The Jewish Historical Society exists to record and help explain our past. Our compass is focused on people still alive today, their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. We embrace all Jewish life ranging from the factory worker, business owner, housewife and scout. We house a small museum of enormous diversity. Our essence springs from the footsteps of those who came before us. All aspects of the human experience in north Jersey is what we endeavor to preserve and illuminate.For this newsletter we interviewed a sixty-four year old ex-Patersonian and encouraged him to look back on his days at the Hebrew Free School and in the Cub Scouts in the very early 1960’s. During his student days, Charles remembers challenging his teacher because he couldn’t accept the notion that blasting trumpets could crumble the walls of Jericho or that Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt. “How come these things don’t happen in modern times? How come only in ancient times? Why didn’t G-d protect us from the Nazis and open a Red Sea for us to safely pass through?” he lamented. His arm was squeezed in the hallway many times by his teacher before he was marched off to Rabbi Bornstein’s office. He doesn’t regret having all those doubts. He was always told that the core of Judaism was “questioning” and he was just doing his job as a kid. He truly enjoyed Hebrew School but is not sure that “Hebrew School” enjoyed him. He remembers disrupting the class on many occasions and throwing his teacher into many a tizzy.However, truth be told, Charles enjoyed his Cub Scout experiences more. Since it coincided with his Hebrew School experiences it provided a counter balance to what he felt were the “inexplicable” aspects of his religious training. He loved the outdoors and became a pro- active participant in his own life so that he was better able to make sense of it. There was always something to do and places to go. He met many other young boys his own age that he would never have met otherwise from the different neighborhoods in Paterson and Fair Lawn…and he really liked them. All his interactions with them were rewarding. He met everyone else’s mothers and fathers and was pleased to realize that other parents were not just “mysterious” figures standing behind screen doors. They were just as loving and involved as his own mom and dad were. At the “Y” in Paterson, he and his fellow scouts built their own cars out of balsa wood and staged Pinewood Derby races. They built a country store, donned cardboard mustaches and straw hats evocative of the ‘Gay Nineties’ and sold pickles out of a barrel. They camped in the woods at Camp Veritans. They went to West Point, High Point, Valley Forge and Old Museum Village. When they traveled to Washington D.C. they posed on the Capitol steps with Senator Clifford Case, went to the Smithsonian, Mount Vernon and many other historical places. He was always stimulated and developed a life long interest in the history of colonial America. State Sen. Robert Gordon, who was in Charles’ Cub Scout pack, has told us that he was was inspired to enter politics by that field trip to Washington. Also in this group was Leonard Zax who became a successful Washington attorney and is currently the president of “Hamilton Partnership for Paterson.”
With President’s Day celebrated this month, in the spirit of our cub scout, we would like to offer up some colonial American history for you to ponder.Haym Salomon was a Jew born in Poland in 1740. After landing in New York, he immediately became a successful broker. When the hostilities with Great Britain began, he used his profits to buy food for the starving Colonial Army. Generals Washington, Lafayette, Von Steuben and others often came to him for food and material aid. Salomon negotiated many loans for the colonies from France and Holland. Legend has it that Washington appealed to Salomon for funds to maintain his ragged army on Yom Kippur. Devoutly religious, Salomon recognized that love of country was an aspect of his religion. So he turned to the congregation and suspended services to secure the necessary funds. Only after obtaining the necessary amount did he proceed with the solemn holiday observances.* Legend also has it that Washington, in order to honor Salomon, had the design of the 13 stars representing the colonies on the ‘Great Seal of the United States’ arranged in the shape of the Star of David.** Haym Salomon was considered the “Financier of the Revolutionary War.” He was the deputy treasurer of the United States and died a pauper, bankrupting himself for the sake of freedom.*******************************************************
There is something fascinating about the elements of life and all its possibilities. We see a road that stretches ahead of us and wonder where it leads. Our naked young eyes see that it narrows in the distance. Our seasoned eyes see a road that widens as we walk its path. Our journey is made more vivid to us as we make remarkable discoveries about ourselves that we never saw before. We are able to see our past.
Dorothy Douma Greene, President
* Jewish Heroes of America, by Seymour Brody, 1991