Some of our previous newsletters have been about the following themes: unexpectedly finding lost memories; self-evaluation through the prism of the High Holy Days; William Offenberg, the fierce local advocate for Russian Jewry; Julius Meyer, the Jewish Indian Trader who possibly celebrated Thanksgiving and Hanukkah in 1888; the night that the Partition Plan, Resolution 181, of British mandate Palestine was passed in 1947; a 14 year old who cut up her mom’s food while both were preoccupied with phones and gadgets; and, last, a pensive tree planting man hurrying against the setting sun. What could possibly be next?
This newest newsletter contains three things you probably never realized about the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey.
First: If you are Jewish and lived in Paterson, there is an excellent chance that we have your photo in our archives. If we don’t have your photo, we surely have the photo of one of your relatives, friends or acquaintances in our photo collection. One of those photos might just make its appearance on “Photo Friday”. If you bring your photographs to us in person to be scanned or eMail it to us in jpg format we will feature it on “Photo Friday” in 2014. If you don’t happen to be Jewish, but still lived in Paterson, we might have your image captured in a class photo. If you once resided in Passaic, Fair Lawn or Wayne, then there is also a probability that we have some of your memories also recorded in our vast trove of photographs.
Second: Assuming that the Jewish Historical Society were a book, the pages would encapsulate your life and those of your Jewish ancestors upon their arrival in northern New Jersey. Through assimilation and the subsequent creation of social structures this tome would have vital records of your synagogues, schools, hospitals, cemeteries,weddings, businesses, work places, neighborhoods and all clubs and organizations. This same book would have at least one chapter dedicated to the entity that is most heartfelt by you. An excerpt from that chapter would include at least one page with your name printed on it. No one can escape it. In this imaginary book there would be no page of your human experience as a Jew living in north Jersey left untold. What the hand of time sweeps into oblivion, the JHSNJ is there to retrieve. It’s a guarantee that you will never want to put this book down or see it end.
Third: The JHSNJ is a visual and psychological experience. Although we are crammed into less than 2,000 square feet we are genuine and sincere. No one dare ever accuse us of having a barren environment or attitude. When you walk though the door you know instantly we are a substantial and important enterprise. Our collection stretches as far as the eye can see. We have three display cases with memorabilia representing most of the enclaves of northern New Jersey. We have file cabinets packed with oral histories, cemetery records and photographs also representing most of north Jersey. We have organizational banners and Torah covers with special embroidery that date back to the turn of the last century. The swing of our ‘pendulum’ goes through an arch of three centuries. We hope your spirit will soar when you visit the JHSNJ . You will bear witness to the greatness that you and your forebears worked so hard and passionately to build and accomplish so that we and our descendants could always be proud and remember who we are…so that we could continue to preserve and carry the torch of what meant so much to them as new immigrants and as Jews. This is what we aspire to and continue to do as part of our Jewish Historical Society’s mission. We protect the Torah covers and proudly fly the banners of the Jewish people of northern New Jersey.
March is Woman’s History Month and Purim. Let’s remember Queen Esther who bravely did not forget about her people. The Jews will never be defeated. We are still here wanting to build a good world. We are happy for all the Esthers that were and will yet be.
Dorothy Douma Greene, President