Cornerstone reveals shul’s rich history

Cornerstone reveals shul’s rich history

PATERSON – History came alive on Sunday when the 79-year-old cornerstone of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey was extricated from its concrete base to reveal a sealed copper box with its contents in perfect condition.

Some 30 congregants waited three hours for masonry workers to complete the intricate tasks of power-sawing, drilling, and chiseling to remove the box while preserving the heavy concrete slab at the bottom of the left entranceway to the art deco landmark at the corner of 33rd Street and Broadway.

The cornerstone of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey will be moved to the congregation’s new home in Franklin Lakes. Photos by Ken Hilfman

Others spent time in the sanctuary interior for the last time before the sale of the building — which is being negotiated — photographing its stained- glass windows and dome, as well as the memorial plaques in the lobby.

With the concrete cornerstone slated for transport to the synagogue’s new site in Franklin Lakes, the copper box in the brickwork had to be chiseled out. Measuring approximately ‘0 x 1’ x 6, the copper box was pried open by Seth Lipschitz, president of the congregation; Mickey Levine, a past president; and Bob Rosenblith, a member of the board of directors.

Eager to see what synagogue officials in 19’9 had included in the "time capsule" behind the cornerstone, the group removed several manila folders containing items of the times, all in perfect condition.

These included, among other things, the printed program of the 19’9 ceremony for laying the cornerstone; newspaper reports of the history of the Jews of Paterson and their emergence as prosperous businessmen in the textile industry; lists of Temple Emanuel’s officers and board of directors; two invitations to the gala dinner in honor of Rose and Jacob Fabian, who gave the property to the temple; a report of the first motion picture theater in Paterson; and a list, with signatures, of all the students in the Hebrew school.

Levine said more time would be needed to examine the rest of the printed material, and noted that there were letters from Jacob Fabian to Mickey Levine’s grandfather, Meyer Levine, regarding the cost of the building.

"At a cost of about $350,000, the building was erected between 19’6 and 19’9," said Levine. "About half of it was paid by Fabian, and my grandfather contributed a good deal of the rest.

"The building itself," he added, "was not that important to Fabian or my grandfather. They left that building on Van Houten Street, in downtown Paterson, built in 1907, and moved to this new art deco building. If they were here today, they still wouldn’t mind having left…. What was important was the institution, and the people."

Synagogue officials in 19’9 seem to have had a sense of humor. Behind the copper box, a workman found a crumpled cardboard bottle holder with the following inscription: "Gibson’s Pure Rye Whiskey — For Medicinal Purposes Only." Those present agreed that while Prohibition was in full effect in 19’9, the officials at the cornerstone ceremony certainly had every reason to celebrate.

Rabbi Joshua S. Finkelstein, the shul’s religious leader, conducts Shabbat services at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Oakland, and the Temple Emanuel office is located at 814 Franklin Ave., Franklin Lakes.

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