Rabbi Aaron Ross, Yavneh’s middle school assistant principal, whose bachelor’s and master’s degrees are in history — from the University of Pennsylvania and NYU — was charged with writing Yavneh’s history for its 75th anniversary celebration.
Rabbi Ross was able to take advantage of primary sources, and we are proud to say that among the archives in which he worked was ours. He found information about Yavneh’s growth and development here, at the Jewish Standard.
“Yavneh started in 1942, so I thought that I should go back a year or two,” Rabbi Ross said. “So I started looking in 1940. But soon I realized that news about Yavneh wouldn’t be coming around for a while, because the Standard was in Jersey City then, and Yavneh was in Paterson. Now Yavneh is about a five-minute drive away from the Standard, but Paterson is in Passaic County, Jersey City is in Hudson County, and Bergen County was sitting in between them, with not much going on.”
But that changed gradually. “The Standard starting reporting on institutions and people who ultimately migrated to Bergen County,” he said. “And so did the Standard — it opened a satellite office in Englewood in the early 60s. And then I remember seeing more and more notes about Yavneh, an announcement or two — and then Englewood and Teaneck start to grow, and the schools start popping up more and more.”
Rabbi Ross grew up in Teaneck and now lives in Bergenfield and works in Paramus. He is local to his core. “So by the 1960s, a lot of the names I see are families that I grew up with. And then eventually it reaches the point where I remember reading that issue of the paper the first time.”
In general, he said, the Standard’s back issues have “stories about world events, viewed through a Jewish perspective. In those first years that I looked at it, it’s about the war” — World War II — “and then the aftermath of the war, and then the state of Israel being born. And there also is Jewish news through a local perspective. It’s fascinating.”
As always, some things change a lot, and some do not change at all. “Some of the headlines are the same as what we see today, just shaded slightly differently,” he said. “Issues about the role of women, with each denomination dealing with it in its own way. And in general, the relationships between different denominations — sometimes they’re better, sometimes they’re not as good. They seem to be cyclical. Sometimes something will be in the headlines in the late 1960s, and pop back up again in the late 80s.
“When we read the Standard now, we read this week and then next week and then next week. But then I was skimming through a whole year — really four or five years — in one afternoon. It’s fascinating to see the movement.
“It’s really in between the two ways we usually experience history. Either we live through it, one day at a time, or we open up a history book and see it summed up. This is between one day at a time and a summary. You can see how each story is followed up.”
What is most strikingly different? Cigarette ads, Rabbi Ross said. “There are cigarette ads with a distinct Jewish angle.” They would feature famous Jews smoking, he said, and endorsing their own brands. “Certainly nowadays you can’t find cigarette ads.” (That’s because they’re illegal.) “And to see them so normal, just like any other general product — it was odd.”