By Linda Forgosh, Director of the New Jersey Jewish Historical Society
On May 19, 2018 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., the main branch of the Newark Public Library will host an event that it is being called Community History Day: Our Newark Story. Included are workshops, performances, demonstrations, portraits, crafts, prizes, exhibits, and MORE!!
What makes this event noteworthy is that we, the Jewish Historical Society, have been invited to participate in the library’s celebration of Newark’s history, which is something that hasn’t happened since 1995, the year that the Jewish Historical Society prepared an exhibit titled “Lasting Impressions Greater Newark’s Jewish Legacy.”
Attendance at opening night exceeded all expectations. After all, Newark is where our Greater MetroWest community traces its roots. This is where we settled, opened thriving family businesses, started industries making everything from shoes, to gold jewelry, to wireless radios, and even leather seats for automobiles.
Religious traditions were observed. Numerous synagogues were established but it was Newark’s three oldest synagogues, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun (1847), Congregation B’nai Abraham (1855), and Congregation Oheb Shalom (1860) that get the most attention.
Important institutions were founded by Newark’s Jews. Newark and New Jersey’s first and only Jewish hospital, Newark Beth Israel, was started in 1901; Newark’s first Jewish Home for the Aged, Daughters of Israel, started in 1908; Newark’s meeting place for Jews who wanted to socialize with their own, affectionately known as “the ‘Y’ on High Street” opened its doors in 1924.
With the exception of Beth Israel Hospital, what the aforementioned have in common is that each had left Newark for towns in suburban Essex County.
So, why not make a plan to spend May 19 at the Newark Public Library? Not only will you have an opportunity to view photographs, artifacts, and video clips from the Jewish Historical Society’s archives, you can spend time in the library’s building, which in itself is a magnificent structure befitting of this city’s greatness.
NOTE: The Society’s 6700 series has photographs to document what was in its 1995 Lasting Impressions exhibit. They are well worth a visit to the JHS archives.