Newsletter – 2016

January 2016

Our newsletters are currently being written by a revolving group of Board members and guest writers drawn from our membership list. We encourage readers who wish to submit prospective future newsletters to do so. Topics can range from neighborhoods, businesses, camps, or community centers and could include family memories or personal experiences you have had in the north Jersey area. Miriam Kraemer Gray, our vice-president, and a member of our Executive Board, has written our January 2016 newsletter.

January!!!   A month during which we can catch our breath!  We have feasted, fasted, shopped, pondered our history, played games and now the hectic fall holidays are behind us.  It all starts with Rosh Hashanah followed by the month of Jewish Fall festivals.  Then, we cheerfully segue into the beloved American festival of Thanksgiving, treasured by all Americans regardless of their country of origin.  Onward to the jubilant celebration of Chanukah during which time we boast that we celebrate for 8 full days while our less fortunate Christian friends have only one day of Christmas.  Do not forget, however, though we speak of the vial of oil that lasted for eight days and we giggle at the frivolous dreidle, the meaning of Chanukah is profound. If our ancestors had not fought, both the assimilated Hellenized Jews, and the conquering Syrians, all of Western civilization as we know it today, would have been vastly different.  Without the Maccabean victory in 165 BCE there never would have been Christianity in the first century C.E. and certainly not Islam in the 7th century C.E.

The Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey also experienced a very hectic fall season.  We purchased our new site —we packed up our old “digs”—we moved—unpacked, re-organized and held a wonderful opening event to celebrate our future!!  Yes, it was a hectic 4 months and now—–

Though we are still getting organized, one can now visit us and view wall hangings of artifacts of synagogues long gone from Paterson on the walls of our 17-10 River Rd location.  Our display of unique Chanukah menorahs is still adorning our windowsills.   We welcome the quiet month of January to continue to unpack, to straighten our files (some were messed up during the move), and to decorate our wonderful space with our treasures.  Our thanks goes out to Board members Richard Polton, Moe Liss, Lou Mechanic, Ina Harris, Barry Citrin and two new volunteers of the JHSNJ, Jay and Charles Morgenstern for their hard work in consolidating and moving our treasures from our self-storage facility to our new site.

If you are in Florida, we look forward to your visit “up north” in the spring.  By then, we will also be in full bloom.  And to those who live in the area, please stop by and share in this wonderful miracle.  It took 35 years to get here, so be patient as we organize.  We are grateful to those few new volunteers who have joined our ranks.

Enjoy this sweet, quiet month to get in touch with your roots.  We are waiting for you!!!

Miriam Kraemer Gray, Vice President, Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey

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February 2016

Our newsletters are currently being written by a revolving group of Board members and guest writers drawn from our membership list. We encourage readers who wish to submit prospective future newsletters to do so. Topics can range from neighborhoods, businesses, camps, or community centers and could include family memories or personal experiences you have had in the north Jersey area. Miriam Kraemer Gray, our vice-president, and a member of our Executive Board, has written our February 2016 newsletter.

February!  What are your childhood memories of our shortest month?  Of course, we all remember February 2!  We waited each year (and we still wait) to hear the prediction of whether or not we will have an early spring.  Elementary school teachers used this as a trigger for lessons on weather, hibernation, and probabilities, depending on our age.   Then we honored our presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln on their real birthdays.  We had school assemblies to celebrate our esteemed American patriarchs.   And, we cannot forget the fun of Valentine’s Day.  Cleansed of any of its religious roots, it was a day of class parties, candy, and penny valentine cards.   And, the ornate box, decorated by some artistic student, sat on the desk in the front of the room, bursting with tokens of “friendship forever”.
February, the shortest month, remains the shortest month, even though the solar calendar bequeaths an extra day to it every fourth year.  And, coincidently, this year is also a Jewish leap year.  The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, which is calculated on a 19-year cycle of 7 leap years.  Each leap year we add a complete month so that our holidays, which may fall, “too early” or “too late”, always occur during the season to which they are linked.   Without adding a month, we would be celebrating Pesach, the spring holiday, in the winter, or the summer.  We add the month of Adar, our last calendar month.  This year Adar 1 begins on February 9 and a month later, we observe Adar 2 along with the joyous holiday of Purim.  February is indeed a short, but interesting month.

Some schools still have portraits of Washington, the father of our country, and Lincoln, the tenacious protector of the Union and the visionary to abolish slavery.   The patriarch of the Jewish community of Paterson is Nathan Barnert.  In the commodious conference room at our new office, we have the portraits of Nathan and Miriam Barnert.  Yes, it behooves us, to remember the great works of great people.

Nathan Barnert arrived in the United States in 1849 at the age of 11!!!  At the age of 20, he settled in Paterson and 5 years later he married, Miriam Philips.   He made a fortune making army uniforms for the Union troops.  (Paterson at that time was famous for manufacturing cotton, not silk).

He was a pious Jew, an industrious citizen of Paterson, and a great philanthropist.  At age 45 he was elected Mayor of the city and served two terms.  He was concerned for the welfare of all and gave generously to help the sick and the needy regardless of race, religion, or country of origin.  He donated money to create the Barnert Hospital and B’nai Jeshurun Temple a.k.a.the Barnert Temple.  He and Miriam were childless.  There were many children in Paterson whose families could not support them as well as children who were being raised in single parent homes.  Barnert gave generously to create the Miriam Barnert Orphanage to serve these needy children of Paterson.  When there was no longer such a need, the Daughters of Miriam became one of the state of the art facilities for the aged.  Today it serves those who can no longer live alone as well as those whose health issues are severe. He was concerned for the education of Jewish children and created the Miriam Barnert Memorial Hebrew Free School.    The city of Paterson honored Nathan Barnert by placing his statue in the City Hall Plaza.

February, a time to honor our heroes of the new world!   February, a time for love, for friendship, for understanding.  Remembering Valentine’s Day may be just a card, a kind word, a single rose, a chocolate kiss, but the message remains, that kindness outdoes nastiness and friendship is preferable to hostility.  Hopefully, Punxsutawney Phil gives us the prediction of an early spring.   And hopefully, our patriarchs, both ancient and those whose footprints are in contemporary life, will be our guides in truth, in humanity and in deeds of loving-kindness.  Enjoy our extra day in 2016 and enjoy the first joyous month of Adar, our gift of 5776.   Perhaps, the innocent messages of this short month will help us to focus as we walk into the spring and into re-birth.

Miriam Kraemer Gray, Vice President, Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey

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March 2016

Our newsletters are currently being written by a revolving group of Board members and guest writers drawn from our membership list. We encourage readers who wish to submit prospective future newsletters to do so. Topics can range from neighborhoods, businesses, camps, or community centers and could include family memories or personal experiences you have had in the north Jersey area. Jack Zakim, a member of our Executive Board, has written our March 2016 newsletter.

Some people have fond childhood memories and most of my Jewish friends have great childhood memories; but, my Jewish friends from Paterson seem to be overwhelmed with fantastic old neighborhood memories and love to reminisce about the great times and ‘good old days’ resplendent with affectionate nicknames for our buddies.    There may be an explanation that emanates from our culture and attributable to Jewish family values; but, I ask, could Paterson really have been such a special place to grow up?  For me, it certainly was…..

I was born in 1945 in Barnert Hospital and spent my formative years in Paterson.  My earliest memories go back to 1949 when my family lived in a three-family house on 12th Avenue between E. 32nd and E. 33rd Street, one-half of a short block from Temple Emanuel where I spent a lot of time and a long block from P.S. 26, down  E. 32nd Street between 10th and 11th. Avenue.    In the 1950’s, that was virtually my entire universe.

I also vaguely remember a nursery school on E. 30th Street between 12th and Broadway that I attended. I think it was called “The Allen School.” I clearly remember my first day at Public School #13 because Public School #26 was still on the drawing boards that year (1950).  I remember getting on the bus at Broadway and E.32nd Street and seeing my mother overwhelmed by fear and excitement. Her tears were streaming down her face as she left me in that huge classroom on the first day of kindergarten.

What I remember most vividly was my first friend in kindergarten, Marc Rosenfeld, who passed away this past November. Marc’s passing was a very difficult and sad day for my family.   Marc was my oldest and one of my dearest friends. Whenever your first friend dies of natural causes, it is a reality check and it served as the genesis for this month’s column.

“My Paterson roots” run so deep that I look forward to ‘Photo Friday’ every week which I often open at 5:00 A.M. like an addict looking for my fix of nostalgic memories which gets fulfilled by seeing pictures of relatives, friends, former friends, their parents, and sometimes even me.

The Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey’s preservation of our history and roots has broadened those memories and reconnected me to old friends and acquaintances as well as some people I had forgotten I knew.  When I was a naïve youngster, I envied some of my friends and acquaintances who moved to the suburbs (primarily Fair Lawn, Wayne or Clifton) into their new ranch and split level homes with big backyards and manicured lawns on streets with fancy names and modern schools. As it happens, only few of those friends revel in the nostalgic stories or the nicknames we true Patersonians enjoy.

Whenever I think back about those good times hanging out with buddies in Eastside Park, at Ben & Bob’s, Sunshine’s or Friedman’s, the exciting mob scene at the “Cozy” during lunch hour, playing little league baseball in Eastside Park for ‘Food Fair’ against our rival ‘Keystone,’ swimming naked(!) at the old “Y” on Men’s Days, or participating in competitive swimming, I thank my parents for the privilege of spending  my formative years in Paterson; and, of course, the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey for reconnecting me.

Some of my friends maintain a few friendships from their childhood but usually one or two at best.  Notwithstanding that I did not go locally to Rutgers for college or law school, I managed to maintain friendships from my earliest Paterson days throughout the years which I will always cherish.   We are proud of our Paterson pedigree and enjoy our unique nostalgia when we reminisce about the good old days while sharing pictures of our grandchildren on our smart phones.

The Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey plays a critical role for those of us who enjoy those everlasting good times and is worthy of your support and encouragement wherever you are!

Jack Zakim, Executive Board member of the JHSNJ

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April 2016

Our newsletters are currently being written by a revolving group of Board members and guest writers drawn from our membership list. We encourage readers who wish to submit prospective future newsletters to do so. Topics can range from neighborhoods, businesses, camps, or community centers and could include family memories or personal experiences you have had in the north Jersey area. Richard Polton, President of the JHSNJ and a member of our Executive Board, has written our April 2016 newsletter.

To our Friends and Members:

The Board and Officers have made a lot of progress in restructuring and energizing the Jewish Historical Society of Northern New Jersey.  I want to take this opportunity to let you know what we are up to and how we are doing.

Let me start out with what keeps us going. We have an active and engaged group of Board Members and volunteers who are committed to building the organization. We have a shared understanding of our important mission and the commitment required to meet our goals. Thanks to the support of the community, we now have a first rate facility to house our collection as well as serve as a home for numerous related activities.

The Board has clarified the role of our President Emeritus, Jerry Nathans, so that his acquired knowledge will continue to be a resource for us. We have also brought on Joy Kurland to serve as a part time Executive Director to assist in our operations. Joy has years of experience in Jewish organizational management and we are very lucky to have her on board.  With Joy’s professionalism we are confident that we can tie up loose ends brought about by our move and help move us forward.

Our most important accomplishment over the past three months is the process of making sense of our new facility and the materials we have collected. We have come to the realization that we have to focus our collection on items that are of specific interest to our community. When we were located in the basement of the Barnert Hospital, we could collect everything people donated to us, regardless of its relevance. The Board and staff have since realized that our collection must match our mission and hereafter we will need to focus our collection on materials related to Jewish life in Passaic County, Bergen County and parts of Hudson County. That may sound easy and logical. As a practical matter, however, we have had to sort out dozens of boxes, hundreds of items and reorganize our material. While we still have a lot to do, we have made remarkable progress. Our archivist, Miriam Spectre has been invaluable in helping us make sense of this mission.

We have larger goals as well that build on our capabilities.

We are working on displaying and organizing our collection. While we hoped this would happen quickly, getting our house in order has taken more time than we initially thought. This is an on-going process and will involve local schools, synagogues and social groups. Stay tuned!

We will build the capacity of our Board and our organization. Over the coming months, we will undertake efforts to broaden the participation of members of the broader community interested in our community’s history. We will be actively recruiting new participants from our larger area. We have become an active repository of documents from Passaic, Teaneck, and other areas of Bergen, Passaic and Hudson Counties. We are committed to having our Board become representative of our larger community.

Additionally, we will be upgrading our programming. We will be investigating cooperative programming with other Jewish Historical Societies in NJ and beyond to find out available opportunities. We need help on all fronts! If you attend or hear of a program that would have a strong interest in our area, please let us know. All sorts of programs are possibilities. We will be looking to have three or four talks or events each year. This will take effort but they are a major part of our mission.

Of course, we wouldn’t be a viable group if we don’t pay attention to budgets and fund raising. Our major fund raising event is coming up at our annual Gala. This is always an enjoyable and worthwhile evening and this year’s event should continue that tradition. This year’s honoree is Joy Kurland and the event will be held on Tuesday evening, May 17, 6:30pm at Temple Beth Rishon, 585 Russell Avenue, Wyckoff, NJ.

This is an ambitious program but is well within our capabilities. It will only work if we have the continued support of the larger community and if we work to expand membership and participation. Please feel free to contact any of us with your ideas and thoughts. Of course, your financial support is always needed.
Best wishes for the Passover season and keep in touch with us at (201) 300-6590.

Richard Polton, President, Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey

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April 2016

Our newsletters are currently being written by a revolving group of Board members and guest writers drawn from our membership list. We encourage readers who wish to submit prospective future newsletters to do so. Topics can range from neighborhoods, businesses, camps, or community centers and could include family memories or personal experiences you have had in the north Jersey area. Selwin Jacobs, a member of the JHSNJ, has written our May 2016 newsletter.

This newsletter is about central Paterson’s other high school, C.H.S., and is written with the purpose of telling the influence it had on Jewish life in Paterson. It will center on the period of 1943-1947 when I was a student at ‘Central’.

First, let’s begin with a little history of ‘Central’. It was opened in 1909 as ‘Paterson High’ and was renamed ‘Central’ in 1925 when ‘Eastside’ opened its doors. It became ‘Kennedy High School’ when a new school was built in 1964. Mayor Frank Graves renamed the school in honor of the recently slain president, perhaps for political reasons; however, by doing so, it robbed thousands of ‘Central’ graduates of the heritage of their high school.

‘Central’s Jewish population started to decrease as Jew’s migrated to the area east of the Erie R.R. tracks. The area west of the tracks, which include South Paterson, Totowa, Haledon and North Haledon and downtown Paterson, was ‘Central’s’ territory.

The original ‘Central’ was located downtown, directly across from the Passaic County Court House.  The physical plant left a lot to be desired because among other facilities that were lacking, there was no football field, track or gymnasium.  The fact is the girls had to walk three blocks, in all types of weather, to the then G.O.P. building (next to the Regent Theater) for their gym class. The boys had to walk to the other side of Main Street to the Entre Nous for their gym class.  I don’t ever recall a complaint since there was a kindred ‘Central’ spirit that one had to attend ‘Central’ to experience.

Despite its physical linitations, the faculty at ‘Central’ was outstanding. The Jewish teachers that I remember were Louis Ginsberg, the father of Allen; Isadore Miller; Lewis Charney; Morris Savage; Mr. Blumberg; Lou (Red)Grower, the  football and basketball coach;  Abe Arnowitz, beloved by all who knew him, basketball coach; and Mort Rittenberg who coached football and basketball during the World War II years.

Among the Jewish graduates that I knew and remember from that ‘43-‘47 era are: Rabbi Alvin Reines, nationally known Professor of the Hebrew Union College and also a known scholar; Hy Eisman, a nationally known cartoonist; and Mort Stenchever, M.D. chairman of the OB/GYN department at the University of Utah’s Medical College and later on at the University of Washington. He was also a Professor and author of medical textbooks and journals. I recall Shirley Sloan (Feder), a  nationally known author; Marty Verp – Paterson’s City Attorney; C.P.A.’s – Stan Simon, Marty “Bud” Margolis and the Zarrow brothers; Arthur Mahler, D.D.S.;  and Herb Braverman, a pharmacist. Among the educators, teachers, principals, and administrators that I recall were Zirda Lipset (Diner), Allan Goldberg, Dan Frost, Joyce Salton (Levinsohn), Norman Rosenbloom, Grace Blake,  and Aaron Braverman. Among the athletes I recall were Len Friedman, Sid Libert,  Jack Rosenbloom,  Bernie Brown,  Len Mittleman,  Bob Levenstein, Nolan Saltzman, Stan Simon,  Alan Goldberg, and yours truly, Sel Jacobs.

In speaking of the lack of athletic facilities, ‘Central ‘ produced some very successful varsity teams in which Jewish athletes contributed greatly especially in basketball. Phil Rabin, who graduated from ‘Central ‘ in the 1930’s, was particularly outstanding in basketball. Phil may have been the finest player that Paterson ever produced. He was a star at nationally ranked  L.I.U. and also professionally.Getting back to the 1943-47 era, the year 1947 was actually the twilight of the Jewish students at ‘Central’. I think in our senior year of 1946-47, there were less than 25 out of 2000 kids who were Jewish.

Central’s basketball team of 1946-47 was the last year in which Jews were influential. It was coached by Lou “Red” Grower and his assistant coach Abe Arnowitz. The team was co-champion of the Passaic Valley Conference and was spearheaded by two Jewish players, Alan Goldberg and Sel Jacobs. They were referred to as “Central’s Gold Dust Twins” by Marty Rittenberg, Coach Mort Rittenberg’s son. This team, coached by two Jewish coaches, spearheaded by two Jewish players, was challenged to a non-scheduled game by Paterson’s St. Joseph H.S.  St. Joe’s was the first Paterson basketball team to win a state championship (1945-46). That game was played at the Paterson Armory before a standing room only crowd.  My father and mother were among the thousands who attended that game (their first and only time to see their son play). This standing room crowd was motivated by the importance of the game and the “bragging rights” for Paterson basketball; but, to be honest, the crowd turned out on a cold night (to include my parents) to see and greet the guest of honor, Paterson’s own Lou Costello. Lou had to be in N.Y. for a broadcast with Bud Abbott but he flew in a day early in order to attend the game. He received a thunderous cheer from the crowd and I really don’t know how many in attendance that night knew that Lou was an extremely good athlete at the then Paterson High School. By the way, ‘Central’ won the game.

This year of 1947 also had a significant basketball achievement for the Paterson YM-YWHA.  Their basketball team, in a “Y” league comprised only of high school students, garnered a N.J. state championship. That  team was spearheaded again by Alan, me and a very dear and close friend of mine, Max Friedman, an outstanding player at ‘Eastside’.  Among other members of that team that I remember were Stan Blake, Bill Goldberg and Larry Dunkel.  The team was coached by Mort Rittenberg and this was a nice way to repay Mort for all the time he spent honing our skills over the years.

So, in closing, the purpose of this newsletter is to show how ‘the other’ Paterson high school contributed to Paterson’s Jewish Heritage. My apology to any and all whom I may have not remembered to mention.

Sel Jacobs

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Paterson’s premier Heavyweight League champions in 1949.  On the 12-person roster, 6 were Jewish, plus coach and sponsor.  From the left sitting Mickey Spinelli, Max Friedman, Allan Goldberg, Phil Zofrea, Coach Mort Rittenberg, Sel Jacobs, Norm Chase, Al Smecca, Nick Kayal Standing Sid Horwich, Sponsor, Jack Anthony, Bill Goldberg, Stan Blake, Larry Dunkel, and Marty Rittenberg

May 2016

Our newsletters are currently being written by a revolving group of Board members and guest writers drawn from our membership list. We encourage readers who wish to submit prospective future newsletters to do so. Topics can range from neighborhoods, businesses, camps, or community centers and could include family memories or personal experiences you have had in the north Jersey area. Selwin Jacobs, a member of the JHSNJ, has written our May 2016 newsletter.

This newsletter is about central Paterson’s other high school, C.H.S., and is written with the purpose of telling the influence it had on Jewish life in Paterson. It will center on the period of 1943-1947 when I was a student at ‘Central’.

First, let’s begin with a little history of ‘Central’. It was opened in 1909 as ‘Paterson High’ and was renamed ‘Central’ in 1925 when ‘Eastside’ opened its doors. It became ‘Kennedy High School’ when a new school was built in 1964. Mayor Frank Graves renamed the school in honor of the recently slain president, perhaps for political reasons; however, by doing so, it robbed thousands of ‘Central’ graduates of the heritage of their high school.

‘Central’s Jewish population started to decrease as Jew’s migrated to the area east of the Erie R.R. tracks. The area west of the tracks, which include South Paterson, Totowa, Haledon and North Haledon and downtown Paterson, was ‘Central’s’ territory.

The original ‘Central’ was located downtown, directly across from the Passaic County Court House.  The physical plant left a lot to be desired because among other facilities that were lacking, there was no football field, track or gymnasium.  The fact is the girls had to walk three blocks, in all types of weather, to the then G.O.P. building (next to the Regent Theater) for their gym class. The boys had to walk to the other side of Main Street to the Entre Nous for their gym class.  I don’t ever recall a complaint since there was a kindred ‘Central’ spirit that one had to attend ‘Central’ to experience.

Despite its physical linitations, the faculty at ‘Central’ was outstanding. The Jewish teachers that I remember were Louis Ginsberg, the father of Allen; Isadore Miller; Lewis Charney; Morris Savage; Mr. Blumberg; Lou (Red)Grower, the  football and basketball coach;  Abe Arnowitz, beloved by all who knew him, basketball coach; and Mort Rittenberg who coached football and basketball during the World War II years.

Among the Jewish graduates that I knew and remember from that ‘43-‘47 era are: Rabbi Alvin Reines, nationally known Professor of the Hebrew Union College and also a known scholar; Hy Eisman, a nationally known cartoonist; and Mort Stenchever, M.D. chairman of the OB/GYN department at the University of Utah’s Medical College and later on at the University of Washington. He was also a Professor and author of medical textbooks and journals. I recall Shirley Sloan (Feder), a  nationally known author; Marty Verp – Paterson’s City Attorney; C.P.A.’s – Stan Simon, Marty “Bud” Margolis and the Zarrow brothers; Arthur Mahler, D.D.S.;  and Herb Braverman, a pharmacist. Among the educators, teachers, principals, and administrators that I recall were Zirda Lipset (Diner), Allan Goldberg, Dan Frost, Joyce Salton (Levinsohn), Norman Rosenbloom, Grace Blake,  and Aaron Braverman. Among the athletes I recall were Len Friedman, Sid Libert,  Jack Rosenbloom,  Bernie Brown,  Len Mittleman,  Bob Levenstein, Nolan Saltzman, Stan Simon,  Alan Goldberg, and yours truly, Sel Jacobs.

In speaking of the lack of athletic facilities, ‘Central ‘ produced some very successful varsity teams in which Jewish athletes contributed greatly especially in basketball. Phil Rabin, who graduated from ‘Central ‘ in the 1930’s, was particularly outstanding in basketball. Phil may have been the finest player that Paterson ever produced. He was a star at nationally ranked  L.I.U. and also professionally.Getting back to the 1943-47 era, the year 1947 was actually the twilight of the Jewish students at ‘Central’. I think in our senior year of 1946-47, there were less than 25 out of 2000 kids who were Jewish.

Central’s basketball team of 1946-47 was the last year in which Jews were influential. It was coached by Lou “Red” Grower and his assistant coach Abe Arnowitz. The team was co-champion of the Passaic Valley Conference and was spearheaded by two Jewish players, Alan Goldberg and Sel Jacobs. They were referred to as “Central’s Gold Dust Twins” by Marty Rittenberg, Coach Mort Rittenberg’s son. This team, coached by two Jewish coaches, spearheaded by two Jewish players, was challenged to a non-scheduled game by Paterson’s St. Joseph H.S.  St. Joe’s was the first Paterson basketball team to win a state championship (1945-46). That game was played at the Paterson Armory before a standing room only crowd.  My father and mother were among the thousands who attended that game (their first and only time to see their son play). This standing room crowd was motivated by the importance of the game and the “bragging rights” for Paterson basketball; but, to be honest, the crowd turned out on a cold night (to include my parents) to see and greet the guest of honor, Paterson’s own Lou Costello. Lou had to be in N.Y. for a broadcast with Bud Abbott but he flew in a day early in order to attend the game. He received a thunderous cheer from the crowd and I really don’t know how many in attendance that night knew that Lou was an extremely good athlete at the then Paterson High School. By the way, ‘Central’ won the game.

This year of 1947 also had a significant basketball achievement for the Paterson YM-YWHA.  Their basketball team, in a “Y” league comprised only of high school students, garnered a N.J. state championship. That  team was spearheaded again by Alan, me and a very dear and close friend of mine, Max Friedman, an outstanding player at ‘Eastside’.  Among other members of that team that I remember were Stan Blake, Bill Goldberg and Larry Dunkel.  The team was coached by Mort Rittenberg and this was a nice way to repay Mort for all the time he spent honing our skills over the years.

So, in closing, the purpose of this newsletter is to show how ‘the other’ Paterson high school contributed to Paterson’s Jewish Heritage. My apology to any and all whom I may have not remembered to mention.

Sel Jacobs, JHSNJ

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Paterson’s premier Heavyweight League champions in 1949.  On the 12-person roster, 6 were Jewish, plus coach and sponsor.  From the left sitting Mickey Spinelli, Max Friedman, Allan Goldberg, Phil Zofrea, Coach Mort Rittenberg, Sel Jacobs, Norm Chase, Al Smecca, Nick Kayal Standing Sid Horwich, Sponsor, Jack Anthony, Bill Goldberg, Stan Blake, Larry Dunkel, and Marty Rittenberg

June 2016

Our newsletters are currently being written by a revolving group of Board members and guest writers drawn from our membership list. We encourage readers who wish to submit prospective future newsletters to do so. Topics can range from neighborhoods, businesses, camps, or community centers and could include family memories or personal experiences you have had in the north Jersey area. Alan Peck, a member of the Executive Board of the JHSNJ, has written our June 2016 newsletter.

A young Patersonian’s memories of sleep-away camp
Imagine you’re a 13 year old kid, your whole life up that point has been sports (mostly the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York football Giants).  Suddenly, you are going to summer camp! Eight weeks of sports, sleeping in bunks with a bunch of other like-thinking 13 year old boys, no school (practically!) and fun. With great hope and expectation, you pack your baseball glove, a few articles of clothing, and off you go. It’s the first day of camp, and I’m tossing a baseball around with my new best friend we’ll call Michael Steinberg.  Life is sweet, care free, and all that you could possibly hope for, and then over the blaring camp loudspeaker, I hear, “Haksheevoo, Haksheevoo, Jerry Stein (not his real name), nah lavo l’bet am” (phonetic Hebrew for “Listen up, listen up, Jerry Stein, please come to the commons hall”(literally,”the people’s house”). A late 1950’s photo of the inside of that rustic building appears below with two of its camper painted murals).  I stopped tossing the ball, stopped moving, stopped breathing and, frozen in place, and said out loud, “what the heck was that?”  THAT was my first introduction to Camp Ramah, CT, where I spent the next 5 glorious summers. Camp Ramah is the Conservative Jewish/ Hebrew over-night camp for Jewish children and young adults. When I went, there were Camp Ramah sites in Connecticut, where I went, Massachusetts, Canada, PA, Wisconsin and possibly California. I was very fortunate. My parents could not afford to send me to 8 weeks of over-night camp, but my beloved Temple Emanuel in Paterson, gave me scholarships so I was able to go. That scholarship was funded by the Max Haubenstock Foundation, which was a Temple Emanuel entity that provided funds to the children of Temple members who were ‘deserving’ i.e. they were active in the Temple’s youth groups such as USY and LTF, regularly attended Shabbat services and could not afford to pay the camp fees. I was not the only one who received that honor, as other kids also received money from the Foundation. The Foundation continued to support me for 5 years. I was indeed very fortunate!

Camp Ramah was a co-ed institution with all the regular activities offered by most other camps–sports, arts and crafts, 3 squares a day (more about the meal experience later) , swimming and other water activities in the Salmon River, night-time programs (co-ed!), bunk beds, remote showers, friends and mail call. On a day with nice weather we might elect to go on a nature walk (“tiyul teva”) in the woods or perhaps hike into the nearby town of Moodus and maybe get some treats not sold in the canteen.

Did you ever play baseball and call it “kadur basis,”or basketball and call it “kadur sol,” and football, and call it kadur regel. Ever have an ump yell out “achtaah” when the pitch was right down the middle? Well, we did, and we came to love it.

The meal setting was familiar–10 kids sitting around a table, eating as much as they wanted. But what followed the meal was something completely different, and something that I never experienced. Not only did a designated camper say the “berkat hamazone” (grace after meals), but there followed the expected “announcements” –IN HEBREW! I came to miraculously understand those announcements after a very short time.

During the day we did morning prayers (“shacharit”), we played sports, did some arts and crafts, and had classes–yes classes(“keetot”) in Hebrew! On Friday nights, and Saturday mornings, we dressed in our freshly laundered and starched “white ducks” and had religious services. On Saturday nights there was “havdalah” around the swimming pool.

It’s hard to believe that I chose to return to Camp Ramah again and again–5 summers in all, including the last spent in Israel, when I was 17.I did this all voluntarily and happily. Those summers were great, memorable and truly life changing. To this day (I am 70) I am somewhat fluent in Hebrew. I made some great friendships and cherish the time that I spent at Camp Ramah.

Alan Peck, Executive Board member of the JHSNJ

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Camper’s painted murals inside the “Beit Am”

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The inside of the “Beit Am” – movies were shown here, roller skating, religious services, and meetings took place as well.

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Saul Wachs, then the division head of “Aydah Aleph”, the youngest camper grouping, standing in front of one of our rustic bunks. Today Saul is the Rosaline B. Feinstein Professor of Education and Liturgy and Chair of the Education Department at Gratz College. Dr. Wachs is also the Director of the Ed.D. program.

July 2016

Our newsletters are currently being written by a revolving group of Board members and guest writers drawn from our membership list. We encourage readers who wish to submit prospective future newsletters to do so. Topics can range from neighborhoods, businesses, camps, or community centers and could include family memories or personal experiences you have had in the north Jersey area. Andy Zettler, a member of the Executive Board of the JHSNJ, has written our July 2016 newsletter.

Ahhh summer….You finally finish the school year and now you must wait the few long days or maybe a few weeks till camp finally begins!

I learned a long time ago, that even though I loved school and eventually became a teacher, that school only served as a bridge that got you to CAMP.  And I LOVED camp!

Whether you went to Camp Veritans, Camp Belle, Brae Bank, Spring Lake, Knights, Blue Rill, Ramaquois, Deer Kill, Penners, Harbor Hills, Tween Trails, Teen Trails, Indian Trails, Ramah, New Jersey Y Camps, the list is endless, you must still have fond memories of your years in camp.  The bus rides, camp songs, new friends, old friends, swim lessons, arts and crafts, nature walks, sports, sports and yes, more sports.

There were music lessons, camp shows, overnights, “undernights,” the carnival and, of course, the food.  Did you like the Spanish rice? Open grilled cheese with the slice of tomato on top?  How about fish sticks? That’s where I learned to put potato chips on my tuna sandwich, way before Bobby Flay decided to crunchify his burgers!  And if you didn’t like the hot food, there was always the standby of peanut butter and jelly on the table – it seemed nobody had allergies back then!

My reference is Camp Veritans and Teen Trails, both as a camper and then as a counselor.  My first recollection was following my sisters onto the camp bus and nervously sitting not knowing what to expect.  My friend Marilyn from around the corner was there too, a pro having started in July, whereas I was an August camper.

The bus went up 8th Avenue in Paterson to another stop and walking onto the bus were some other seasoned campers including Gayle, who would eventually become one of my lifelong friends.  We sang songs all the way to camp…. “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, Miss Lucy, Noah, etc….” and always hoped our bus would be the first to arrive!

When you think of learning how to swim, was it at camp?  Perhaps it was at the Y during the winter months?  Well, at camp you were greeted by the head of the waterfront, the Adonis-looking Larry Schwartz – always tall, tan and handsome!  When we found out that Larry was one of our bunkmates’ fathers, we had to start looking at him in a different way!  There was Ida, the short brash assistant director with a very loud whistle.  And there was Marcy Chrisman, the coolest swim instructor turned counselor, who taught us the rain song sitting on the corner of 8th Avenue and E. 25th Street waiting for the bus!  And through the years, as the faces changed to Phil, Frank, Janet, Ike, Sue Ann, Alan, Linda, Elana and even my son, Ben, you still didn’t get out of camp without having achieved a red, blue, yellow or white cap or, later on, a wristband.

There were softball games, baseball games, and kickball games. Also, camper vs. counselor games, leagues and tournaments.  How many of you broke a finger or two playing tetherball or volley ball?  How about bunk ball on the rainy days?  Even playing jacks on the bathhouse floor was pretty cool.

Then there were the camp romances… Holding hands on the bus, sneaking up to the last bunk in Unit G, camper-counselor crushes, campers watching the budding romances of counselors, or later on, after becoming a counselor myself, having that thrill of a summer romance….  Who would last, who wouldn’t?  I am happy to report there are many camp marriages still going strong, 30, 40 and dare I say 50 years later!

Through my many years at camp there were names that bring back fond memories for many of us as these people were not only our counselors and fellow campers, but also our mentors and friends.  As a Camp Veritans counselor who worked with the older campers, I moved on to Teen Trails and again spent summers with some of those same campers, with whom I’ve since reconnected with on Facebook . They often tell me things they remember from our years together at camp.

In dropping a few more names, how many do you remember?  Morris Pachman, Bill Lee, Gabby Weiss, Moe Liss, Bev Solinsky, George Tepper, Eddie Brown, Dave Fox and his guitar, Rhona Bluestein, Frannie Bluestein, Bram Bluestein, Belle, Jack, Gilda, Alan U., Alan M., Alan and Andrea, Lynn and Rick, Gayle and Rich, Teddy, Jeff, Arthur, Jerry, Larry C. and Larry R., Rhonda, Amy, Lee Ann, Mike and Michael and many more Richards and Debbies, and of course, Lenny Levy.  The list goes on and on.

So, dear old Camp Veritans, also known as my favorite place in the whole wide world up until the present day,  looks essentially the same.  There are a few buildings which have changed from industrial white to bright colors, and some cabins have been replaced because the termites liked them as much as we did, but everything is basically just how you remember it.  The mud hole was replaced in the late 50’s by a beautiful in ground cement pool, the mess hall is the same and those bathhouses are pretty much the same.

What isn’t the same?  The Veritans Men Club, formed in the 1920’s as a place for Jewish men to be together when other clubs restricted them, still own and operate the camp. They have moved into the 21st century and now The Veritans Club is open to women.

What else is the same?  The memories that thousands of us growing up in Paterson, Fair Lawn, Elmwood Park, Wayne and other surrounding towns, all have from spending our summers in a secluded little part of Haledon, below the shadows of William Paterson University.  Generations are still sending their children there for a summer filled with fun and making new memories of their own.

Submitted by that life-long camp lover, Andrea Peres Zettler, member of the Executive Board of the JHSNJ

* Some of my favorite Camp Veritans pictures appear below.

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August 2016

Our newsletters are currently being written by a revolving group of Board members and guest writers drawn from our membership list. We encourage readers who wish to submit prospective future newsletters to do so. Topics can range from neighborhoods, businesses, camps, or community centers and could include family memories or personal experiences you have had in the north Jersey area. Barry Citrin, a volunteer at the JHSNJ and  a member of our Advisory Board, has written our August 2016 newsletter.

My name is Barry Citrin and I was one of the thousands of Jewish immigrant children that settled in Paterson after the Holocaust. In 1939 at the age of 19, my father Abe Citrin escape Nazi occupied Lodz, Poland and smuggled himself into Russia. Little did he know when he left Poland, it was to be the last time he would see his parents and sister. He eventually found his way to Kazakhstan (then part of Russia) where he met his future bride, Dora Brill (my mother of blessed memory) and where I was born in 1945. After the War, we were lucky that the Russians let us return to Poland, but things in Poland for returning Jews were terrible. Towns were destroyed and there were pogroms and ramped up anti-Semitism. Dad decided to take the family illegally to Germany with hopes of eventually going to either the British mandated territory of Palestine(the future state of Israel) or the US.   My brother Willie was born in occupied Germany and when we came to the U.S. my sister Rita was born in North Carolina.

We came to Paterson in 1951 thanks to the help of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society). The cousin who sponsored us found an apartment in a two-family house on Harrison Street near the Graham Estates. There I played and assimilated with the “American” Jewish kids but also kept close to the “green horns” (new immigrants kids). The “greenhorns” on my block and on nearby Fulton Place all had a common bond. They had Holocaust survivors as parents, European backgrounds, spoke Yiddish at home, and ate real European-style Jewish food. Their parents instilled in them our Jewish culture, traditions and values. They sent their kids to either a Yiddish or Hebrew school. I first went to The Yiddish School at the Labor Lyceum Workmen’s Circle which was located on Carroll Street near Public School #6 and then I went to The Hebrew Free School on Broadway. Thanks to my parents and my schooling, I still retain enough to understand Yiddish but more important I was taught and still retain my Yiddishkeit.

Most of the newly immigrant parents went through many hardships and made enormous sacrifices for their kids. The early years for their children in this modern ghetto were not easy; but, I do recall them as being relatively happy. As time progressed, most immigrant families melded into their new society. They worked hard during the day and went to night school to learn English and citizenship so they could become American citizens. They learned new trades and starting new businesses. As they became more prosperous they moved to better and more upscale neighborhoods.

In 1957 my family ‘moved on up’ to the “Eastside”.  Dad bought a two-family house on East 33rd St between 18th and 19th Avenue. It was a new and somewhat scary time for me. Although by then my English was pretty good, I was set to enroll in Public School # 20 which had a higher standard and was more difficult than Public School # 6. I also had to make new friends and had to attend a different Hebrew school in preparation for my bar-mitzvah. Luckily I fit in well at School # 20, made many new friends, and, thanks to the patience of the late Rabbi Charles (“Chas.”) Tannenbaum at The Eastside Hebrew Center, I managed to complete my haftarah and got thru my bar-mitzvah with flying colors.

Like many immigrant kids of the day, I always had a summer and an after school job. I delivered the Paterson Morning Call and the Paterson Evening News by bike and also delivered groceries and stocked shelves at the Quality Grocery on Park Ave. located near the A&P. I worked as a chicken flicker at “Mayer and Sid”, the kosher butcher shop on Vreeland Ave. and later, when I got my driver’s license, I made deliveries for Saltzman’s Drug Store located on 10th Avenue.

My teen years on East 33rd Street, although difficult, were in hindsight “the good old days”. Thirty-Third Street, in the late 50’s, was a magical place for kids. My block had many two and three-family houses with each house having 3 to 5 kids. The street was teaming with kids, especially during the evening hours of summer. It was easy to start a stickball game or play hide ‘n seek. All you had to do was to go outside, see who was around and pick sides. Our block became the hang out for all the surrounding neighborhoods. It drew in kids from the ‘Upper Eastside” (areas east of Vreeland Ave.) and kids from the 10th Ave neighborhood often drove their bikes to hang out on our block. At times there were so many kids on our street that it became a bit rowdy and on occasion we were visited by the police.

It is amazing how many of these kids grew up to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, writers, businessmen and pillars of their communities. I want to give tribute to all of those many Jewish immigrants who came out of the ashes of the Holocaust with nothing and not only made a new life for themselves but strived and succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Barry Citrin, JHSNJ volunteer and member of the JHSNJ Advisory Board

September 2016

Our newsletters are currently being written by a revolving group of Board members and guest writers drawn from our membership list. We encourage readers who wish to submit prospective future newsletters to do so. Topics can range from neighborhoods, businesses, camps, or community centers and could include family memories or personal experiences you have had in the north Jersey area. Jane Grubin, a volunteer at the JHSNJ  and a member of our Advisor Board, has written our September 2016 newsletter.

JHSNJ Passaic-Clifton Reception
On July 13, 2016, the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey held a reception for a number of stalwart attendees from Passaic and Clifton. Walking into the lobby all were greeted by photographs reflective of Jewish life in Passaic and Clifton from the early 1900’s onward. How many faces were recognized by those present! How many memories came to the fore! How much “Jewish Geography” was played! Instantly, people were drawn in.

Once in the conference room, Society President Richard Polton welcomed all and gave an overview on what we are trying to accomplish vis à vis organizing the collection into a cohesive resource for future reference.

I, a volunteer from Passaic, spoke of how just seeing one photo of my grandfather Max Gurtman whet my appetite for more. I spoke of the Passaic “Y” and the first shul in Passaic, Congregation B’nai Jacob, and how all of those present were products of those early institutions. I spoke of an article in the “Y” paper, the Booster Bulletin, and how it mentioned my cousin Marty Cohen’s dad and his business selling “Squirt.” [Marty Cohen was originally from Passaic and married Fern LaPoff from Paterson, and they now live in California. He’s been my “go-to” person for identifying a certain generation from Passaic (I send him photos)]. The December 1941 edition of the paper mentions “Our Boys in the Service,” sporting events, classes, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, cultural/religious/social offerings, and a building drive. The Booster Bulletin was the Passaic “Y’s” mirror on the Jewish community in Passaic at the time, and many in attendance could recognize names mentioned therein. What the Jewish community in Passaic-Clifton is today, with its rebirth of Orthodoxy, is nonetheless a direct result of the movers and shakers, the men and women of vision, of the early 20th century.

Ina Cohen Harris, Board member and volunteer from Paterson, spoke of her relatives in Passaic and what drew her to the Society. Her tenure here has been marked by enthusiasm for the past and a desire to present the communities’ accomplishments to the future.

Joy Kurland, the Society’s Executive Director, proudly spoke of her path to the JHSNJ and of the “timeline project.” Joy told those present of the grant the Society has received to create a timeline showing the birth of the Jewish Community in Passaic County and beyond. The timeline  will cite founding fathers of businesses and religious organizations, the tireless workers who established businesses to accommodate the needs of the times, those who organized and established burial societies, hospitals, and Jewish community centers, as well as  those whose philanthropy can still be seen, after over a century, in the towns in which they lived.

After everyone had introduced themselves and spoke of the reason/s for which they attended, it was suggested that their involvement would be much appreciated in the areas of program, our yearly gala, membership drives, recruitment of volunteers, fundraising, or publicity.  These topics were discussed over refreshments and in between reminiscences.

It is our great hope that everyone who attended the evening’s reception will  step up and join us for what promises to be an eye-opening, memory-filled, and happy (all the volunteers are so very friendly!) time. In the merit of those who came before us and enabled us to have such a great time at our Y, in Passaic, in Clifton, in our shuls, in our delis – VOLUNTEER! You’ll be so glad you did!

Jane Grubin, volunteer and JHSNJ Advisory Board member

Photo on the left is Congregation Bnai Jacob on Washington Place in Passaic where it all began……The photo on the right is a copy of the front page of the December 1941 Booster Bulletin published by the Y.M. & Y.W.H.A. of Passaic. The complete edition resides in the JHSNJ archives.

October 2016

Our newsletters are currently being written by a revolving group of Board members and guest writers drawn from our membership list. We encourage readers who wish to submit prospective future newsletters to do so. Topics can range from neighborhoods, businesses, camps, or community centers and could include family memories or personal experiences you have had in the north Jersey area. Richard Polton, President of the JHSNJ, has written our October 2016 newsletter.

As we look forward to the New Year, we can report that the Jewish Historical Society has become an increasingly vibrant center of activity and repository of local Jewish History. The Board and Volunteers are active on a wide range of fronts and hope this letter will outline some of our priorities and encouragement.

Our first and most important goal is to get our own house in order. We are far more organized and available than ever before. Our volunteers are truly remarkable, providing the backbone for all we do. They have done a fantastic job of organizing and cataloguing our growing collection, as well as welcoming guests and researchers.  Without their participation, we would be lost.

Our current archivist, Miriam Spectre, has decided to move on to full time work; therefore, we are interviewing candidates with the challenge of taking her place. Miriam has earned all of our appreciation and we wish her good things in her new position. Martin Feitlowitz has been leading our effort to put together our first exhibit, a timeline of Jewish history in northern New Jersey and we expect the first phase of that exhibit to be on view before the end of the calendar year. You will certainly hear more about that in the weeks ahead. The Board and volunteers have scheduled a visit to the Center for Jewish History on West 16th Street in New York City in November for a ‘behind the scenes’ look at their operation in order to make ourselves more knowledgeable and professional. We also expect to have a great time as well.

Programming is taking shape under the direction of Joy Kurland, our part-time Executive Director. This will be a growing priority and there are many ideas being discussed for educational and cultural programming. As these ideas are firmed up, we will be inviting you to a variety of events that we are certain will have widespread support and interest in the community.

Our most ambitious and important efforts are the long term plan to truly become the Jewish Historical Society of northern New Jersey in deed as well as in name. While our organization’s roots are in Paterson, the oldest and largest Jewish community in the area, our future will be to serve as a regional historical society. We took an important first step over the summer by creating a council on Passaic’s Jewish Community that is now an important part of our organization. Over twenty attended the first meeting and Jane Grubin has involved dozens of Passaic history buffs in our group’s mission.While Passaic is surely an important addition, we have even wider ambitions. Our group’s letterhead says that we are the Jewish Historical Society serving Passaic, Bergen and Hudson County and we intend to make that more than a slogan. Miriam Gray, one of our long time leaders and educators, recently held an informational talk at Temple Emanuel in Bayonne, New Jersey. Her talk sparked enormous interest and we will follow up in the hope of creating a Bayonne council as well. In addition, we are reaching out to Jewish congregations and leaders in Jersey City, Teaneck, and other communities in our area.

We know that every synagogue, Jewish fraternal or community organization, has one or more individuals who are fascinated by the history of their group. We urge those people to contact us and help fulfill our collective mission of preserving our heritage for future generations. We need those special individuals involved because we now have the resources to store, catalogue and display records and stories.We aspire to be the organization that can display information concerning the famous sons and daughters of Bayonne, the Jewish Cub Scout packs, the Workmans’ Circle chapters, the Zionist organizations, the secular Jewish groups, the sisterhood recipe books, the fraternal group outing pictures, etc. that make the history of our area so vibrant.

Help us fulfill our important mission – most importantly with your participation! We might add that we need  your financial support as well.

All of our best for a healthy, prosperous and historical New Year.

Richard Polton, President  of the JHSNJ

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November 2016

Our newsletters are currently being written by a revolving group of Board members and guest writers drawn from our membership list. We encourage readers who wish to submit prospective future newsletters to do so. Topics can range from neighborhoods, businesses, camps, or community centers and could include family memories or personal experiences you have had in the north Jersey area. Richard Polton, President of the JHSNJ, has written our November 2016 newsletter.

Thanksgiving Memories
“All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Leo Tolstoy

To paraphrase Tolstoy –

All Paterson Family Thanksgiving celebrations resemble one another, each Jewish family celebrates in its own ‘meshugina’ way.

As the Thanksgiving season rolls around, ‘memories of a child’s Thanksgiving in Paterson’ abound. As I recall some of my recollections (some liberties taken, of course) of my family’s practices, they may remind you of some of your family’s traditions and memories. If so, email them to us for inclusion in our next newsletter.

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Thanksgiving Day was among the most highly anticipated days of the year. It seemed to sneak up on you slowly. Summer was long over, we were back at school and the Jewish holidays were over and done with. ‘Goosey Night’ and Halloween had come and gone and there wasn’t much candy left. Days got darker. School was no longer new and you realized that it was going to be a long year with a teacher who might be painful. You couldn’t play outside after school anymore and waiting for the number 54 Bus to take you downtown to the ‘Y’ was a cold long wait. It continued to get darker and darker every day.

Just when the harsh reality of late fall was sinking in, the joy and pleasure a four day weekend filled with eating and family time appeared on the horizon. Of course, it was a day when no one had to work and could spend the morning having fun and the late afternoon at the family feast. It was a universal favorite. Many things made it appealing — the food orientation, no gifts, full inclusion of everyone in our little world in the Eastside neighborhood. No one was left out. The only pressure was on the waist band on my chinos.

Weeks before the holiday, the school activities would begin, starting the build-up to Thanksgiving. We would make cut-out turkeys with that colored art class paper and hang them all over the room. Then we constructed Pilgrim Hats or Pilgrim Bonnets, with more of that colored art class paper. Finally we learned Thanksgiving songs for music ‘assemblies’ with one of the teachers banging away on the school piano in the assembly hall. This was still the era when we said the Lord’s Prayer every morning. We sang Pilgrim hymns. Picture dozens of Jewish kids singing “Faith of Our Fathers – Holy Faith, We Will Be True to You in Death” in the school assembly hall. It was that way all over town.

Finally, the big day would arrive.
When I was little (say under 8), there was the possibility of going into New York City in the morning to see the Macy’s Parade. In those days, if there was TV coverage, it was pretty lame and didn’t get much attention. It was a day to experience the real thing. I went into the City once or twice although it is a blurred memory and I might be remembering events I want to remember. I recall that the streets along the route would be packed and I was too heavy to hold on my dad’s shoulders. Getting across Broadway was about impossible. Not being able to see over the crowd simply would not work.

For a Paterson family with a kid, there was a simple solution – find some indoor location where you could watch the parade in the comfort of a heated office building. Like most Patersonians of a certain era, everybody knew someone who had a connection with a firm in the garment center. This was the case with our family too. In my case, my great Uncle Sol lived in New York and had connections somewhere with someone and he made the arrangements to get us into the upper floor of a garment center building overlooking the parade route. I remember getting into an old fashioned elevator and arriving at an upper floor in time to look down on the floats and marching bands from an upper floor window. Just as intriguing, however, were the mannequins and sewing machines in the workshops adjoining the old fashioned offices.There was a somewhat spooky character to it all and I worried that the mannequins were about to come to life while I watched the parade. It was a bit overwhelming but fun nonetheless.

As I got a little older, the parade was strictly little kid stuff. It was a day to watch the football game. Each year, we were off to see the Eastside-Central football game at the famous Hinchliffe Stadium. Again, in the early years, it was a family affair and I would go with my dad, uncle and cousin to see the two teams compete in their ‘one game season’. The excitement was contagious. We would have to park what seemed like miles away from the stadium in the mill area off of Spring Street and then wind our way into the field through the packed city streets. The sidewalks were jammed with fans streaming into the stadium. When we arrived, Central HS rooters, with their black and red ribbons, would sit on the far end of the ‘U’. Eastsiders, with blue and orange, of course, would sit on the east. The Stadium would fill to near capacity of 10,000 fans.

The marching bands’ drums would echo throughout the stadium; dignitaries would be introduced and finally, the teams would take to the field. The wooden seats were uncomfortable in the chilly air. Hot chocolate was available. I was warned that eating a hot dog would ruin my appetite. It didn’t. The whole neighborhood showed up to watch the game. No, it must have been the whole city that showed up. The games were competitive. The bands were fun to watch and the cheerleaders were often more captivating than the football game or anything else on the field, at least to a ten year old boy like me…..

Now, it was time to head home to get ready for the main event, Thanksgiving dinner. In the earliest years of my memory, dinner was at Grandma Sadie and Grandpa Ben’s. Sadie was an excellent, traditional cook and would prepare a formal presentation. It took time and Sadie couldn’t be rushed. The kids would wait until dinner in the living room (the one day a year we were allowed there), sitting on the impenetrable plastic covers over the love seats and sofas, warned to not spill anything on the plush white carpet. The carpet runners insured we never touched anything woolen. We would play with Ben’s Magnavox Hi-Fi listening to show music, taking down his library of Readers Digest Condensed Best Sellers or the Harvard Classics that we opened for the first time since they arrived at East 37th Street.

Sadie would set a wonderful table for Thanksgiving. It was strictly her best china, crystal glasses, and sterling silver table decorations. This was the full show. Her cooking was memorable and would include all the American classics – Turkey, a sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, stuffing with chestnuts, string bean casserole, etc. Being from Lodz, she preferred sweet to salty; at least that’s the way my mother explained it to me. That’s simply the way she cooked and it worked well.

The bread and baked goods came from Meir’s Bakery (not a Jewish bakery!) on Park Avenue up a few doors from Sunshine’s Deli and set among the local markets, pharmacies, and hair dressers. I loved their white bread that had a great crust and lots of flavor. Their cinnamon bread was classic. The meal would end with a number of pies, both store-bought and homemade.

Families being families, there were underlying tensions poking through the carbohydrate haze of the Thanksgiving feast. I’ve repressed most of them or more likely they went way over my head. I was content to focus on the great food, the warm setting and the chance to be with people who really enjoyed a celebration while talking about politics, business and the local events. The conversation usually revolved around events in Paterson. Who was doing well or not so well; where to get the best ingredients for the dinner; how delicious the food was etc. After reliving the afternoon’s game and talking about the family businesses I would go home exhausted and it would take a few days to recover.

In subsequent years the Thanksgiving setting changed for our family. My mom took over hosting the dinners, keeping up many of my grandmother’s traditions and adding many more of her own. Then it was our turn for a decade or two. For the past few years, the Thanksgiving meal is now being celebrated at my daughter’s home where many descendants of the Paterson crowd now gather. We now in the fifth generation that celebrates together, something I know would make all of our grandparents and parents proud and happy. Thanksgiving remains one of the great days of the year for all of us.

However much I love going to my daughters’ and being with grandchildren of my own – and I love it a lot – my memories of Thanksgiving take me back to the old neighborhood that was filled with the vibrancy of those days and to my own grandparents and extended family who still live on in my memories.

So on this Thanksgiving, enjoy a wonderful holiday. Think back to the community that shaped you. And, while you’re doing that, let’s hope that Eastside beats Central so we can once again cruise around town blowing our horns in celebration of our coveted victory!

Richard Polton, President, Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey

The above image on the left is the 1962 (Paterson) Eastside H.S. football team and the image on the right is the 1953 program guide to the Eastside vs. Central Thanksgiving day game.

“We’re going to set the earth reverberating…….”

December 2016

Our newsletters are currently being written by a revolving group of Board members and guest writers drawn from our membership list. We encourage readers who wish to submit prospective future newsletters to do so. Topics can range from neighborhoods, businesses, camps, or community centers and could include family memories or personal experiences you have had in the north Jersey area. Norman Katz, a 90 year old former Patersonian now living in Tucson, AZ and a member of the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey has written our December 2016 newsletter.
Some of my Recollections –
It’s a stretch at 90 years of age to recall events exactly as they happened seventy or eighty years ago, yet somehow there are events, insignificant or memorable, that remain with us forever. Following are a few of the former and a couple of the latter that may offer a snapshot of that era, prior to my teens and into high school.

It was about 1938, labor unions and strikers were common fodder in the newspapers. Strikers were shown marching back and forth wearing signs, front and back, listing their complaints. I decided to join their ranks. Wearing shirt cardboards front and back that said “This house is unfair to boys “, I marched back and forth on our front sidewalk clanging together two garbage can covers as loudly as I could. When a neighbor stopped by and told my mother {Sue} about her striking son, strike over, mother and sisters win, son loses. It just shows the influence newspapers wielded before the electronic era, on pre-teens no less. Do pre-teens read newspapers today?

My family moved from NYC to Paterson about 1930, first living on Fair Street, then to E.29th Street off 11th Ave, then on to the fast growing east side of Paterson, {on E.41st Street},near the Passaic River. So new, in fact, that I watched E. 42nd Street excavated, paved and signed. At that time I became interested in the cub scouts and my parents enrolled me and bought me the nifty blue uniform I could hardly wait to wear. Alas, it was not to be. A couple of days later I tangled with a couple of neighborhood boys after they called me a ‘dirty Jew.’ It turned out they were the sons of my soon to be scout leader who lived just two houses away! My mom, born on the lower east side of NYC wasn’t shy; she telephoned our scouting neighbor and despite his apologies and denials, she had me removed from the roster. That was my first anti Semitic encounter.

I had my Bar Mitzvah in 1939 at the Temple Emanuel in Paterson. To this day I think of Temple Emanuel as the most beautiful house of worship I have ever been in. I am thankful that the stained glass windows still exist {albeit stored elsewhere today}. I remember standing behind the pulpit giving my speech. I had previously noticed that when the Rabbi gave his sermon he sometimes paused and looked around at the congregation and the silence was deafening. I decided to mimic the Rabbi and marked my speech in a couple of places to pause and look around just as he did. At my first pause I heard a gasp from a woman in the congregation. It was my mother who had thought I had forgotten my speech! From that point on, with an eye on my mother, it was non-stop till the end. My Bar Mitzvah celebration was at the S&Z kosher restaurant at the corner of Church Street and Broadway. The menu consisted of a relish tray, salad, soup and a full chicken dinner with dessert for $2.50. That was probably expensive at the time…I still have the menu.

After my Bar Mitzvah it was on to Eastside High School. There were no yellow chariots to chauffeur students back and forth back then; we relied on shoe leather or public transportation. For me it was either the #38 or the #54 bus on Vreeland Ave. Most students enrolled in the classical course and went on to college. A smaller percentage took commercial courses. During the war years a good many of the fellows went into the service after graduating. After a term at Ohio State I also enlisted. I recall going into Driscoll & Zimmerman’s luncheonette across the street from Eastside. I was kind of nervous because it was an upperclassman’s hangout and I was a lower classman, but I wanted to hear President Roosevelt declare war on our enemies. There was an unreal intensity inside as the President spoke on the radio. Not long afterwards, I read in the local papers that a serviceman with the last name of Platt was the first soldier killed from the Paterson area. His family lived on 20th Avenue and I had passed his house on the way to the bus stop. The war had come home and I really felt sorry for the Platt family whenever I went by. Later, I learned that the Platt’s were Jewish. {editor’s note – The Jewish War Veterans – Lieutenant James I. Platt Post #651 was named in Platt’s honor}. During the war years there were no cars on campus, nor were there parking lots for them. Green grass and flowers abounded. A trip around Eastside High today will give you the answer to “Where have all the flowers gone?”

Finally, I would like to pay tribute to Allen Ginsberg, one of about ten or twelve of us who used to hang out together at Eastside. He wrote a poem in my 1943 yearbook, “Ode to Katz” that was featured on PBS’s Antique Roadshow last March. It had been in my closet for 73 years and was appraised on the show for $10,000 to $15,000. It’s still in my closet!

Norman Katz, JHSNJ member

The image on the left was my house at 461 E.41st Street in Paterson and the image on the right were the real strikers in 1930’s Paterson!

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