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


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 , 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


Louis Jasper


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


Army- Murray Cohen; Eugene Licker

Navy – Lloyd Nussbaum; Herbert Gold

Air Force – Robert Brown

No branch listed: Robert “Bob” Lazerowitz


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.


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

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.


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.

June 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. Jack Zakim, a member of our Executive Board, has written our June 2018 newsletter.


All four of my grandparents emigrated from Bialystok, Poland to Paterson in the early 1900’s presumably after the deadly pogram there. Bialystok is located in the northeast corner of Poland about a 3.5 hour drive north of Warsaw, not far from the Belarus border. The first accounts of Jewish settlement date from 1658. Tradition has it that Jews came in mass numbers to Bialystok in 1749 at the invitation of Count Branitsky who built homes and stores and a synagogue for the newcomers. Throughout the city’s history, it had a predominantly Jewish population. In June 1906, there was a major pogrom initiated by the Russian czar which resulted in a mass migration abroad. I am told my grandmother remembered hiding under her bed during the melee. In June 1941, the Nazis occupied the city, which at that point, had approximately 50,000 Jews and approximately 350,000 Jews in the province. The Jews that were not massacred were herded into a ghetto and deported to concentration camps. After the war, there were approximately 1,100 Jews left in the city that previously had a population in excess of 100,000.

I never understood how my ancestors got to Bialystok, why they emigrated from Bialystok to Paterson shortly after the turn of the 20th century, or why they rarely spoke of the old country.

I am a pure bred Patersonian. My mother and her three sisters were all born and raised in Paterson, married Paterson men and raised their families in Paterson. Growing up, my universe consisted of the insulated Paterson Jewish community; and, while not forbidden, I do not recall any discussion in my maternal grandparents’ home about the old country or their extended family in Europe

My mother’s parents Benjamin and Jenny Shanofsky, to my recollection, almost always spoke Yiddish and generally did not assimilate into the new culture. My grandmother passed away shortly after my Bar-Mitzvah in 1958 and my grandfather passed away the following year. Most of our communication was at the dinner table with the extended family occurred when I was too young to engage them, so I didn’t know much about their earlier lives other than that my grandfather was a tailor by trade and my grandmother was a classic balabusta(“head of the house/homeowner”).

While my grandparents were alive, I was exposed to their Eastern European orthodox Jewish culture and I had the impression that their life in Paterson was not much different than their lives were in Bialystok absent the ethnic and economic oppression that presumably motivated them to emigrate to America where the streets were said to be ‘paved with gold’.

On the other hand, my father’s family also came from Bialystok and assimilated easily into the American way of life. My grandmother Gussie Bialystotzki was also a ‘balabusta’ but I did not know until recently that she left her parents and two brothers behind when she followed her older sister Rose Rubin to Paterson. My grandfather, Dave Zakim, was a well-known character amongst his cronies in Paterson. He came from Orla, a shtetl outside of Bialystok where our family name was ‘Zak’.

My paternal great-grandparents Efriam and Esther Zak had six children between 1886 and 1900. My grandfather David was the fourth child and he followed his older brothers and sister who had earlier settled in Paterson under the name of Zakim. I am told that happened when my great-uncle Morris transitioned through Ellis Island.

My great-grandparents died in Orla shortly after their sixth child, Chia Dvoshe (Aunt Ida), was born in 1900. All six siblings were born in Orla and apparently each one eventually lived and/or worked in Bialystok before they emigrated one by one in the early 1900’s to Paterson. I am not sure why or how my father’s Uncle Morris landed in Paterson, but apparently his settlement in Paterson is why the next generation of Zakims were born and raised in the ‘Silk City’.

The six Zakim siblings born in Orla produced approximately 18 children, 50 grandchildren of which I am one, and probably 100 plus great-grandchildren including my children. To my knowledge, none of the six siblings or any of their descendants ever returned to Bialystok. To this day, I am not sure why I had such a yearning to breathe in the same air my grandparents had left behind. Perhaps it was because my dear cousin, Lenny Zakim, of blessed memory, made it to Poland as part of an ADL mission but he could not include Orla or Bialystok in his itinerary despite his desire to do so. Perhaps I felt that I wanted to posthumously fulfill his dream.

Despite an eight year age difference, Lenny and I were buddies and close with our grandfather who often engaged us and occasionally regaled us with stories of his youth in Bialystok, sometimes with tears and sometimes with laughter. I remember one anecdote he shared about his voyage to America. He was so worried where his next meal would come from that he kept a fish in his pocket for days. The fish emitted a foul odor and everyone on the boat shunned him like the plague. He would chuckle as he told the story in vivid detail.

In the early 80’s, my wife Lydia and I undertook a project to create family trees for both of our Ashkenazi families. That spawned my initial quest for info about my heritage and inspiration to return to the old country. Lydia’s family came from Latvia and the Ukraine.

When my father’s Aunt Ida (aka Chia Dvoshe) hit her 70’s she penned her life story starting in Orla where she was orphaned as a baby. She was sent to Bialystok where her older siblings became her surrogate parents. I have read her book cover to cover several times hanging on every word which served as part of my inspiration to breathe in the air of Bialystok.

I was forewarned by those in the know there were few if any remnants of the once thriving Jewish community in Bialystok but I had to see for myself. Lydia located a combination guide and genealogist from Warsaw on the internet who advised us to skip Orla and concentrate on Bialystok for a variety of reasons including the fact that there was not much to see in Orla. He arranged for a knowledgeable guide to pick us up at the Warsaw Airport and drive us to Bialystok.

So, on a beautiful spring Saturday morning, we found ourselves in the center of Bialystok, a vibrant immaculate small city with modern buildings, churches, parks and outdoor cafes with hardly a trace of the former Jewish community other than a monument to the Jewish resistance which was not dissimilar than the Warsaw ghetto uprising monument but on a much smaller scale. As we wandered through the city, camera in hand, I soon learned that those Jews that did not flee in the migration between 1890 and 1915 were mostly wiped out by the SS in the 1940’s. The few that survived fled to Israel, the United States or other safe harbors where their relatives had settled earlier on.

Right before my departure, my uncle Gerry Zakim entrusted me with a family treasure consisting of a huge book published in 1951 titled “Bialystok Photo Album of a Renowned City and its Jews the World Over”. The book features hundreds of photos of former Bialystok residents disbursed around the world. It includes a page devoted to my Grandma Gussie’s family because her older brother Zalman Bialystotzki was a respected labor leader in the community who died in Bialystok in 1935. I felt surely Zalman and his parents (my great-grandparents) and other family members were interred in the Jewish cemetery in Bialystok so that became my destination.

While walking around town I stumbled upon a Polish sign on a building that read ‘Zak Financial Services’. Since it was Saturday the building was locked tight but I figured since all of the Zaks (aka Zakims) fled Bialystok more than 100 years earlier, that particular Zak was probably not related to me.

I didn’t find a single synagogue in town but I was taken to a spot where a synagogue once stood and took photos of a plaque on a building with a Star of David and some Hebrew letters on it on our way to the cemetery which was located in the midst of a residential neighborhood. The gated cemetery was huge with hundreds, if not thousands of graves but it was Shabbos and the gate was locked tight. As I stood outside the gate peering over the fence taking photos and knowing my relatives’ remains were there, I spoke to them from my heart. That emotional moment in and of itself made the entire journey well worth the effort of our trip.

That evening we returned to Warsaw which I found to be very impressive. Virtually the entire city was decimated by the Wehrmacht and the SS in 1943 and 1944 and rebuilt after the war. This pristine city has numerous memorials and monuments to both the desperate and brave Jewish ghetto uprising in 1943 and the “Warsaw Uprising” of 1944 by the Armia Krajowa, A.K. (“Home Army”)against the German Army and Waffen SS. There is virtually a living memorial to those who perished including a fabulous new museum dedicated to the Jews of Poland where I learned how my ancestors came to live in Poland. Poland was once one of the few places on the planet where Jews were welcomed and permitted to live in peace. At one time, Poland was home to more than 50% of the world’s Jewish population before the great migration began.

I always wondered why my relatives never thought of us as Polish and why I knew nothing of the Polish culture. In the museum, the answer soon became clear. The Jews of Eastern Europe resided in places where national borders shifted frequently. They lived autonomous, segregated lives in insulated communities for centuries until the later 1800’s when Jewish life became very difficult. This led to mass emigration to include the Zak siblings who were lucky enough to get out decades before the Holocaust.

I thought my mission was complete with my visit to Bialystok and Warsaw and I was ready to embark on my grand tour of Prague, Vienna and Budapest, in that order, with an expectation of great dining, architecture, museums and lots of laughs, but I soon learned my mission to capture my ancestral history was far from over.

Whenever Lydia and I travel we try to enmesh ourselves in the local Jewish culture usually hiring Jewish guides. So too on this trip when we visited the Jewish quarter in each city. We soon learned the Jewish culture in those eastern cities includes countless memorials to the victims of the Holocaust because that’s where it happened! We visited fabulous synagogues in Prague, Vienna and Budapest, met survivors and saw incredible sites but more often than not, it was a very somber experience, particularly our trip to Hitler’s ‘model’ town, Terezin (Theresienstadt), in the Czech Republic . That was where Hitler interned notable prisoners of the Reich and allowed the Red Cross to visit. He cynically proclaimed Terezin a “model town” or a “spa” where Jews could live happily and safely. Sure….. We also visited the Danube River in Budapest with 60 pairs of abandoned bronze shoes are lined up on the river bank in the same way as Jews were lined up, shot and their bodies dumped in the river.

I completed my mission and took many great photos to reflect on. I feel more connected than ever to my grandparents and the great-grandparents who I never knew. I plan to visit my grandparent’s gravesites soon in the cemetery on McBride Avenue in Woodland Park (W.Paterson) where all of the headstones bear familiar names as soon as time permits to share my experiences and thank my grandparents for the life they created for my parents and the opportunity to raise my own family in the new world and on safer shores.

Jack Zakim, Member of the Executive Board of the JHSNJ


The above left photo is the Jewish cemetery in Bialystok. The above right photo is the Budapest Danube River bank memorial with the bronzed shoes.


The above left photo is of Jack and Lydia Zakim in Bialystok. In a lighter vein, the photo on the upper right is Zero Mostel in his famous movie role playing Max Bialystock in “The Producers.” Zero’s dad was a Polish Jew.

July 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. Adam S. Weiss, a member of JHSNJ, has written our July 2018 newsletter.

Paterson Memories

I am not a Patersonian. I was not born there, and I never lived there; however, as the son and grandson of the Paterson diaspora, I may be one of the very few of my generation—I was born in 1965—who remembers first-hand the closing phase of Paterson’s Jewish heyday, in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. As a young child I spent weekends with my maternal grandparents, Sylvia and Daniel Tauben on Park Avenue. My paternal grandparents, Mary and Arthur Weiss, lived in the same house on 36th Street near Vreeland Avenue until Arthur’s death in 1995. I absorbed Paterson in stories, biographies, and anecdotes heard (or overheard) over the course of decades. Even after all of my grandparents moved away from the old Eastside neighborhood – the Taubens to Midland Park, and Mary Weiss to Wayne, Paterson always loomed large in conversation and memory. I also have many first-hand memories of Paterson in general and Temple Emanuel in particular.

My maternal grandmother Sylvia (born 1916), was a native Patersonian. Her parents, David and Sara-Dina Gerber, were both immigrants—he from the Kamanetz Podolsk region of western Ukraine, she from Lithuania. According to family oral history, David had come to the U.S. some time before Sara-Dina, whose two older sisters had preceded her here, and invited him to meet her upon her arrival. An ancient photo shows her wearing the watch he gave to her the next day. David was a house painter by trade. I understand that he eventually owned rental property in the same neighborhood where an anti-Semitic landlord had earlier refused to rent to him. David was the only of my great-grandparents to have survived until my birth. He exists in my memory as a silent old gentleman in a comfortable chair, with me at his knee. (I’m told that, although Sara-Dina never mastered English, David spoke well. I’m also told that he refused to ever dial a telephone, instead instructing the operator, “Girlie, give me LAmbert 3 – 4041”)!

My maternal grandfather, Daniel Tauben (born 1910), was born in Passaic to parents who had emigrated to the U.S. from Galicia (southern Poland, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). Some time around World War I, the family moved to New York State—“up the mountains” as they referred to it—and settled in the small town of Hurleyville in Sullivan County, where they ran a bungalow colony. I still remember discovering the place some time in the mid-1970s, when Dan and Sylvia took me and my siblings to see the old homestead. By then the place was totally overgrown with weeds and saplings. The farm was still identifiable by one surviving structure: a small gazebo that stood in what had been the farmyard. On the way, I remember stopping at the iconic ‘Red Apple Rest’—a cafeteria-style restaurant on Route 17 in Tuxedo and an obligatory way station on the road to the Catskills.

My paternal grandfather, I. Arthur Weiss—the “I” was for Isidore, or Yisroel—was the first of his family born in the U.S. (1904). Several older siblings were born in Warsaw. He was a lawyer who for many years practiced in downtown Paterson with his brother Harry. Arthur was a native Patersonian who never left. At some point in the 1970s, he served as a Paterson Fire Commissioner. I distinctly recall greeting him immediately after the appointment, along with my brother Jeremy, as we bounded into the house, breathlessly announcing Batman & Robin-style: “Yes, Commissioner!?”

Mary, Arthur’s wife, was born in Brooklyn in 1906, and she spent her early childhood in Princeton Junction, where her parents, Abraham and Sarah, had had a farm that they sold in order to buy a candy store in Newark. Named “Mary” by an elementary school teacher who declared that her original name, “Mamie,” was not sufficiently American, Mary later became a school teacher in Newark, moving to Paterson in 1931 when she married Arthur.

My parents, Deborah and Stephen Weiss, both grew up in Paterson’s Eastside neighborhood and attended Eastside High School. My mother had attended elementary school at Yavneh Academy, when it still met in an old mansion on 12th Avenue in Paterson, and was in its first graduating class. My father, Stephen Weiss, attended public school and the Hebrew school at Temple Emanuel.

Ah, Temple Emanuel! My earliest memories of the place are of holidays when I accompanied Dan and Sylvia Tauben to services, still—in the late 1960s—at such overwhelming capacity that the Yom Kippur overflow had to be accommodated in the ballroom. I recall marching around the main sanctuary on Simchat Torah, circa 1970, waving a pennant flag with other children, and being jostled in the sukkah at Sukkot. I also remember the women—Sylvia Tauben in particular—wearing long formal gloves up to their elbows. I don’t have much memory of the services themselves, other than that Rabbi David Panitz, a revered figure in the community, led them from the bima wearing a high Lutheran-style clerical hat- black on most days and white on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Of course there was the Temple Emanuel building itself- a dazzling example in the Art Deco style, designed by Paterson architect Fredrick W. Wentworth in the 1920s. The windows, in particular, made a deep impression on me- the swirling colors of the panels depicting the creation, Jacob’s ladder, and the massive star set in the flat roof all crowd my memory, as does the Deco pattern of the terrazzo floors in the hallway leading to the ballroom. Even the theater-style seating in the sanctuary seemed unique to me—my grandfather Dan having explained that the sloping floor, as in a movie theater, reflected the professional background of the building’s major donor, Jacob Fabian, who had made a fortune in the early days of motion pictures. (I later learned that the one barred seat on the first row of the right-side aisle was in honor of Mr. Fabian, whose accustomed location that had been). In later years (the 1980s, 90s, and 2000s), I would often attend the weekday afternoon/evening minyan in the small side chapel with my grandfather Daniel, who served the then-dwindling congregation in various capacities, including building manager, treasurer, and reliable minyan attendee.

Other memories of the “old” Paterson include taking cookies to the fire station with my grandmother, Sylvia Tauben, (and playing on the fire truck), my first city bus ride with my grandmother Mary Weiss (during which I had the tremendous responsibility of pulling the cord to signal the driver to stop), tumbling down the Passaic River-facing hills at Eastside Park, and eating my first pastrami sandwich at Sunshine’s Deli at the corner of Park and Vreeland Avenues.

Even after Paterson had declined as a living Jewish community, it persisted in my memory. My grandparents and their friends scattered though they were to suburbs near and far, or holed up in the Empress Apartments—a last bastion of Jewish life in Paterson—kept the “old” Paterson alive in conversations constantly. There were Bess and Mitch Zalon, who gave me rides in a vast laundry cart along with their own grandson, also named Adam. And I recall my grandmother Sylvia’s Hadassah women—Bernadine Mechanic, Edith Sobel, and others—patiently indulging me as I showed slides of my high school era trip to Israel, and relating all the work they’d done for the Paterson Hadassah chapter.

Some of the characters they drew for me seemed larger than life. For example, there was “Tiny” Steiker, the late husband of my grandmother’s friend Nettie Steiker. I never met Tiny, but judging from descriptions I imagined him to be in the neighborhood of 7 feet tall. According to my grandmother Sylvia, Tiny’s hands were so large that she once saw him pick up a steak between his thumb and forefinger, and eat it as daintily as one might eat a lamb chop. And then there was Judge Ervan F. Kushner, Sylvia’s polymath friend from their early days in Paterson’s public schools, whose Guide to Mineral Collecting at Franklin and Sterling Hill, New Jersey was my introduction to geology, and whose Bogged Down in Bora-Bora reminded me of the myriad ways the Second World War touched their generation.

My grandparents Arthur and Mary Weiss had a wide circle of friends whom I recall largely from the summers afternoons they would spend at the Hickory Hill Country Club in Totowa. There were Joe and Roz Pink; I recall she always brought her hand to her neck to speak—this was before I learned what a stoma was—and that he had lost half a leg. And there were Irving and Stella Ruttenberg (I recall her pronounced Louisville accent, which seemed to grow deeper the longer she lived in New Jersey).

Although my own parents, Stephen and Deborah, reared me and my siblings, Jeremy and Rachel, in the suburbs—Parsippany and North Caldwell—my early experiences with Paterson implanted in me an appreciation of urban life. I was impressed that so many in the community lived within walking distance of each other—indeed that so much was within walking distance generally. Also, I was impressed that so many people seemed to feel their lives were bound up with each other, even after they moved away from the city that had been their community’s home.

Adam S. Weiss, JHSNJ Member



October 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. Miriam Kraemer Gray, a V.P. and a member of the Executive Board of the JHSNJ, has written our October 2018 newsletter.

October!!!  The name, October, means the eighth month!  (‘octo’  is 8 in Latin) It was the 8th month until January and February were added to the months of the year. With the addition of 2 extra months, October, the 8th month, became October, the tenth month.  Now that we understand that the name of October is not what we think it is, let’s fast forward to the major observance of the month.  Of course, Halloween!!  And, how did/do we celebrate this observance?  We pretend to be someone whom we certainly are not!!!   You may be the HULK!  WONDER WOMAN! A ketchup bottle!  But, certainly NOT yourself.  And did I forget the hero of October?  Christopher Columbus!  Who is this interesting explorer?  Is he a Villain or a Hero?  You may be familiar with many tidbits of the history of the 15th century which tell the tale of a mean spirited Columbus.  Is he a Jew or an Italian Catholic? What about our identities.  Who are we?? If we grew up in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s in Jersey City, Clifton, Paterson, Passaic, Bayonne and now live in suburban New Jersey, or in California, or in our spiritual  Homeland, Israel—who are we????  Of course, we are forever identified with our hometown.  Our taxes may go to Wyckoff, Fair Lawn, Teaneck, Westwood, but our hearts remain in our hometowns.

This time of year, we remember the fall holidays in Paterson.  Remember trying to walk up and down E. 33rd Street on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?  The streets were packed and the outside of Temple Emanuel was a precursor of  We stood outside of the Temple checking out the opposite sex.  Not out of disrespect but out of the sheer delight of being with other Jewish teenagers and sharing the holiday atmosphere.  I’m sure those who grew up in Passaic, Clifton, Newark, Bayonne, etc., etc. have similar stories of the glories of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in their hometowns.

As we march into state of the art gyms in our suburban paradise, we think of our beloved “Y” in Paterson where we could socialize, learn a hobby, swim, and/or go to Saturday night dances. And by some quirk of the teenage psyche, the girls always thought the Passaic guys were cuter than the Paterson boys, and the boys thought the Passaic girls were better looking than the Paterson girls. That was life in our other dimension. In those days, we were a cohesive group. Between our synagogues, our local “YM/YWHA, our schools, we had a rich sense of who we were and we enjoyed the comfort of a viable and stable community life.

Just as October is not what its name implies, we ourselves are no longer who we thought we were.  Our recollections of “those great times” are secure in our memory safe.  We return to visit the Falls and the renovations of this historic site.  We return to drive through the “old” neighborhood, but one can never return to what was!!   But we all know, that our past memories are part of who we have become.  No, we do not live in the past!  We live in the future!  But, the past created a unique bond among us. Our roots have been key to what we have become.  Enjoy these shared memories and use these memories to maintain a meaningful foundation.

During October, the 8th month which really is the 10th month, we suburbanites will share the history of our YM/YWHA.  Oops, they are not “Y’s” any longer, they are JCC’s.   We are celebrating how important they were for the Jewish communities on October 28 at 11:00 am in our office-17-10 River Road, Fair Lawn.  Come on over and enjoy this piece of our history and meet new friends with this shared memory.  And remember, where ever you may be, you are always the kid from Paterson, the kid from Passaic, from  Clifton, from Jersey City. See you on the 28th.

Miriam Gray aka Miriam Kraemer, a V.P. and member of the JHSNJ


The above left photo is of the building that housed the Clifton/Passaic YM-YWHA at 199 Scoles Ave in Clifton and the above right photo is of the former YM-YWHA building on Ellison Street in Paterson.

The above left photo is of Temple Emanuel in Paterson whose outside steps and sidewalks, shown in this image, were sometimes as packed with temple goers as could be found in the temple’s beautiful sanctuary.

Beginning with our grand opening program on October 28th at 11:00am the JHSNJexhibit will feature photos, documents, the time capsule from the Wayne “Y”, and other memorabilia from the YM/YWHA’s of Northern New Jersey. If people have any memorabilia , photos, etc. to share we’d love to include them so please contact us at 201-300-6590. Visitors are welcome to visit on Mondays and  Wednesdays from 11:00am – 3:00 pm.


“Y” Days Exhibit to Open in October

By Ina Cohen Harris, secretary

In October, the JHSNJ will present a new exhibit on the history of the YM-YWHAs of North Jersey. Did you spend your childhood at a Y in North Jersey? Maybe you were a Scout, attended a dance or Purim carnival, or you swam in the pool, played basketball or tennis, or attended a cultural performance. Maybe your parents belonged to a parents’ group or the Panthers; maybe your grandparents belonged to the Golden Age Club. For so many of us growing up in North Jersey in the 1940s, ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, the “Y” was our second home.

The exhibit will feature photos and memorabilia from the Paterson/Wayne Y, the Passaic/Clifton Y, and the Hackensack/Washington Township JCC, among others. Items on display will include the original deed for the Paterson Y, a 1923 photo of the Passaic Y, and the time capsule which was placed in the Wayne Y at its dedication.

We hope you will join us at the exhibit’s opening reception, which is tentatively scheduled for October 28 at 11 a.m. and share your memories with us. The exhibit will then be available for viewing through January 2019. Stay tuned for more information!


The 2018 annual meeting of the JHSNJ will be held on Sunday, Dec. 16 at 10 a.m. We are in the process of scheduling a speaker to make a presentation after the meeting. All are welcome. Please watch your emails for more information in the weeks ahead.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of North Jersey

Are you interested in researching your family roots? Do you need help in navigating the many resources online or need information on how to get birth or death certificates for your ancestors or find the ship manifests of their arrival in the U.S.? The Jewish Genealogical Society of North Jersey is based in the Charles & Bessie Goldman Judaica Library at the YMCA (formerly the YM-YWHA of North Jersey), 1 Pike Drive, Wayne. Founded as a sister organization to the JHSNJ in the late 1970s as an offshoot of the Goldman Judaica Library, the nonprofit organization helps members with their genealogical research.

The group’s website, , has lists of many helpful resources, including links to websites for cemetery searches, links to other Jewish genealogical websites, and lots of articles and webinars.

For more information, including directions to the Y, please visit or contact JGS President Susan Kobren at Annual membership is $15. The next meeting will be Thursday, Oct. 18, at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome. The JGS of North Jersey is a member of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, Inc.

JHSNJ Officers

President: Richard Polton

VP/Operations: Marty Feitlowitz

VP/Programming: Miriam Gray

VP/Membership: Moe Liss

VP/Fundraising: Allen Zaks

Treasurer: Debbie Grossman

Assistant Treasurer: Benson Chapman

Corresponding Secretary: Ina Cohen Harris

Recording Secretary: Chuck Oremland

President Emeritus: Jerry Nathans

Don’t Throw It Out!

Cleaning out your parents’ house? Don’t Don’t throw out those those old old pictures, documents, or other other ephemera. Please contact us and let us look at what you have. We will gladly scan and return your materials. materials. Call our office at (201) 300-6590

The Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey appreciates your financial support. Please donate through the link below or by sending a check made out to: Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey 17-10 River Road, Suite 3A, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410. We are a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. For further information about charitable giving, click here.

Membership Levels

Single: $25

Couple: $50

Family: $72

Friend: $100

Patron: $250

Benefactor: $500

Lifetime: $1800

Our mailing address is:

Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey

17-10 River Road, Suite 3A

Fair Lawn, NJ 07410

Telephone #: (201) 300-6590



November 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. Rabbi Harold Berman, a member of the JHSNJ, has written our November 2018 newsletter.

Memories of Growing up in Jewish Paterson  

I have now lived in Ohio for nearly forty years, but Paterson is in my thoughts every day.

Both of my parents were born in Paterson.  My father, Oscar Berman, was born shortly after his parents arrived from Lodz, Poland, where his father had worked in the textile mills.  The textile business in Paterson never offered my grandfather great opportunities, but my father always remembered times when he had worked with his father, and later, as an attorney, he would represent a number of Paterson textile mills.

My maternal grandfather, Ben Charney, who came to America, and to Paterson, in 1901, was related to a distinguished family of Yiddish writers.  I believe my grandfather came to Paterson because some other Charney relatives had already made it their home.  My grandfather was the first member of my family whom I watched wearing tefillin {phylacteries} and dovening {praying}every day when he stayed at our house.  In later years, the two of us often shared Shabbat dinners together. I learned much by observing the simple piety of his Jewish life.

Both of my parents were among the first members of their families to earn college degrees.  My father went to N.Y.U. and what was then New Jersey Law School (now Rutgers) and my mother, Bea, earned Bachelor and Master’s degrees at Montclair State, and taught Latin at Eastside High School until my sister, Sylvia, was born.  She went back to Eastside as a regular substitute when I was in high school.

My parents felt a strong loyalty to their home town, and stayed in Paterson all their lives.  My father served as president of Jewish Family and Children’s Service and the Jewish Community Council (later Jewish Federation of North Jersey) and was a trustee of Temple Emanuel for decades.

The Eastside neighborhood of Paterson was a wonderful place to grow up.  It was full of baby-boomer kids, with Eastside Park nearby.  You could see the Empire State Building from atop the rolling hills of the park. You felt as if you were close to the center of everything important, but also sheltered by a community in which nearly everyone seemed to know everyone else.

My family lived on East 40th Street when I was born, then moved all the way to East 38th Street when I was seven.  We were two blocks from School 20, which I attended from Kindergarten through eighth grade.  Summers we spent at Lake Hopatcong, close enough to Paterson so my father could commute back and forth daily.

Temple Emanuel was a major part of our life.  Hebrew School was three times a week, with Jr. Congregation on Shabbat and various holiday observances as well.  I can’t say that I ever really liked Hebrew School, and certainly I didn’t like having to be there after a full day at school, but there was something about the atmosphere and the social setting that made me feel at home and made me come back even when my parents stopped making me go.  I went through Hebrew High School, and somehow I learned something – not all that I was supposed to, but enough to make me feel at home in a synagogue.

My sister gets the credit, or the blame, for involving me in United Synagogue Youth, Temple Emanuel’s high school youth group.  Its local and regional programs became a central focus of my high school years.  USY also gave me the opportunity, and a scholarship, to go to Israel in the summer of 1964.  That changed my life.  I decided I wanted to go to a college where I could be involved in an active Jewish community (Rutgers) and ultimately I determined that Jewish learning and teaching would be the focus of my professional life.

Meanwhile, back in seventh grade at School 20, a new student entered our class the first week of school in 1959.  Her name was Beth Shapiro.  Beth also had strong Paterson roots, her father having been everyone’s dermatologist and her grandfather having been the senior doctor at Barnert Hospital.  We went to different temples, but we had many friends in common.  But after two years at Eastside, Beth transferred to College High in Montclair and we didn’t see each other again for ten years.

In 1973, while I was in my fourth year of Rabbinical School at the Jewish Theological Seminary, my father had a rash.  He went to see the dermatologist everyone saw, Dr. Joe Shapiro.  They started talking about their kids. It turned out that Beth and I were both in graduate school in New York, and both living on the Upper West Side.  We got together for dinner, started dating, and were married within the year.  In Paterson, of course.

Beth and I have shared forty-five years of love, raised four sons and added a teenage daughter to our family when a single parent friend passed away.  Our sons all went to Camp Ramah and were active in USY.  Two of our sons are lawyers.  I only wish my father had lived to see that.  Another son works professionally for Hillel and our youngest son is now a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary.  Our daughter is a librarian/archivist.  All have spent time in Israel. We visit Israel often.  We also visit Paterson, although there is no immediate family left there.

Both of my parents passed away, much too young, when I was in my twenties.  My sister Sylvia has bee’s parents, on retirement, came to live near us in Columbus, Ohio, our home since 1979.  Dr. Joe Shapiro passed away in 2004.  Beth’s mother, Elise Shapiro, is still with us at age 97.

I served as Rabbi of Congregation Tifereth Israel from 1979 to 2016.  Now, as Rabbi Emeritus, I am still active in community and interfaith work.  Although I no longer have pulpit responsibilities in Columbus, I now lead High Holiday services for the Jewish Community of Bermuda.  Two of our sons, and all three of our grandchildren, live in Columbus.  All my kids are Buckeyes, but Paterson still has, and always will have, a very special place in my heart.

Rabbi Harold Berman, Member of the JHSNJ

Newsletter 1

My father, Oscar Berman, with his parents, Harry and Rebecca (Brenman) Berman  at about age one. (c. 1912)

Newsletter 2

My parents: Oscar and Bea Berman

Newsletter 3

Eighth Grade graduation class of 1961 from School # 20 in Paterson.  Beth Shapiro is in the first row, fourth from the right.  Harold Berman in the second row, sixth from the left. The rest of the ID’s follow:

First row, from left: Ilene Hofher, Butch Lubinsky, Lorraine Shereck, Carl Kuhnen, Shirley Domin, the Principal Joseph Goldberg, Alan Levine, Beth Shapiro, Jack Susser, Judy Sandow, Larry Barnette.

Second row: Sima Gerber, Beanie Bromberg, Hayda Nussman, ?, Rita Sinofsky, Harold Berman, Mardee Senack, David Rosenfelt, Ellen Lipschitz, Michael Bornstein(?), Julie Bromberg, Joel Levine, Leslie Greenwald, someone Geller.

Third row: Aron Smith, ?, Lee Donow, Lois Pasquariello, Morris Schnur, Louise Koch, Sandy Einstin, Wendy Schnee, Seymour Taub, Anita Opper, Julian Greengold, ?, Gary Dorman, Paula Goodgal, Morris Orens.

Fourth row: Angela La Fera, Bram Bluestein, Debbie Schwartz, Ed Smith, Gale Halpern, Arnold Schwartz, Joan Markowitz, Bill Vellekoop, Fran Hertzberg, Danny Zweig, Gilda Ezorsky, Bill Steinberg, Virginia Miller(?), Leonard Barnette, Arlene Feit.

Fifth row: ?, Fred Feldman, Carole Golden, Bobby Sirota, Barbie Simon, Angelo Rosario, Roberta Kimmel, David Caro, Ellen Leinoff, Stuart Light, Deborah McCrae, Amy Greenberg, Bobby Feldman, Sandy Silver, Lee Ginsburg, Susanne Robinson, Arnold Chesney.

Sixth row: (sort of botched up…..not a straight row): Diane Fenster, Alan Singer, Isabel Markel, Tommy Schwartz, Myra Holtzman, Aaron Jay, Meepies, Jimmy Krugman, Joel Fowler, Marcia Gottfried, ?, Bonnie Tuber, John Simpson, Sandy Schreiber, Ronnie LeVine.

Seventh row: David Schwartz, Rebecca Reichert, Haya Aronowicz, Dolores Maybe, Paula Pliskin, Ina Wallace, Marsha Kobre, Carol Zachman, ?, Roy Van Horn, Roz Rosenkranz, Jay Mandelbaum, ?.   The JHSNJ wishes to thank Rabbi Berman’s former classmate, Beth Aronowitz Krakower, for identifying the rest of their School 20 fellow graduates.

Newsletter 4

Rabbi Harold and Beth Berman

Our current JHSNJ exhibit features photos, documents, the time capsule from the Wayne “Y”, and other memorabilia from the YM/YWHA’s of Northern New Jersey. If people still have any memorabilia , photos, etc. to share we’d love to include them so please contact us at 201-300-6590. Visitors are welcome to visit on Mondays and  Wednesdays from 11:00am – 3:00 pm.

Our mailing address is:

Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey

17-10 River Road, Suite 3A

Fair Lawn, NJ 07410

Telephone #: (201) 300-6590