Newsletter – October 2015

Our newsletters are currently being written by a revolving group of Board members and guest writers drawn from our membership list. Richard Polton, our president and a member of our Executive Board, has written our October 2015 newsletter.

As the New Year opens, I would like to reflect for a few moments on the accomplishments of the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey during this past year.  I think it is fair to say that the JHSNJ has just completed one of the most transformational years of our 36 year history. The Board is right now in the midst of planning the move to our very own home on River Rd in Fair Lawn, purchased only a few months ago and an event that once seemed nearly impossible. The purchase itself is the result of dozens of contributions, large and small from committed families, foundations, Federations and friends. Only a year ago, we had a few thousand dollars in our account and the prospect of raising tens of thousands seemed nearly impossible; however, we did it with broad support from nearly a hundred donors.

At the moment we are getting our space prepared for the move-in. Emphasis on the ‘our space’. The walls are painted. The carpet is just about done. The furniture is ordered and will be arriving shortly. We are packing up our collection and getting ready to make our move. 

Of course, purchasing our own home is the high point of the year but it couldn’t have happened if we hadn’t taken on other challenges. In my mind, the most important accomplishment is a revitalized Board with dedicated leadership. I am amazed at the commitment of each and every one of them. Over the past year the Board has become a supportive team that has taken on a multitude of problems and found solutions to just about all of them.

Jerry Nathans needs special mention, of course, because his commitment started early and remains unwavering. Working with Moe Liss, Miriam Gray, Lou Mechanic, Alvin Reisbaum, Allen Zaks, Alan Peck, Ina Fine, Allison Flaubert and our other members is a pleasure. Dorothy Greene continues to support the organization as President Emerita.  Marty Feitlowitz has taken on supervising the renovation and has earned all our admiration for his hard work and sound judgment. We owe all of these members a debt of gratitude.

Our circle of leadership is constantly expanding. We have reorganized our Executive Board, which meets on a monthly basis and established an Advisory Board which meets quarterly. We have adopted a strategic plan and new by-laws. Our gala honoring the gala-worthy Moe Liss was a tremendous success and culminated with an outpouring of affection and fun. Not to mention great food! Our volunteers work diligently to put together Photo Friday which each week connects the Jewish Historical Society to our members and reminds everyone that we are here, that we have much to offer and that we need support to keep it going. Our “Who Am I?” features have found a devoted following that brings awareness of some of the Jewish personalities that have made north Jersey history. It has all been a remarkable success. More volunteers are always welcome and the new space will make coming in to help out a lot more pleasant.

The prospects for next year are truly exciting. We are planning lectures, entertainment, and most notable of all, a grand opening in our new space. “But wait that’s not all!”  Our plans also include enhancing our collection, broadening our Boards (especially by reaching out to members of the larger community of Passaic, Clifton, Wayne, and Bergen County). We have the space to host exhibits and coordinate with other Jewish Historical Societies throughout New Jersey and the Metropolitan area. We will explore all of those options.

We have set important goals for ourselves but face the New Year with confidence that we can succeed in bringing our Society along.

Finally, I would like to offer a brief observation. As I was looking through the prayer book over the High Holidays, I came upon a commentary by one of the Rabbis that intrigued me and got me thinking about the Jewish Historical Society. The Rabbi stated that that there are no commandments to believe; however, there are numerous commandments to remember.  That is our purpose for the JHS.  We are here to help our community remember. We have a history with many lessons for us, for our children and for our children’s children. Now, all we have to do is help our community understand their history and remember.  Shana Tovah to us all.

Richard Polton, President of the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey