Members of the Schwarz family at their dinner table in East Orange in 1908.
Photos courtesy Jewish Historical Society of MetroWest
If you go
What: “Family by Family: A Photograph Exhibition”
Sponsor: Jewish Historical Society of MetroWest
Where: Waldor Memorial Library, Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus, Whippany
When: May 7-June 17; docent tours Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m.
Contact: Linda Forgosh at 973-929-2994 or email@example.com
May 7, 2009
Like the growth of any important Jewish community, the history of Jewish Newark and its suburbs is a family affair.
That’s the guiding principle behind a new exhibition and multimedia project being readied by the Jewish Historical Society of MetroWest.
At the heart of the project, known as “Family by Family,” will be an exhibit to be launched next month at the Waldor Library on the Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus in Whippany.
The centerpiece will be photographs and memorabilia, dating back to 1851, that provide “a multigenerational record of an evolving culture.”
To JHS executive director Linda Forgosh, “the photos are a metaphor for the tremendous effort it has taken to build the Jewish community here over the years. They are representative of all of the Jewish families.”
The exhibit, she said, will be the first in a yearly series. It will feature 38 families who responded to an appeal by JHS in NJ Jewish News calling for photos and artifacts from “two or more generations who have lived and participated in Jewish community life in MetroWest.”
Some submissions have as many as 300 family members in a single frame.
Seated at her computer, Forgosh clicked on vintage photographs of men in three-piece suits and starched collars, women with puffy white blouses and pinned-up long hair. And she reeled off names: Moskowitz, Schwarz, Aidekman, Bildner, Lax.
Pictures and captions about these prominent families will describe how they contributed to the community over the years, making it what it is today.
“A few of them became wealthy businesspeople,” said Forgosh. “Others were just average folks who raised their children and belonged to synagogues and volunteered at community organizations.”
One of the vintage photographs dates back to 1927; it was unearthed by Judy Schatzberg of Livingston and her cousin, Seymour Some of West Orange.
It shows the extended family of Schatzberg’s grandparents, Harry and Rebecca Blumenfeld.
“They came from Romania and at first they lived in New York City, in Greenwich Village. Judy’s father, Samuel, was born there,” said Forgosh. Later, the Blumenfelds moved to Newark and settled on Goldsmith Avenue in the city’s Weequahic section.
The family photo was taken “when my mother and father were still engaged,” said Schatzberg. “It must have been at one of our family circle meetings. They were all from Newark and they met once a month.” The gathering pictured was at a cousin’s house in Newark.
The family opened a clothing store in East Orange and called it Bloomfields, because, Schatzberg said, they didn’t want it to be identified as a Jewish-owned establishment.
Schatzberg is an active member of Hadassah and is also involved in the planning of her Weequahic High School class reunion next October.
The Blumenfeld family at a Newark gathering in 1927.
After the exhibit opens, JHS docents will provide tours every Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 at the Waldor Library, with videos showing family members sitting down to talk about their history.
In the future, Forgosh said, she hopes to continue expanding the society’s collection of family portraits “so a few years down the line we intend to have a ‘Great Wall’ of Jewish families who are connected to this community in multiple ways.”
To further that effort, JHS members will visit local synagogues as well as the Leon & Toby Cooperman JCC, Ross Family Campus, in West Orange and the Aidekman campus in Whippany, where they will ask people to respond to a survey designed to recruit families to take part in the project.
Interested readers can also take the survey at www.stellarsurvey.com/s.aspx?u=E61 C8DB1-8D7B-45D1-810C-35DA13850149&.
Heritage month celebrated
THE JEWISH HISTORICAL Society of MetroWest’s “Family by Family: A Photograph Exhibition” also marks May as Jewish American Heritage Month, proclaimed for the first time in 2006 by President George W. Bush.
This year’s theme, “The American Jewish Experience,” recognizes “the successes of Jewish Americans in forming their own individuality while upholding the American ideals of freedom, equality, religious liberty, and pluralism.”
In keeping with that theme, Seton Hall history professor emeritus Dr. Edward Shapiro will give a lecture on American Jewry and World War II on Thursday, May 21, at 1:30 p.m. at the Waldor Library at the Aidekman campus in Whippany.
The United States National Archives in Washington, DC, will commemorate the month with a panel discussion on Jewish museums and the creation and importance of the National Museum of American Jewish History, scheduled to open in Philadelphia in fall 2010, on Thursday, May 21, at the main National Archives building. The panel will include the national Jewish museum’s director, designer, and architect as well as Jonathan Sarna, professor of American-Jewish history at Brandeis University.
For more information on local events, call JHS executive director Linda Forgosh at 973-929-2994 or firstname.lastname@example.org.