Friday, October 7, 2011

Rotating the tires, taking stock

It’s Erev Yom Kippur and I’m sitting at Sam’s Club, getting the tires rotated on our van.   I guess it’s more than a coincidence that I find myself taking care of this maintenance issue on the eve of the Day of Atonement.  Rotating your tires every 7500 miles is what the manufacturer recommends.  10 days to take stock of where you are each year is the Jewish equivalent.  And as the odometer of life rolls over to another year it’s time to look back at the things that were done well this year and the things that we’ll work hard at doing better next year. 

For me, writing this blog and working on the Trenton Jewish Project has been a tremendously positive influence in my life this year.   Our statistics show that in the next week we’ll have our 5,000th page view, which is remarkable.   But numbers only tell a small part of the story.  

The best part of writing in cyberspace has been the human interaction that has been the byproduct of blogging.   I’ve met so many people in the past nine months through this endeavor and they’ve all been fascinating and they’ve all had their own stories of what Trenton was like.

I met almost 70 of you at the event at Adath Israel in March and thanks to that core of people, I’ve talked with David and Sol Weinstein in New Zealand and traded e-mails with daughter Judee in LA, traded e-mails wtih Carol Angstreich Zimmerman in Alabama,  met Tal Brody at Abrams Day School, interviewed the Gordons in Lawrenceville, been encouraged by Rabbi Grossman at Adath Israel, had lunch wtih Arthur Finkle, gotten picture identifications from Ron Warren, heard from Lou Gordon in Los Angeles, had the pleasure of meeting Tony Siegle in San Francisco and last week meeting his 96 year old mother at Greenwood House.   And Dave Hodes and Bob Gross have spread word of the blog to friends far and wide.   I've even facilitated reunions after 50 year hiatuses.   These are just a few of the interactions that I’ve had doing this blog.   I apologize to those I haven't mentioned. 

I have learned about a Trenton that everyone tells me was a safe, wonderful place to grow up while I’ve been reading in the newspapers about a modern-day Trenton that is moving father away from that place. 

I’ve heard from those who lived in the Broad and Market area, and those who lived in the Hiltonia section and only went downtown to go to shop,  the people who spent their teen years at the YMHA and those whose parents didn’t want them going anywhere near the place.  I’ve heard about the big shul, the middle shul and the little shul.   It’s all been fascinating.

Barry Weiner has encouraged me to take a tour of the Jewish cemeteries to get a real history of the Jews of Trenton.  But most of all, every week the payoff for me has been the stream of e-mails that come from you, the readers, with more stories, more insight into Jewish Trenton. 

Last time, I asked for memories of High Holidays past in Trenton and Lynn Diamond Aronson took me up on that one. 

As a teenager in the 50's, I have great memories of walking from my house off of West State Street, up Parkside Ave., and joining my friends, to continue the walk up to Bellevue Ave. to attend high holiday services. We would be part of the "Jr. Congregation". After services, we would all stand outside and socialize, until our parents were finished with their service in the main sanctuary.
I attended the Sunday School and Hebrew School, from age 5 until 14 yrs. of age, when I was confirmed with my class. Eventually I taught Sunday School there as well.

That last entry also talked about the Butchers of Trenton and Barry Weiner added this;

Fred Hafetz , son of one of the Hafetz brothers, is one of the most noted defense lawyers in NYC! Very big time defense council who has been involved with some of the biggest trials in NYC!

The number of doctors,lawyers, dentists,CPAs, pharmacistswho came out "Jewtown" is huge! education was way out of the "ghetto"!

The Yiddish speaking black man who worked for Hafetz had a few brothers who also worked for other kosher butchers. His brother , Peyton Roberts, worked for my father Philip Wiener at Liberty Kosher meat Mkt.from the age of 16 until he retired! Eddie's Yiddish was perfect! He could even write Yiddish!

You cannot tell stories of old Jewish Trenton without telling the story of the famous Trenton Six Case! Trenton Jews testified for the defense and the prosecution. Google it and you will learn a lot about the character of the Jews who lived through this trial period , in fact , both trials!

Old Jewish Trenton had many memorable characters!You have only scratched the surface! It a time and age that truly deserves a TV series!

I also challenged Debbie Hafetz Babashack to take up Myron Hafetz’s challenge and tell more about the role that the Hafetz’s played in bringing Irv Weinstein to Trenton.  Here’s what Debbie contributed.

“I just read the article about butchers in the Trenton area and an excerpt from my cousin who supplied some information on the Hafetz brothers – Frank and Joe.  Frank, my father, passed away in 1956 and I was only ten at the time so my memories, although some are very vivid, most are a bit sketchy.  I do remember that we had a store on Market Street where Weinstein’s eventually moved into.  Our store then moved across the street to #54 Market.  I remember Eddie who worked in the butcher shop across the street and I was as amazed as everyone that he spoke fluent Yiddish.  We had a driver who worked for us by the name of Josh Kelly – he was a sweetheart too.  I used to remember people saying how beautifully my father would cut the meat because he had the blood of an artist and was skillful with his hands – wordworking – and meat too.  When he became seriously ill, my mother hired a butcher to help her run the store and he remained for a number of years, helping my mother – although she did a pretty good job of filling meat orders also.  When Weinstein’s moved out to Hermitage Avenue, my mother rented the store with an option to buy to Alexander’s Pharmacy.  Eventually, my mother could no longer handle being a butcher and closed the store, along with many fond memories of the area.  There will never be anything like that anywhere and I consider myself fortunate to have been able to experience those days.”
I also would be remiss to not mention the note I got from “Another Sugie”.  Anita Ellis has been living in Jerusalem for the past 36 years, but spent 1950-1975 in Trenton. 

“My father-in-law used to go to Foxie's delicatessen on Market St.  I remember Mr. & Mrs. Fox and their sons, as lovely people. 

Sylvia Olinsky was everyone's favorite manicurist and her old customers will smile when I remind them that it was woe to he who was late for an appointment. I once had to take my son, Rob, with me and found out that children weren't her favorite people.   I remember Irwin and Herbie Spiegel used to make her crazy with their pranks.”

I would love to hear more about Waldman’s and would love to find a picture or pictures of the place.   If you haven’t had a chance to watch the 7 minute video that I’ve put together about the Trenton Jewish project, you can click here.  It is part of the blog entry from April 5, 2011 and it talks about both Waldman's Barbershop and Benny Hock's.   (about halfway down the page)

So, the tires are rotated, the year has been recapped and I’m ready for the next 7500 miles of 7500 page views, whichever comes first.

Have a Happy and Healthy New Year and keep those e-mails coming.   I might be slow to respond, but I promise I will do a better job in 5772.


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