Friday, February 3, 2012


Thanks so much for all of the nice e-mails reviewing the meeting last Sunday.   I am still going through the materials that some of you left with me, but I can promise that we’ll be talking about the Balloon Man of Cadawalder Park, Max Stern, and some of the Jewish-owned businesses of East Trenton in the not-too-distant future.

If you were at The Adath on Sunday, you’ll remember me talking about the earliest Jews of Trenton and mentioning Congregant Harry Naar and Judge David Naar, who bought the True American newspaper in the 1850’s.  I also mentioned that I had put in a call to Devin Naar, Harry’s son, who is a history professor at the University of Washington in Seattle.  Devin is in the process of planning a wedding and did get back to me after the meeting. Devin wrote an extensive paper on the subject on the Jewish Historical Society of Central New Jersey which can be accessed here.     Judge Naar’s family came to the States by way of the Netherlands, CuraƧao and St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands and Harry and Devin’s family traces their roots back to Salonika, Greece.  Devin's paper explores the possibilities of where the families may have branched off.

Salonika has a fascinating Jewish history of it’s own and I refer you to this website for more information on it.   (Edward Victor is a major stamp collector and according to his website, he donated his collection to the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum)   Apparently, the Naar family was not alone there.  According to the website, the first Jews date back to the times of Alexander the Great--or more specifically to his brother-in-law, who brought them there because of “their expertise in maritime trade”.   After the Jews were expelled from Spain and then Portugal in 1492-1500, many made their way to Salonika and at the beginning of the 20th Century there were 80,000 Jews there-more than half the city’s population.  The city had the largest Jewish population in Greece before the war, but thousands of Jews were deported and gassed at Auschwitz.    In the 1920's Harry’s grandfather came to New Brunswick, and wound up at the Sephardic Orthodox synagogue in Highland Park, Etz Ahaim has a very extensive history of the Jews of Greece and Spain on its website.  Here is a link.

Back to Trenton.  According to Devin, Judge David Naar was able to prosper and attain his position in pre-Civil War New Jersey because he was a very assimilated Jew for his time.   When he came to the States, he arrived in New York, settled in Elizabeth and became the mayor and president judge of the special court of Elizabeth.

  Although I don’t have a date for when the Judge arrived in the United States, his family was established in the printing and publishing business prior to his political career.   According to the Trenton Historical Society’s website, he was the original Deputy Master of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite branch of the Masonic order , Mercer Council, Princes of Jerusalem, which was organized in 1864.  He is listed as a founder of Trenton Normal College, which became Trenton State College and is now the College of new Jersey and he was the U.S. Consul at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands from 1845-1848  (where do I sign up for that gig?).  He also was the State Treasurer in 1965 and 1866.  He died at the age of 79 in 1880, the father of 15 children.  

As promised, here’s the second part of the meeting from Sunday.  I’ve heard from Israel, California and Arizona and I apologize for the audio. 

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