Newsletter – 2018

January 2018

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. Selwyn Jacobs, a JHSNJ member, has written our January 2018 newsletter.

Paterson’s Jewish War Veterans

Listening and reading all the current tributes to former servicemen and women who served our country during times of war, it seems appropriate to have listed in the JHSNJ archives, those Jewish men and women from Paterson who served their country with some having made the supreme sacrifice. Obviously I cannot name all those who served in WWI, WWII, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam and the Middle East conflicts. I would like to submit those I knew and remember basically through WWII and the Korean Conflict and encourage any person who has names not mentioned, to submit same to the JHSNJ. This hopefully will reach out to other cities that have their own veterans.

By the way, the respect and tributes being rendered, in my opinion, are long overdue since I can personally state that after spending 3 years in the army during the Korean Conflict, it actually took over 50 years to get a “thank you” which prompted me to write this newsletter.

The following are those I knew and remember and my apology to any not herein mentioned. I hope this newsletter will encourage others to submit names to be remembered. With that in mind, I wish to list the following:
WWI – Ben Jacobs, army
WWII – “Coach” Abe Arnowitz, army; Marty Bernstein, army; Bernie Braverman, army; Herb Braverman, army; Bert Bressler, Army Air Force; Hy Eisman, army; Harold Feldman, navy; Len Friedman, army; Arnold Frost, army; Happy Gottlieb, army; Alvin Greenbaum, army; “Coach” Lou “Red” Grower, army; Sandy Jacobs, army; Les Kravitz, Army Air Force; Senator Frank Lautenberg, army; Irving Libert, Army Air Force; Sidney Libert, army; Hy Miller, army; Ben Miller, army; Dick Nachimson, Coast Guard; Marvin Resnick, army; Irving Rifkin, navy; Ben Rosenzweig, army; Bernie Saltzman, army; Lou Sirota, navy.
Korean Conflict – Stanley Blake, army; Julius Corn, army; Dan Epstein, army; Max Friedman, marines; Jerry Gelfand, army; Bill Goldberg, army; Bob Gray, army; Selwyn Jacobs, army; Alan Kessler, navy; Sid Opper, army; Marty Rittenberg, navy; Jack Rosenbloom, army; Sid Shapiro, army.
Once again, it is my hope that there are those who will submit additional names of veterans to the JHSNJ for inclusion in its archives.

Selwyn Jacobs, member of the JHSNJ

d3b1fb7f-99ec-4390-939a-7b438ba82c22

Selwyn’s newsletter brings to light the fact that the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam “Police Action” were, for years, thought of as America’s ‘forgotten wars’. That perception has slowly been changing with the building of the Korean and Vietnam war memorials in Washington, D.C. Ken Burns’ PBS documentaries have also helped us remember the sacrifices of our veterans. As you probably know, since 1973 our armed forces have been strictly voluntary. Nowadays, it is estimated that only 1% of Americans actually know someone serving in the armed forces which is quite a contrast to the time period that Selwyn served in the U.S. Army.

As a follow-up to Selwyn’s newsletter we went back into the JHSNJ archives and extracted some items we feel will be of interest to our readers.

At the annual meeting of the officers, directors and members of the YM-YWHA on 10/24/44, William Pinsker, the Executive Director of the ‘Y’ at that time, noted “the honor roll in the lobby of the ‘Y’ listed 2200 young men and women from our community that served in the war”. {WWII}

Editor’s note – In other publications that we have at the JHSNJ, each and every serviceman and woman are listed individually by name. The “Y” always welcomed area service personnel and regularly sent them packages and periodicals such as the ‘Bugle’ and ‘Criterion’. Many other well-earned benefits were also offered. Upon their return from active duty, every veteran received a six months free membership to the “Y”.

There are letters from service personnel and regular columns that appeared in the ‘Y’ Criterion (“Furlough Chatter”, “Jottings”,”Nutshell News” etc.)devoted to our service men and women. Samplings from 1944 appear below:

A WAC thanks the “Y” – somewhere in England – I wish to thank you all very much for the gift you have sent to me. I received it today and was elated with the contents of the box. It contained many small but very necessary articles and I appreciate every one of them. It was very thoughtful of you to remember me way over here in a strange land where such things like this bring me nearer to home. May we all have the opportunity to be there this time next year. Sgt. Beatrice B. Puch

********Buy War Bonds And Stamps********

2. Lt. Oliff Writes From Ship – December 25, 1943, Aboard Ship. Hello Folks: At present I am enjoying the oceanic beauty and sights of places that were mere geography until now. The first day aboard ship the funniest coincidence occurred, while standing on the main deck a fellow passed me that looked quite familiar and we both stopped and turned around and looked at each other quizzically for a moment, and believe it or not, it was Arthur Hartman, Radio Man 3/c U.S.C.G., who once we began to recall familiar incidents about home and the Sunday afternoon basketball league in which we both participated at the same time. Please note my new address and continue sending me your publications. Regards to all. Lt. Danny Oliff

*********Buy War Bond And Stamps ************

{Editor’s note: After the war, Danny Oliff opened a shade and window treatment store on Maple Avenue in Fair Lawn near the River Road intersection.}

3.misc.— “As Garry Smith writes us from India, Sa-laam A-Lai-Kum, friends – sound familiar? Sgt. Julian J. Katz has been promoted to Staff Sgt…. 2LT Irving R. Hirsch has recently been promoted to 1LT – what comes next Irv? Cadet Carl W. Glass has successfully completed the 11 week course at the U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School at Chapel Hill, N.C…..Home again fellas and how I’d like to see the rest of the PANTHERS. Things are quiet without you muggs, Cpl. Geo.”Tsatz” Infald…PFC Joe Rubenstein says “Hello to all SYACS and E.14th Street gang over in England: Butch, Bolia and Rube”

{and the personals and greetings go on and on………}-ed.

4. On the second anniversary of Pear Harbor – a letter from Sgt. Milton B. Bromberg to Mr. Albert {who was on the “Y” staff}: North Africa, December 7, 1943. Dear Mr. Albert – Like most every other American I was listening to the radio 2 years ago, in fact hearing a football game. It was a typical Sunday afternoon, with the family all gathered around, and after finishing dinner- when a brief terse announcement awoke us all from that usual lethargy one feels after putting away a big meal.

I don’t believe it is necessary to repeat that announcement. We are all familiar with it- but how it has altered all our lives. Gone was that “it’s not our war” feeling, for we had been stung- stung hard. We had been hit on our “home grounds” and we didn’t like it one bit. It was more than a threat to our American way of life. Now that threat has been answered and you can read about it in the headlines and hear about it over loudspeakers daily. From all walks of life, the laborer, the salesman, the businessman, the school boy, etc. answered that threat and answered it by fighting! History is now being written by them – men and boys alike who never had a warlike life. And now, 2 years later, let’s just pause and slowly take stock of what has been accomplished. Speaking for myself – as a Jew and a Patersonian now overseas close to 18 months, I would like to say a few words which might be of interest to you.

Without being melodramatic, I can truthfully say that the torch handed down to us is burning more brightly than ever. Not only as an American but as a Jew this has been our battle for survival – and in true American style we are fighting side by side with all races and nationalities, and in all corners of the earth… and while I am writing this, our President has just concluded conferences putting the remaining nails in the coffins of Hitler and Hirohito.

It hasn’t been an easy 2 years, but we never asked for the easy ways. Now we are roaring down the home stretch and I know that my friend, Sgt. Sidney Harris, who was killed in Bataan, did not hesitate to fight for the preservation of our way of life and as he looks down upon us he is smiling and says “well done”- and it must be well done for after the armistice is signed our battle has only begun. We must never have a recurrence of this struggle and I know that all us Patersonians overseas, as well as all of you back home, certainly stand together in pledging to Sgt, Harris, continued undying effort in seeing that the day will come when we can return to our original way of life so rudely suspended that Sunday afternoon 2 years ago today. Then, and then only can we acknowledge the “well done” handed down to us by Sidney Harris and all those other loyal companions who made this possible. Sincerely, Milton B. Bromberg, Sgt.

{a photo of Sgt.Bromberg appears below}-ed.

Sgt. Milton B. Bromberg

Sgt. Milton B. Bromberg.

February 2018

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. Mickey Levine, a member of the JHSNJ, has written our February 2018 newsletter.

Before I begin, you should know that one of the first things that a Jewish immigrant did upon arriving in America during earlier waves of immigration was to join a Jewish Burial Society or an association that had a cemetery. In this way if they passed away, they would be assured of being buried on hallowed ground. That phenomenon led to one of the best kept secrets of the Passaic/Bergen area, the Cemetery Association. As of today the Association owns, maintains and operates 15 old Jewish Cemeteries in Passaic & Bergen counties. The history of the organization began in the mid-1970’s when a group of leaders from the North Jersey Federation, along with some other members of the community, got together to figure a way to insure that Jewish Cemeteries would not become an eyesore in the community. They noticed that many of the old Jewish organizations in the area had established cemeteries but those organizations were steadily losing members. They felt there was a need to insure the upkeep and maintenance of those particular cemeteries.

All of the Jewish organizations in the area were invited to join the Association. There were many meetings held to try and convince every organization to join; however, when all was said and done, only seven organizations agreed to join the Cemetery Association. The original cemeteries were the Americus Oddfellows Lodge, the B’nai Shalom Lodge and Yanover Lodge in Saddle Brook, A.M. White Lodge and Stein –Joelson Lodge in Totowa, the Nathan & Miriam Barnert Organization and the Independent Passaic County Club in West Paterson (now known as Woodland Park). Over the years the Temple Emanuel Cemetery, the Workmen’s Circle # 121 & # 970 Cemeteries, the Ozerkower Benefit Society Cemetery, Congregation B’nai Israel Cemetery in Saddle Brook, Workmen’s Circle # 13 in Elmwood Park, the Independent United Jersey Verein Cemetery in West Paterson (Woodland Park), and the Congregation Ahavath Joseph Cemetery in Hawthorne have become part of the Association. The Association is now in the process of taking over the Yavneh Academy Cemetery in Saddle Brook and the Silk City Lodge Cemetery in West Paterson (Woodland Park). We believe that these two cemeteries will be a part of the Association by June 2018.

At its inception, the Association established a ‘Perpetual Care Fund’ which was funded in part by monies that the organizations held in their treasury prior to them coming into the Association. In addition, money was given by next of kin. As part of our policy we request that the perpetual care fee be paid prior to burial. This fund permits us to provide care to the cemeteries on a continuous basis. In addition to the basic care, the fund has permitted us to raise headstones which have fallen due to age or weather conditions. Moreover, the fund has permitted us to clean up a number of cemeteries that we have taken over so that we could restore them as necessary. For example, we replaced a wall on Mc Bride Ave in Woodland Park which was deemed to be unsafe by the town’s officials following a hurricane. On a few different occasions, the monies have enabled the Association to raise headstones in our cemeteries that were knocked down due to vandalism; and, in one instance, it enabled us to come to the aid of the community to cover the cost of raising headstones in a cemetery that was not even part of the Association.

As previously mentioned, we are in the process of taking over the Silk City Lodge Cemetery on Mc Bride Avenue in Woodland Park. Their members grew up in Paterson and established the cemetery; however, the organization has not functioned now in more than 15 years. We are now in the process of raising money from the community in order for us to take over that cemetery. There are many toppled stones there as a result of age and falling trees, stumps located in the middle of graves, overgrown trees and trees along the fence line that continue to come down, as well as badly leaning headstones which could fall at any point. All of these problems need to be dealt with in order to bring the cemetery back to its proper condition. The Federation has made a financial commitment to the Cemetery Association in its fundraising effort for this cemetery but it will cover only a portion of our needs.

While we are concentrating our fundraising efforts on the Silk City Cemetery refurbishment, we are also raising additional money to install footstones on 40 unmarked graves that exist in some of our cemeteries. We also need to remove large dead and dying trees and disintegrating concrete beds so that we can improve the look and safety of our cemeteries.

The question is always asked if these cemeteries are still functioning. The answer is most definitely ‘yes’. During the year, there are burials taking place on most of our cemeteries and we still have graves available for purchase. Since we are non-profit, our fees are quite reasonable.

We are continuing to improve and update our data base. We welcome inquiries from next of kin as to the cemetery and location of their relatives. Any questions can be made either by email to msl11@verizon.net , by phone to 973-784-3294 or 917-699-6057, or by mail to Cemetery Association, 701 Ford Road, Box# 5, Rockaway, NJ 07866. We are currently building a website with all the information on the Cemetery Association and its cemeteries.

The Association exists because of our belief that we have an obligation to take care of the final resting place of those who came before us. Over the coming years you will see us assuming control of additional cemeteries that were established by Jewish organizations and religious institutions which are no longer in existence. We welcome your participation.

Mickey Levine, Member of the JHSNJ

The two pictures below (left, right) are of the Silk City Cemetery.

The above left photo was taken at the Temple Emanuel Cemetery and the above right photo was taken at the Workman’s Circle 121 Cemetery.

We thank those who submitted the following additional names of local Jewish veterans in response to our January 2018 newsletter. – Joy Kurland, Executive Director, JHSNJ

WWI
Louis Jasper
WWII
Army – Nate Friedman (one-time Commander of VFW Post 139); Alvin Gallan; Dr. Alex Hochman; Bernard “Bernie” Neufeld (Pacific Theatre); Donald “Duddy” Neufeld (stateside); Harold “Hal” Neufeld (ETO; trials of German prisoners); Lewis Schwartz (KIA, Anzio Beach, Italy)
Navy – Sol Walkowitz
Army Air Force – Marvin L. Brawer (KIA);
Marine Corps – Phil Margel
Korea
Army- Murray Cohen; Eugene Licker
Navy – Lloyd Nussbaum; Herbert Gold
Air Force – Robert Brown
No branch listed: Robert “Bob” Lazerowitz
Vietnam
Army – Edward Hochman

March 2018

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. Merry Firschein, a member of our Executive Board, has written our March 2018 newsletter.

Ever since I joined the board of the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey in June 2017 many people have asked me what my connection is to Paterson. They’re curious as to how I just happened to show up at the December 2016 annual meeting.

Was I born in Paterson, they ask? Did I grow up there? “No,” I answer, “I have no connection to Paterson. I grew up in Wayne; however, I am connected to JHS in a different way.” At that point everyone is curious and I’m happy to tell about my very special link to the JHSNJ.

My mother, Sylvia Firschein, was the co-founder of the JHSNJ, along with Jerry Nathans. My mother was the librarian of the Charles & Bessie Goldman Judaica Library at the YM-YWHA of North Jersey, in Wayne, from the time the building opened in 1976 through 1986, when she left for another job. The Jewish Historical Society was founded, among other places, in my childhood home in Wayne, as my mother and Jerry would sit at our dining-room table and discuss and go over notes and try to create something tangible.

Why was the JHS created? Let me take one small step backwards. When the new YM-YWHA facility in Wayne opened in 1976, a room was set aside for a Judaic library and my mother was hired as its first librarian. My mother believed that a Jewish library should embrace all aspects of the Jewish cultural world – books, films, book reviews, and other programming.

As people began to patronize the library, my mother started to know people who would come from surrounding communities – or be brought by minibus from Paterson – she realized that the roots of the Jewish community in Passaic County ran very deep. Keeping that in mind, in 1977, my mother and Jerry started a project to record oral histories and written firsthand accounts of elderly Jewish Patersonians in order to preserve for future generations their reminiscences and tales of growing up in the Silk City and being a part of its huge Jewish community. Volunteers working in groups of two would visit those who wished to be interviewed in their homes.

At that time, an 80-year-old Patersonian could very well remember World War I and its effect on Paterson. That person could very well remember the Paterson Silk Strike of 1913 and its effects on his or her family. That person could recall family members working in mills and the birth of the labor movement. Those times were still within living memory. My mother believed that this history of the Jewish community was worth saving and archiving.

By 1980, at monthly board meetings of the Goldman Library Trustees, the Jewish Historical Society and its sister organization, the Jewish Genealogical Society of North Jersey, (which still meets monthly at the Y {now a YMCA} in Wayne), was on my mother’s agenda to be discussed as “adjunct groups” of the Library. Both groups met at the Charles Goldman Judaica Library. My mother organized volunteers who would come to the Library – just like volunteers who now come to the JHS offices in Fair Lawn – to organize photos and papers and other ephemera that the young JHS was receiving. My mother prepared a document, sort of like a ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ for all to follow, about how to create an archive of the Paterson Jewish community.

My mother was very proud of the work that the JHS was doing. At the June 1982 annual luncheon for library volunteers, my mother spoke about the young Jewish Historical Society. “This year, we take special pride in our Oral History Committee, which is preparing a display and brochure on the heritage of the Paterson Jewish community,” she told the group, which included the Y’s executive director, Jerry Okin. At the 1984 luncheon, she recognized the JHS volunteers, represented by Regina Brendzel and Reeva Isaacs, “for being concerned with and being active in preserving the very colorful history of the Paterson Jewish community.”

In December 1983, my mother was interviewed for an article in The Bergen Record about the beginnings of the JHS, the name chosen for this oral history project. “I view the preservation of this material as a way that present generations can pay their debt to the past,” she told the Record reporter. “This archive is a way of recapturing the past and showing its relevance to the future.” At that time, the collection included about 60 oral reminiscences on tape. Those are now safe in our JHSNJ archives.

She told the newspaper reporter that one of the JHS volunteers had stumbled on a priceless item – a photograph taken in 1913 of children of Paterson silk strikers, which led to a reunion of the children at the new Botto House, home of the American Labor Museum, in Haledon.

Every year, my mother would make a presentation on behalf of the library at the YMHA’s annual meeting. In April 1985 she spoke to the Y’s board about the many programs at the library. She said: “Special activities of the library include: The Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey. We have 100+ oral histories of Patersonians; a history of the Paterson Jewry pamphlet is in progress; we have a very active speaker’s bureau including most of the Society’s members.” That small booklet is now safely stored in our archives.

After my mother left her position as librarian at the Goldman Library in 1986 she continued as chairman of the Library Committee until 1999 at which time my parents moved to Florida.My mother died suddenly in 2011 and I am now going through all her papers and files. My mother kept many of her notes about the JHS’s early days.

I am honored to be a part of the Jewish Historical Society, following through on my mother’s work and dedication to the Jewish community of Paterson – and now the greater Jewish community of Passaic, Bergen, and even Hudson counties. I look forward to assisting the JHSNJ in working on its archives and preserving these important memories.

Merry Firschein, Executive Board member of the JHSNJ

mail (1)

Sylvia Firschein with a library volunteer.

mail

Max Atkins library volunteer presents a check to Sylvia for Friends of The Library on January 1983.

mail (2)

The photo above was taken at the Paterson Museum on 1/19/1983 regarding an exhibit of the history of the Paterson Jewish community. Left to right – Sylvia Firschein, Jerry Nathans, Tom Peters, Reeva Isaacs.

April 2018

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. Elizabeth Weber Handwerker, a member of the JHSNJ, has written our April 2018 newsletter.

My grandparents, Joe and Anita (Straus) Weber, met as students at Eastside High School in Paterson. I never met my grandmother—she died before I was born—and I barely knew my grandfather. There are a great many questions I wish I could ask them, but since I cannot ask them, I hope that some readers of this newsletter might be able to answer these questions for me.

My grandfather graduated from Eastside High School in June 1935, a few weeks after his 16th birthday. His parents had immigrated to the US from Lithuania around 1911, or so they told the census taker, and they spoke Yiddish at home (his name was Yonach until he entered school. While there, school officials insisted on a more “American” name, and his mother chose Joseph instead of Jonah). What schools would he have attended before Eastside? What grades did he skip in order to graduate from high school so early, and how common was this at the time?

Following his family through successive censuses, the Webers lived on North 1st St, then on Benson Street (which no longer exists), and his high school yearbook said he was living on Fulton Place by 1935. I’m told his family was quite devout, but I have no idea if they were associated with any synagogue or landsmen shaft society. I’ve heard that my grandfather attended the Patterson Talmud Torah, but I have no idea what he would have studied in the Talmud Torah, and how many of his afterschool hours he would have spent there. If you can tell me anything about the Paterson Talmud Torah in those years, I’d love to hear about it. At Eastside my grandfather Joseph was enrolled in the “Mechanical Arts” curriculum. His yearbook lists his activities as being math club and orchestra. His hobbies were listed as amateur radio, chemistry and astronomy. In that same yearbook his ambition was declared to be undecided. The editors of the June 1935 yearbook felt the following quote most applicable to him: “The highest condition takes rise in the lowest……”

By the time he reached his teens, my grandfather was busy working odd jobs. His father, a union house carpenter, was often unemployed during the economic depression of the 1930s, and left the family around the time my grandfather finished high school. My grandfather tried work as a golf caddy and did not like it. After that he found that he could earn money repairing radios (I’m told he had been a member of the Passaic County Amateur Radio Club since elementary school, but I don’t know much about what that entailed). This was the beginning of what became a remarkable career in engineering and physics.

After graduating Eastside High School my grandfather studied engineering for a year at Cooper Union. Feeling badly about his older siblings paying for his housing and meals, he took a competitive exam for the civil service and scored high enough that he was instead nominated for a place at the Naval Academy at Annapolis. He graduated from Annapolis in 1940 and was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Lexington. The Lexington was out at sea during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 but was sunk during the Battle of the Coral Sea in May of 1942. Grandfather used part of the navy’s payment for his possessions lost at sea to buy an engagement ring for my grandmother.

My grandmother came from a very different Jewish Paterson family than my grandfather. Her parents were born in the US (in Ohio and in North Dakota) and I believe both of them had attended college. She grew up in a large house on 14th Avenue that her parents had built in the 1920s, near Barnert hospital. It is possible her family may have belonged to Barnert Temple (do those records still exist?) but they did not often attend. Her father was a manager of the Straus-Kent, a silk manufacturing company (which I know nothing else about) until he died suddenly in 1929 when my grandmother was 11 years old. I am told that their life insurance company went bankrupt during the Depression but my great-grandfather’s business partners continued to support my grandmother’s family, even helping to pay my grandmother’s tuition to Smith College. I would like to know more about Straus-Kent, and the people who helped my grandmother’s family.

My grandmother’s high school yearbook, from January 1936, shows she was voted the “Brightest” and the “Pride of the Faculty” among the girls of that graduating class at Eastside High. Her stated ambition then was “to do the right thing at the right time.” Anita was enrolled in the “Classics” curriculum. The editors of her high school year book thought the following quote best described her, “Her voice was ever soft, gentle and low – an excellent thing in a woman.” {It was 1936, after all!!} She earned a degree in physics from Smith College in 1940 but I don’t know what she did from then until she married my grandfather in October of 1942 and I doubt anyone still alive could tell me. After she married, she taught high school physics for a year or two while my grandfather was at sea commanding a small ship in the Atlantic. I believe she lived with her mother and grandmother in Paterson during 1942-1943 and again around 1946-1947 when she had two young children and family housing was scarce near my grandfather’s naval assignment in Washington, DC. I’d love to hear from anyone who might remember a young physics teacher in the Paterson area named “Mrs. Anita Weber”!

My grandfather’s family left Paterson in the mid-1930’s—by 1940, the census showed his mother and his unmarried siblings living in East Orange. He went on to study electronics at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, to be the first head of “electronic countermeasures” in the Bureau of Ships. He would leave the Navy in 1948 to become a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Maryland. With the huge increase in the number of college students at the end of the war and their interest in new technologies such as RADAR, he was hired as a full professor on the condition that he earn a PhD, which he did, at night, in less than 3 years.

He had, as I have written above, a remarkable career. He was among the inventors of the MASER (an antecedent of the LASER), and was nominated for a Nobel Prize for this work (although other researchers won the prize). He was the first to make a serious attempt to detect the gravitational waves emitted by exploding and colliding stars and he believed he had detected these waves. The designers of the LIGO project, which has received so much attention these past few years, have publicly credited his gravitational wave detection efforts from the 1960s and 1970s for inspiring their project, which has involved thousands of scientists and billions of dollars to detect gravitational waves.

Meanwhile, my grandmother raised four sons and managed their household. Her widowed mother remained in Paterson until about 1956, when she remarried. My father remembers driving up from Maryland to Paterson in those years and visiting Ms. Hallie Turner, who had taught science to both of my grandparents at Eastside High School.

My grandmother died suddenly in 1971. I never met her but very much wish I had!

Elizabeth Weber Handwerker, member of the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey

newsletter 2018-4-a

My grandfather Joe’s graduation picture from Eastside High School.

newsletter 2018-4-b

My grandmother Anita’s picture as a little girl and her Eastside High School graduation picture.

May 2018 Newsletter from the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey

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. Victor Borden, a member of the JHSNJ, has written our May 2018 newsletter.

Growing up in Paterson, NJ
In early June, 1951, my parents and I set sail from Haifa, Israel, on a small Mediterranean seagoing passenger boat to Marseille, France. Two days later we embarked on the Ile de France, a large ocean ship, whose final destination was a pier in lower Manhattan. My parents were Holocaust survivors who managed to avoid death in a slave labor camp in Siberia, USSR, then a DPW camp in Persia, and, finally, by being smuggled into Palestine. I was born in March 1945 in Palestine then under the British Mandate. Upon arrival in the U.S. my legal name was Viktor Bornsztajn. I was only 6 years old.

My father had a wealthy uncle, Max Bornstein who lived in Pompton Lakes and owned a large textile mill, Jacquard Fabrics, in Paterson. He sponsored our immigration to the States and gave us a 3 month-paid-for-apartment at 450 Market Street, directly across from Eastside High School. None of us, other than me, could speak English. I could at least count to ten and say “hello”.

As both my parents worked, I spent the spent that first summer sitting all day in a barbershop directly below our apartment watching Roy Rogers and the Cisco Kid on a black and white small T.V. (Who even knew the Cisco Kid was filmed in color?!) I learned to yell “Bam Bam”, “they went that-a-way”, and “Hi- Ho”. In the late afternoon, I would walk by myself to the ball fields in Sandy Hill Park and observe adult men play softball. It was there I first heard the words “Brooklyn Dodgers.” They became my passion until the end of the 1957 season when they moved to Los Angeles.

Thinking back to the first three months of my life in the United States, I was pretty much alone five days out of seven. That was a huge change for me, as prior to that I had been overly protected and watched over constantly. Now, because of need, I was on my own most of the time. I became independent early in life, relying on my wits. Was that good? For many years I thought so, now I am not so sure. In effect, I lost my childhood at age six.

I started School #15 in September. I still remember my first day of school. I felt like I was lost, almost invisible. As I knew no English, I was placed back a year, having to redo 1st grade. The principal, Mr. Probart, brought the only Jewish teacher in the entire school, Mrs. Atkins, an 8th grade teacher, to my classroom to speak with me. She spoke to me in Yiddish, a language I didn’t understand, because we spoke either Polish or Hebrew at home. When I didn’t respond to her questions she told the principal I could not be Jewish because I didn’t speak Yiddish! She told me that story when I became her pupil in 8th grade. She was invited to and attended my Bar-Mitzvah.

School #15 had both positive and negative elements for me. For almost the entire six and a half years I attended, I was the only Jewish student enrolled. Some of my classmates became friends and a few of them I still keep in touch with via social media and at high school reunions. Other classmates were anti-Semitic and bullied me. On a few occasions they beat me up.
1
I am sure that everyone my age recalls Paterson public schools held a Christmas pageant every December. Christmas carols were sung and a baby Jesus in a cradle was on the auditorium stage floor accompanied by three wise men. The only role I ever had in the yearly Christmas shows, other than singing off-key in the chorus, was the part of a shepherd. All of my classmates would tell me how beautiful their Christmas trees were and what presents they wanted. I desperately wanted a Christmas tree of my own. Every year I badgered and begged my father to bring one home. One year, when I was 9, he relented and bought me a 4 inch white plastic Xmas tree that I could put on the top of my dresser in my room. Hallelujah! That was never again repeated. While my parents were largely non-religious – we didn’t have a mezuzah on our front door or attend a synagogue- we weren’t about to assimilate and have a Christian or pagan symbol in our home.

At age eleven, a couple months after my parents completed the process, I too became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. I actually had to pass a written test. Congressman Gordon Canfield assisted my parents in getting the process approved. He was invited to my Bar-Mitzvah and made a short appearance during the party after the service. As very few American people could pronounce my last name, ‘Bornsztajn’, my father changed our last name to ‘Borden’ in order to “Americanize” it. He actually believed it would help me get accepted to a medical school as the admissions committee wouldn’t know whether or not I was Jewish. That in fact was never true. There are many reasons, mostly related to the Holocaust, that he mandated I had to become a physician.

My parents belonged to a group called the Independent Lodzer Young Men Society. Recently, The Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey ran a picture of a group from that organization. One of my great-uncles was in that picture. The Society was composed of people from Lodz, Poland, some of them survivors of the Shoah and others who had immigrated to the U.S. prior to the War. Meetings and social events took place on a regular basis. From age 8 until 12, once a year during April, I gave a presentation in front of those present with the subject being the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, a revolt by the few remaining Polish Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, one of whom was my mother’s brother, against the Wehrmacht. While it was doomed to fail, the uprising showed the resilience of some Jews against the Nazis. Almost all of the heroic participants were killed. At times, I saw both men and women dabbing their eyes during my speeches. My parents are buried in a cemetery owned by the Lodzer group in West Paterson (now known as Woodland Park!).

Almost all of the Jewish community residing in Paterson lived in the Eastside section of town. After two years at 450 Market Street we moved a block away to 444 Market Street. I could see Eastside High School students walk to the ‘Cozy’ luncheonette. My life didn’t change until after I graduated School #15 and started Eastside when we finally moved to 433 East 33rd Street, between 19th and 20th Avenues.

Prior to graduating from grammar school, there was a school dance. It was during that event that I experienced my first kiss. The girl I kissed was Peggy Bannister, a very bright student. She also happened to be an African-American. I feel proud of that. Many years later, at my 50th high school reunion, when she and her husband walked into the room, I walked up to her and hugged her. I asked if she knew she was the very first girl I had ever kissed. Her husband quickly and humorously responded that he was and would be the last person she ever kissed. We laughed. It was a very nice moment. As an aside, Peggy became an obstetrician-gynecologist, as did I.

Eastside High School, made up of different ethnicities, nationalities and religions was a brand new experience. Pledging a fraternity, Sigma Phi, with Alan Doktor as my pledge master and Joel Worob, its President; undergoing a paddling initiation; playing cards in Eastside Park; then getting arrested for defacing the Christopher Columbus statue at the park’s entrance with Alan Diamond and others because we simply put a cigarette in the statue’s mouth and nothing more, were life altering experiences. Thankfully, Alan Diamond’s father was the town’s attorney and the police simply let us go.

There is so much more to say about the four years I spent at Eastside but that will have to wait until sometime in the future.

Respectfully, Victor Borden, M.D., Member of the JHSNJ

Borden family 1

The Borden family – dad, mom and me

That’s mom and me in the upper left photo and that’s my dad and me in the upper right photo.

 

Advertisements