Our newsletters are currently being written by a revolving group of Board members and guest writers drawn from our membership list. Marty Feitlowitz, a member of our Executive Board has written our July 2015 newsletter.
I have often been asked: “Why does the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey need a new home?”
The short answer is: We need to protect and preserve the “treasure chest” of local Jewish history consisting of documents, artifacts and memorabilia collected over a 35 year period by Jerry Nathans, one of our founders, and currently, our President Emeritus. To paraphrase Alvin Reisbaum, another of our Board members, “we need to move from a hard-to-find basement warehouse to a museum/resource center which can be accessed and used by the entire community. “
That is a practical consideration, but there is another reason — one that goes to the heart of who we are. It’s because our immigrant ancestors (our parents, grandparents and great grandparents) had the courage and vision to flee the hostile environs of Eastern Europe to seek a better life for their families in Northern N.J. They came as street peddlers, mill workers and shop clerks, enduring many hardships to gain a foothold here. They built synagogues, hospitals, schools, and community centers. They created mutual aid societies, burial societies and fraternal organizations. Through their hard work and many sacrifices they built the foundations for a Jewish life — freer, safer and more prosperous than they could ever had imagined. Theirs was a triumph of the human spirit and we are the beneficiaries of their noble efforts.
We feel that it is our duty to build a living memorial to honor those brave immigrants of the past, so that future generations will know and understand the story of those who came before us. That is how history is honored and perpetuated.
For the past 18 months, the JHSNJ has looked at dozens of properties in search of a suitable new home. Now, we are literally days away from closing on an office condominium on River Road in Fair Lawn. It is planned as a multi-use space with room to store our entire collection. We envision having 2 exhibit areas on permanent display; an historical timeline; a resource center for family visitors and scholars; and a space where school children can learn of our (and their) history. There will also be a work room for volunteers, an archivist’s office and a reception area. Perhaps, most importantly, there will be windows!
We have reached this point thanks to the many hours of hard work put in by Board members along with the pro bono assistance of Molla Reisbaum, our realtor; the pro bono work of Alan and David Feldman, our accountants; the legal services provided pro bono by Dick Miller (and especially his associate, Peter Eddy); and the volunteer work of yours truly, who furnished architectural services. We have been gratified by the many generous contributions from individuals and Jewish institutions in the community.
Although our 35 year nomadic existence is nearly over, our need for financial help continues. We still need to pay a moving company; “fit out” renovations; and, buy furniture, furnishings and equipment. We would also like to increase the hours of our part-time archivist and perhaps hire a part-time executive director. Only after that can we truly achieve the dream of a Jewish Museum and Resource Center for Northern N.J.
It would help us reach those goals if everyone who reads this newsletter (as well as our “Photo Fridays” and “Who Am I?”features) becomes a member of the JHSNJ or renews their memberships. It would be greatly appreciated if those who are able to do so could contribute to our building fund. Honoring those who paved the way for us will insure that their efforts are remembered.
Marty Feitlowitz, Board Member