May 2, 2024

Jewish American Heritage Month

Karen Auerbach Bocaletti Manager, Jewish Historical Society of Greater MetroWest NJ

Throughout history, Jewish men and women have made significant contributions across various fields, including politics, science, technology, education, medicine, entertainment, and more (note one of the most celebrated, Albert Einstein, in the front right of this photo) — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Mark Zuckerberg, Emma Lazarus, Jonas Salk, Diane Arbus, Steven Spielberg, the list goes on and on.

In celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month, we are proud to highlight a handful of local Greater MetroWest NJ Jews who have been pivotal in their fields and who have made significant impact far beyond their homes here in our community. Their stories and images are archived at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater MetroWest NJ.

Dore Schary, born in Newark, NJ in 1905, was an influential figure in American entertainment, known for his contributions as a screenwriter, producer, and studio executive. He served as the head of production at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) during the 1940s and 1950s, overseeing the production of acclaimed films. Schary was also a passionate advocate for social issues, using his platform to address topics such as anti-Semitism and racial discrimination in his films. His legacy continues to be celebrated for his artistic achievements and commitment to social justice in Hollywood.
Louis Bamberger was a prominent American businessman and philanthropist known for co-founding the department store chain Bamberger’s, established in 1892 in Newark, NJ. Bamberger’s became a leading retail destination before selling it to R. H. Macy & Company. Beyond business, Bamberger was dedicated to philanthropy, supporting various charitable causes in Newark, including education and healthcare. His contributions helped shape the social and economic landscape of Newark and left a lasting legacy in the community.
Rabbi Joachim Prinz was a prominent Jewish leader and civil rights activist known for his advocacy for social justice. Born in Germany in 1902, Prinz became a rabbi and served congregations in Berlin and other German cities during the rise of Nazism. In 1937, he fled to the United States to escape persecution. In America, Rabbi Prinz continued his activism, becoming involved in the Civil Rights Movement. He served as president of the American Jewish Congress and was a close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. Prinz was one of the organizers of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, where he delivered a powerful speech advocating for equality and civil rights. His commitment to social justice and his efforts to combat prejudice and discrimination left a lasting impact on American society.


Victor Parsonnet was a renowned American cardiac surgeon known for his pioneering contributions to the field of cardiac surgery. Born in 1920, Parsonnet graduated from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons and went on to become a leading expert in cardiac surgery. He developed numerous surgical techniques and devices, including the Parsonnet score, a widely used method for assessing the severity of heart disease. Parsonnet was also a prolific researcher and educator, publishing extensively on topics related to cardiac surgery and mentoring numerous surgeons throughout his career.
Elizabeth Blume Silverstein enrolled at the New Jersey Law School (Rutgers Law School) at the age of 16 in 1908 and graduated with an LL.B. in 1911. She worked as a law clerk until she was 21, when she was admitted as an attorney in November 1913 and launched a criminal law practice. In April 1918 she successfully defended Orzio Ricotta on a homicide charge, without co-counsel, a first for a New Jersey woman lawyer. Her celebrity was established. She was admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court in 1921. In her 50 years of practice she is said to have handled more than 5,000 cases. 

While we take great pride in these local Jewish leaders, New Jersey has been home to many noteworthy Jews who have made significant contributions across various fields, leaving a lasting impact on the state and beyond, including Alan Ginsberg, Phillip Roth, Jon Stewart, Milton Friedman, and Aaron Copeland, to name a few. These individuals, among many others, have left indelible marks on New Jersey’s cultural, political, and intellectual landscape, contributing to the state’s rich tapestry of history and achievement.

To learn more about the people and events that shaped the first 100 years of our Greater MetroWest Jewish history, check out our interactive Centennial Timeline.

Archival photos courtesy of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater MetroWest NJ