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Jerry Nathans presenting historical information

Our History

The Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey originated in 1979 as an oral history project, under the direction of librarian Sylvia Firschein of the Charles & Bessie Goldman Judaica Library at the YM-YWHA of North Jersey in Wayne. She inspired a dedicated group of volunteers to document Jewish life in the area by recording the personal reminiscences of people who grew up in Paterson and the neighboring towns.

Realizing that much of this long, rich, vibrant story was in danger of being lost to time, “Y” oral history committee chairman Jerry Nathans soon undertook the larger work of collecting and preserving the historical record of Jewish communities in North Jersey. The JHSNJ was formed in 1982 to carry out this archival and advocacy mission.

Over 30 years later, the JHSNJ has been collecting and preserving material of every kind that refers to the settlement and history of Jewish life in Passaic, Bergen and Hudson Counties. The JHSNJ continues its work of safeguarding our common past for the sake of the present and future generations. It is our mission to collect, preserve, and make available the documentary heritage of Jewish life and culture in Passaic, Bergen, and Hudson Counties.

During the Covid-19 pandemic we have had to adapt quickly to digital platforms and integrations by shifting our outreach to digital presentations and meetings, introducing tech updates to enable staff to work from home, virtual fundraisers and events, member and community outreach through virtual correspondence and involvement, as well as the redesign and development of our website. The goal of the new website is two-fold, to showcase our wonderful collections and also to connect with researchers and people interested in our collections. This can range anywhere from our physical materials (artifacts, records, photographs, personal items) to our wonderful oral history collection which includes interviews with people within the Jewish community with personal stories that contribute to Jewish history in North New Jersey (stories of political, immigration, Holocaust experiences, community engagement). This is very exciting for our organization to be able to reach people around the globe with our collections of rich history, but this is also very exciting for the archival sector in general. Digitization brings new collaborations, new research strategies, and greater accessibility to unstudied data and material.  The digitization of archival material is transforming personal and academic research and we are excited to be a part of it.

Whether you are interested in Jewish History in North Jersey as a community member, researcher, student, or are conducting genealogical research there is much to offer here at the JHSNJ. Preserving Jewish history is not only valuable to the community, but it is also a critical part in New Jersey history. If you are interested in donating materials to our collections or volunteering your time, please email us at and if you are interested in taking part in an oral history interview please contact our historian Ashley Buis at If you are willing to help support our mission by donating monetarily, please visit our current website


Sylvia Firschein teaching students in Hebrew School
Jerry Nathans presenting historical information