Jerry Nathans needs your help
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Jerry Nathans needs your help

The devoted guardian of this area’s past is asking for help. For more than 25 years, the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey has amassed an impressive and moving collection of artifacts and documents. Unfortunately, the collection is now mainly in storage at William Paterson University in Wayne, and Jerry Nathans, the society’s president and its last active member, is worried about its future.

He is 81 years old, and time, he e-mailed me, is not on his side. The Jewish Standard, however, is on his – and history’s – side, and we want to get his message out:

The collection needs care. “Old newspapers are drying up” in storage, he wrote us, “as well as other papers. Photos are not identified and many will not be identified in the future. Once sorted and catalogued, such items can be put on the Internet for public access and hopefully identified by those who can. But without a base to work from, we can do nothing.”

“First and foremost,” he wrote, “we need space. A place to settle in and spread out. Unfortunately Jewish institutions have no extra space.” (And those that do have space expect – quite properly – to be paid for the use of that space.)

So can anyone out there in Internet-land give this man some space for his truly worthy project? Alternately, can anyone help pay what it would cost – thousands a year – to rent such space?

But a home base is only the beginning. The next pressing need is for volunteers.

He writes, “We have records of Temple Emanuel in Passaic (it is no longer in existence) that need to be sorted and catalogued. We have Yiddish letters and minutes that need translation…. We have oral history tapes that need to be transcribed…. We need an archivist.”

Might some of this work be done by high school or college students? For extra credit, perhaps, in a history course?

To reach Jerry and give him space, money, and hands-on help to preserve our community’s treasures, call him at (973) 595-7881 or e-mail him at jhswaynenjwpu@yahoo.com.

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