Imagine your house and how all the rooms in your house mean something different but come together to create the place you call home. There are many different Jewish organizations in north Jersey that make up the house of our people. We, at the Jewish Historical Society, would stand uniquely apart from all the other rooms because we sustain the history passed down from family after family, generation after generation. Read on…..
Ellen Cohen, with an assist from Lou Mechanic, is working on a project that eventually will become incorporated into a national Jewish genealogical data base. Anne Meyers, Ina Harris and Mireille Schuck are still working on biographies of prominent Jewish Patersonians. Sig Westerman, our oldest volunteer, at 90, is lending a hand to the trio. In addition, he’s been asked to start writing a history of Westerman’s Baby & Juvenile Shop, which dates back to 1918, at the corner of Van Houten & Washington Streets.
Anne, Ina, Mireille, and Sig have also been hard at work identifying photos of Paterson businesses from the 1920s to the 1950s. As a result of their efforts, the Society has been able to upload the photos to HistoryPin, a website that allows you to view a Google map with historical pictures virtually ‘pinned’ in different places. As of this month, they have been working on businesses on Main Street in Paterson. As the weeks and months pass, they will continue to go through our large photo collection and identify businesses on Market Street, Water Street and Broadway and other sites.
We have been getting some more donations through Pay Pal because of “Photo Friday” which everyone loves because it makes them feel so nostalgic. In fact, one reader wrote in last week that “these photos make me smile as they rekindle my years of growing up in downtown Paterson.” Our wedding photos that we featured last month will be continued throughout July because we have received many positive responses. Michael Kemezis, our archivist, has been putting us on the right track with so many things. At 25 years old, he is our trusted adviser on all matters technical and organizational.
We at the Jewish Historical Society feel that at last we have hit a plateau in our mountain climb where we can finally catch our breath and enjoy the view. We are feeling very blessed that we have a firm foothold; however, life is filled with “monkey wrenches.” We now have a major stumbling block to contend with and it’s a BIGGIE! Getting to the point, we are in serious jeopardy of disappearing. We will soon be obliged to move from the Barnert Medical Arts complex because the management feels that “they have been underwriting us and will soon need to substantially increase our rental fees.” If this happens, we will have to send our archives into storage which would make our valuable collection inaccessible to the people most interested in using it, you, our readers.
Our ideal situation would be to move out of Paterson but we thought we would have much more time to finish getting our act together. Fair Lawn would be our ideal location because it would attract many more visitors to our facility. We would hopefully also have a better chance to afford the rent in Fair Lawn rather than elsewhere in Bergen County.
We are sending out an SOS to everyone to help us look around for a new place for the JHSNJ. In the near future we will need a lot of friends out there with big hearts who realize how much we mean to the Jewish community. It would be a shame if we lose what we have already built and so painstakingly accumulated over the years.
Think hard and look far into the future. If we could see ahead 50 or 100 years from now, our great-grandchildren will wonder what went wrong. Suppose they reach back to find a connection to us only to discover their time- travel frustrated because the JHSNJ had to disband due to a lack of interest! Consequently, collectively, WE, the JHSNJ and our supporters need to come up with a long-term solution to locate a new site and a secure future.
In the meantime, please have a happy and safe July 4th!!! We’ll talk soon,
Dorothy Douma Greene, President
Not to belabor the point but Jerry’s Night has passed and we still get feedback. Those who attended the ‘gala’ were pleased to see ‘old’ friends and to even make ‘new’ friends. There are many who were unable to attend and wish they had. We have begun the process of planning another ‘gala’ next May and hope the response will be even greater.
The Society deeply appreciates the interest shown by the Jewish communities of north Jersey in our mission, but we are still in desperate need of help and exposure. There are many people out there who are unaware that we exist. There are yet many records that need to be collected and preserved before they disappear. Every week we read of Jewish people who have passed away. Many of them are folks who have made a difference in either the Jewish community,the secular community or both. What happens to their records? Are they relegated to some dark basement, attic or file cabinet to be allowed to deteriorate and disappear? The mission of the Society is to collect and preserve the records of Jewish people who were active in their community.
Our future is in Bergen County since much of the Jewish population, aside from the cities of Passaic and Wayne, has moved out of Passaic County. There are many organizations soliciting for funds. We are not alone in this endeavor. We wish to appeal to you to help us preserve what could still easily be lost. Please show your support by becoming a member and making an additional contribution to show that we are not working in vain.
I have been spending days transferring scrap book pages into acetate sleeves. Arnold Cohen has been placing photos in acetate sleeves in order to preserve them and allow them to be handled. Michael Bornstein has been sorting records. As mentioned in previous newsletters, we get requests from people around the world seeking family records and grave sites. I am often in and out of local cemeteries photographing stones. Recently we received a request from someone seeking the location of Ipp family graves. I have photographed 3 stones in a McBride Ave. cemetery and 4 stones in Mt. Nebo cemetery. If anyone knows of other locations please contact us. For over a year I have been trying to locate the grave of Evelyn Freeman who is buried in Passaic Junction. I have walked the Workmen’s Circle area several times but have been unable to find her grave. The Jewish Cemetery Committee has been no help in finding the location of graves and will not share their records with us. Someone else is inquiring about a relative, William Hertz, who lived at 190 Hamilton Ave., Paterson, during the 1920s. William was born in Skierniewicz, Poland. Another inquiry concerns Movsha Leib Milcenzon who changed his name to Morris Miller . He was one of seven brothers who arrived from Stolpce, Russia (Poland) about 1890 and lived at 121 Matlock St., Paterson.” Morris married a woman named Sara and they had 2 children, Esther and Manuel. A younger brother, Shloymo (Shleime) also came to Paterson and may have changed his name to Solomon Miller.
We recently discovered a ledger book from Cong. B’nai Jacob, Passaic. The book has names and addresses as well as other information that will be recorded and entered into our computer. We have since found out that Cong. B’nai Jacob has closed and we would like to obtain any records that may still exist so that we can preserve the memory of a very important Passaic congregation. If anyone knows the existence of such records, please tell the holders of those records who we are or contact us and we will contact them. We ask that you please not allow us to disappear. Your support is very important. Anyone with any information is asked to please contact the Society. If there are any genealogists who might be interested in researching these families we would appreciate hearing from you.
Our telephone is: 862-257-1208 and our email is: firstname.lastname@example.org Have you checked your closets lately? You may not be hearing from me until September 1st but I believe you’ll be hearing from Dorothy Greene, our new president.
Jerry Nathans, President Emeritus