. The food was a blast …..tasty hors d’oeuvres, then corned beef, pastrami, turkey, kishkas, karsha varnishkas, hot dogs, potato salad and egg crèmes Everyone was jumping from table to table happy to see each other as they were catching up on family news. The room was filled with well wishers. New friends were made. Wow! Can anything have been better than that?! I’m not finished yet……

Speeches were made and each one was better than the one before. They all had one common thread at the end……that Jerry was a treasure and we were mere candles to his solid gold menorah. It was all about Jerry and he was unusually okay with being the center of attention. Allan Snider, our treasurer, told the story that we featured in our March newsletter about the woman who never saw a photograph of her father (due to a divorce when she was a toddler) until she came to the Jewish Historical Society and on a whim asked to see our 1940’s Eastside High School yearbooks. As the story progressed the room became more quiet and captivated. I noticed eyes around the room welling up in tears. A thought occurred to me…..”What if?”

What if there was NO Jewish Historical Society? What if people were not able to discover things about their past? What if no one was able to access anything here because there was no “here”? What would happen if there were no cemetery records, “Y” Criterions, Verein records, embroidered Torah covers and photographs of every building and Jewish organization in North Jersey and on and on? What if Jerry Nathans did not heed the call of Sylvia Firschein to do oral histories in the late 1970’s? What if Jerry, the “last man standing”, did not decide to schlep the archives from place to place, pay the bills himself, hang in from day to day all alone? What if there wasn’t another “Jerry” clone to have graced this earth? Would there even be a Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey???!!! Where would all these valuable things be…..long gone in a garbage dump? And if there were no JHSNJ at all, then what would that say about us? There would be other Jewish historical societies in Essex County, central Jersey, etc. but not one of north Jersey!

But wait, we don’t have to ask these questions, do we? We have all these things and we had a big party last week to prove it. Thank heaven for Jerry Nathans…….

Dorothy Douma Greene,President