The Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey will hold its annual gala tribute dinner at Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes on May 15 at 6 p.m. Richard Polton will be honored for his outstanding leadership, generosity, and commitment to the preservation and promotion of Jewish history in Northern New Jersey.
Richard Polton, a Paterson-born historian, is a six-year president of the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey, a fundraiser, and a donor. He is also a local history enthusiast, author, and lecturer, particularly about Jewish, Paterson, and New Jersey industrial, urban and architectural history.
The Paterson Museum’s director, Jack DeStefano, describes Mr. Polton as “A gentleman scholar in pursuit of truth and promotion of his hometown whose mission is to educate and provide people with another reason to proud to say that they come from Paterson.”
“He is a renaissance man,” Joy S. Kurland, JHSNJ’s executive director, said. “He loves so many things. I witnessed his presentation about Fred Wesley Wentworth and was amazed at how he weaved civic, Judaic, architectural, and popular history into a wonderful story.”
Mr. Polton wrote “The Life and Times of Fred Wesley Wentworth: The Architect Who Shaped Paterson, NJ and Its People” (2012, distributed by Rutgers University Press). Wentworth designed the iconic art-deco Temple Emanuel and the Fabian Theater. In partnership with a Jewish entrepreneur, Jacob Fabian, he designed local homes and buildings, among them recognized landmarks in Paterson and the Atwood-Blauvelt mansion in Oradell.
Mr. Polton’s parents were educated in Wentworth-designed schools and Richard and his brothers all were born in Barnert Hospital, also a Wentworth design. Working with a consortium, Mr. Polton spearheaded the Mill Mile, now a free audio walking tour of Paterson available at www.millmile.org. He also leads guided tours of the historic Paterson neighborhoods several times a year.
Darren Boch, the superintendent of the Great Falls National Historic Park, said, “Richard has been a key person on the team between the National Park Service, the architects, and the Hamilton Partnership for Paterson, to help envision a new visitor center at the park.” Mr. Polton is a trustee of the nonprofit and is part of a team dedicated to maximize the public benefits of the new Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park.
Ina Cohen Harris, a JHSNJ board member and city history expert, knew the Polton family from the Paterson neighborhood. She said that Richard’s father, Harold, and, years later, Richard, both were president of the Hebrew Free Loan Association.
Mr. Polton was a board member of the New Jersey Council on the Humanities and was appointed to the New Jersey Panel of the Regional Planning Association. He is active in the Montclair community, where he sat on the boards of many community organizations and was treasurer of B’nai Keshet Synagogue.
Richard Polton and his wife, Bobbie, live in Glen Ridge. He has three daughters, Maya, Madeline, and Rachael; two sons-in-law, Eric and Paul, and four grandchildren, Jake, Henry, Sadie, and Emma.
For tickets, call (201) 300-6590 or go jhsnj.wordpress.com.