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This is Helen Klein and I am interviewing Joy Zacharia Appelbaum who is the author of THE HISTORY OF THE JEWS OF TEANECK.
(I) Mrs. Appelbaum, the first question I want to ask you is when and why you came to Teaneck.
(N) We came to Teaneck approximately seventeen years ago in November. We came here because we felt it was the kind of community in which we wanted to raise our two children. Teaneck was a very healthy middle class community. People were very heterogeneous, living together, accomplishing things together. It really was an inspiration, still is an inspiration. And having been involved with the community this long, I can still feel as strongly as I do. Also, we were pleased that not only was it heterogeneous as far as race and religions went, it was heterogeneous in relation to the monetary classes. People here were not engaged in conspicuous consumption which we found very prevalent in parts of Westchester and Long Island and my husband, as a young attorney, was first beginning to establish himself and we did not want additional pressures in that area. So our children were able to associate with all types of children in all different levels of income as well as different races and religions.
(I) Mrs. Appelbaum, how did you first become involved in any community affairs?
(N) I did not become involved for the first five years in which we lived here. Our children were growing up, constantly sick, needed my attention full time. It was really rather depressing as I look back. I was just a full time mother. I started to get involved very slowly as my children entered the public school system. We were very much in favor of the public school system as opposed to a private school system having enjoyed the benefits in Brooklyn ourselves. At any rate, little by little we joined a congregation, I became more and more active in the PTA activities, my husband had joined the newly formed Lions Club. As the children permitted us greater freedom, physical freedom, it was marvelous. All you had to do was look at the weekly local paper and see a zillion activities going on in which you were more than welcome to participate. That's another beauty of Teaneck. You can have your anonymity or you can become an active participant and there is just so much to do, you just have to pick and choose.
(I) Tell me, what was the Lions Club or is the Lions Club.
(N) I understand the Lions Club is still in existence. Most of the original members don't belong, have moved away. The Lions Club dates back to early Teaneck times. Unfortunately, at one time it was disbanded due to lack of interest. Then one of the former members decided to get it going again. It is a marvelous civic organization that devotes itself to helping the blind and other causes and my husband got to know several of the gentlemen who initiated this club, the revitalization of it, and it was lovely. We did participate and undertook many activities to help those in need.
(I) And what did you become involved in, the Parents Association, very actively?
(N) Yes, I first became involved in the Parent Teachers Association being a teacher. Again, I felt education was primary. 1 was concerned because Teaneck was constantly innovating new programs without accountability and I really went after the principal, members of the Board of Education. I did not feel that the responsibility was the teachers because they were only implementing new programs so I felt we had to go to the top and I really made a nuisance of myself. I used to sit in and observe the programs being implemented and apologize to the teachers because I knew they were only the instrument but there was a great deal of experimentation and I felt too many of these superintendents were what I called educationalists not educators. They were happy to further their career by starting new programs and really not worrying about the ramifications to the children.
(I) What years was this? Do you remember?
(N) Well we moved in Teaneck in 1968 and I first saw the light of day with my children around 1972/73. So I became quite a permanent fixture in academia here in Teaneck and educational circles. I wasn't too much of a politician so Town Council did not really interest me except when they clashed with the Board of Education.
(I) And as the author of THE HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN TEANECK, you must have become involved in Jewish affairs very early.
(N) Well, once again, once my children gave me a little bit of leeway I did join National Council of Jewish Women and the Teaneck chapter of Hadassah. I did not remain a member long of National Council of Jewish Women. I found that the organization was fully saturated with very eager volunteers and my services were really not that much in demand. Hadassah being a Zionist, a very fervent Zionist, needed all the help that I could give them. I began writing educational programs for them. That was my forte. I used to research programs for them that would take me nine months of solid research and have them performed for their what they call their Institute Day, a day of learning. I enjoyed every moment of this. I loved studying, getting the research together. It brought me in contact with many people. For example, one of my programs was 10-1/2 Jewish Women Whose Genius Made History and I took prominent women in every field of endeavor and drew upon their biographies. The woman I selected for jurisprudence was Judge Justine Wise Polier and I corresponded with her to find out more details about her life and what a marvelous woman and what a wonderful experience it was. Another program I originated for Hadassah was The Effects of the American Presidency on Judaism from Washington through Nixon and I went through the different presidential administrations. Nixon was in office at that time. It was truly very thrilling because I went allover to do this research - Columbia University, wherever I could, wherever there was a higher institution of learning with a fine library - and it brought me into contact with the deans of the universities and so forth because I just kept following every little point through to see if I could get even more information. Unfortunately I didn't have too much access to primary resources which are basically the Zionist Archives in Cincinnati. At that time, I wasn't a women's libber and couldn't take off to go to Cincinnati. But these projects became very well known throughout Teaneck and attracted a great deal of attention. Then when the library decided to do oral history of the various communities within Teaneck in honor of the bicentennial, one of the librarians had a marvelous idea. She said, let's not fragmentize the Jewish community. Let's keep it as an entity in all their areas of specialization in town and she started...
(I) That must have been Hilda Lipkin, no?
(N) No, that was, I think it was Hadassah Weingarten. I am not too sure but I believe so. And she began taping people's interviews. She selected approximately eighteen outstanding Jewish residents of Teaneck. Then her husband was transferred to Washington so she appealed to the library and the Jewish community, the Teaneck Jewish Community Council, the umbrella organization, not to foresake the project. National Council of Jewish Women decided to take it over since they do so many community-related things but they really did not know how to get started so somebody from Council came to me and said, Joy, you do so much research, what would you do with this project? So I listened to the tape and I became fascinated, absolutely fascinated with the project. I went back and re-interviewed these people. I found people tended to become inhibited when talking to a machine rather than talking to a person, so to speak, off the record. I went back to the library and said, you know, there is so much written verification of what people are telling me. They have snapshots, they have newspaper articles, they have all kinds of minutes from; their various organizations. Couldn't we put together one book here at the library, just of Xerox copies, of all this written verification and what I am hearing orally? And I really feel people are very inhibited with the machine. So before you know, it became a written history of Teaneck. I tried to train volunteers to use the machine; they also felt very intimidated by it, and I composed a questionnaire thereafter, four solid pages, and I said, all right. Suppose this just becomes a written history to circumvent the various problems. Well I trained about twenty four young ladies to sally forth and unfortunately, everyone of them had commitments elsewhere and it wasn't getting off the ground and I said, well, this is silly. So I eventually took over their assignments and I think I interviewed 300 people personally. I scheduled about four a day; I got to see some of the loveliest homes in Teaneck and meet, of course, some of the most fascinating people I've met. I even corresponded with people who had lived in Teaneck, who now live in Canada, California, foreign countries. I was able to track people down and they were so cooperative. I was getting phone calls from allover. When people received my letter and questionnaire, they were only too happy to be included and to be contacted. It was very exciting. Everybody jumped on the bandwagon. Maybe it was the spirit of the bicentennial. Maybe it was because this whole project of history was new at the time. ROOTS had not come out yet. So we were really innovators and people were very pleased to sentimentalize and to remember beautiful past days. I can't tell you the pleasure it gave me in bringing Principal Neuman back to the attention of the public. He had done so much for the Teaneck school system and here he was an elderly gentleman and he felt life had passed him by and suddenly I put him back in the limelight. I was delighted to do that. To establish the park for Dr. Bookstaver. It gave me the greatest pleasure. I think every time I spoke about Dr. Bookstaver, I became very choked up and emotional. Perhaps a little bit too much so but you get involved in their lives and their accomplishments. The lady who established the Teaneck Women's Club, Minna Lippman, they did not want to recognize her as their founder.
(I) May I interrupt you here. That's interesting because my impression of the Women's Club is that it is completely WASP or something like that. Is that so here?
(N) From what I understand, yes. I have not checked their membership list, very honestly, but I doubt if there are any Jewish members and I don't think there have been Jewish members for as long as twenty years or maybe twenty five years. I did not want to get into a scandal with them but I have heard that they refused to accept Minna Lippman, as their founder and she had served as president the first six years of the club's existence. I contacted her son who now lives in Florida and he was incensed. He had heard it also from several of the longstanding members so we were able to gather original documents and pictures of the first meetings in Mrs. Lippman's home and how she had worked so hard. It is amazing. This woman placed an ad in the newspaper. People came to join. Then the very next day, she was on the train to get the membership credentials for the club from the national organization. Very dynamic lady. So we not only got her her recognition, but I understand there is a portrait of Minna placed very prominently in the lobby of the Teaneck Women's Club.
(I) What was their purpose? Do you know exactly? Do they still fulfill it? Was it a charitable purpose or . .
(N) It was a basically community-minded social but performing activities for the benefit of the community. To undertake various projects to help in the community. But of course with a social theme.
(I) In other words, integration isn't still altogether complete in certain areas of town? I mean integration of religion and. .
(N) Oh I would say so. Even your black community, they have their own cotillion for the young ladies and that is restricted to black people. They have their own organizations, their African Cultural Society. But I think that is part of the beauty of Teaneck that you can produce, I am sorry, you can pursue heterogeneity and homogeneity as well.
(I) Now let's, get back to the schools. You were talking about the Mr. Neuman.
(N) I think so. I really am ashamed of myself. I should check his name.
(I) He was here before Aubrey Sher, isn't that right?
(N) Oh yes, long before. He really put the Teaneck school system on the map.
(I) And then after he left and Aubrey became, oh no, before Aubrey Sher there was the integration, the blacks, busing. .
(N) Aubrey Sher was a teacher in the school system. He worked his way up. Lovely, lovely person but he's relatively recent.
(I) I am trying to get back to the integration of the schools and busing.
(N) Yes, I would again have to look up that gentleman's name who was responsible for it, Scribner, that's it. Mr. Scribner through his administration. I had never met Mr. Scribner. He came long before I did. Integration was a fait accompli by the time I had come. That's one of the reasons we came because in New York City where I had taught and where I lived, integration was coming and it was corning in a very volatile form. We wanted to go to a place where integration had been accomplished, had been accepted, was a matter of fact, nothing revolutionary and that our children would grow up knowing that one person is just as good as another.
(I) Well I've been in Teaneck for only about thirteen years. In my time, there have been many, many upheavals in one way or another that have always settled down, with people angry at one another. For example, the swimming pool. It is coming to the fore again because some people would like... at the time you were instrumental in getting.. .
(N) Not the swimming pool, no. I was very instrumental with the ban on Sabbath activities in the school system. Again, everything centered around education as far as I was concerned. Teaneck had a long history of prejudice against Jewish children in the school. Tryouts for football, cheerleaders would very often take place on the Jewish high holydays. Many activities, the annual school dance would be on a Friday night. Things that would take place once and one time only would be held very purposely on the Jewish sabbath and I had not experienced this in the beginning because I wasn't here but everybody I interviewed verified this, Jew as well as non-Jew alike. There were many fights up at the school against the Jewish children. Non-Jews verified this. I won't mention their names but many prominent children in town who have grown up in Teaneck who are non- Jewish verified the fights that took place at the school where Jews were discriminated against. Yes, this was quite a policy here in town.
(I) But that wasn't the policy at the time you moved into town.
(N) No, at the time we moved into town, they had stopped. . for the most part, the Christmas carols in the school, the Christ plays. Oh there are always some Christmas carols, you know, but the more objectionable ones that centered around religion, they had stopped casting Jewish children in the parts of Christ and so forth and all the religious connotations were basically taken out. However, every so often, yes, something did happen. For example, an SAT exam would be scheduled on Saturday and some of our children were very observant and they can't write. We fought to make sure that these children could take the SAT examinations on Sunday. We made sure that, for example, Playcrafters, this was a very big issue in town where some unaffiliated Jewish people actually called in the American Civil Liberties Union fighting us.
(I) What did they fight you about, oh, I remember that. That was without the Sabbath Ban.
(N) Right. We felt that why should Jewish children be penalized if they can't perform on a Friday night. Why can't you have two casts. As long as you have several performances, Thursday, Friday, Saturday night, can't you have two casts. This way you give double the children the amount of opportunity to participate and Jewish children don't have to make this great decision - do I want to be in the play or do I want to observe the Sabbath?
(I) How many Jewish children were there actually in the public schools who did observe the sabbath? Not too many.
(N) Oh, you'd be surprised. You're thinking about the Orthodox community as being the most observant. The Reform movement in Teaneck is extremely observant and most of the time, they don't even have Saturday morning services, they have only Friday night services. So they all send their children to the public school system and they were much more militant than the conservatives who are supposed to be more traditional. The conservatives usually have service Friday night and Saturday morning. If there is a choice between the two, they would rather have it Saturday morning when you take out the Torah. The Reform have almost no service on a Saturday morning unless it is a special occasion. Friday night to them is very important. It is a real family night and they were extremely militant and pushed very hard for this. So most people just attribute it to the Orthodox who really do not participate in the public school system and that is a fallacy and that is an error.
(I) Is it still in effect?
(N) Yes, it is still in effect. Mr. Delaney who also rose to the ranks of the public school system has been extremely cooperative. He is cooperative with everything and yet he bears in mind the sake of the majority. For example, inter-scholastic football games which are scheduled county-wide, they are played on a Saturday because that's the only time they can be played. They involve the community. We were just talking about things pertaining within the school system itself. For example, the annual school dance. Why must it be on a Friday night? Can't you have it on a Saturday night?
(I) That's logical.
(N) Also we were sensitive to Sunday morning. We felt why should the Christian people be penalized? Their children, why should they, for example, the kindergarten used to have special enrichment sessions on the weekend. This goes back to when the central kindergarten was first established and I was very much involved in that and the establishment of the K-I school. Why should Christian children be put in that dilemma, whether or not to go to church on Sunday morning or be involved in the enrichment program. So we got the enrichment program scheduled for the afternoon and there was no reason why people could not be accommodated. Precedent had been established in the Princeton school system where such sensitivity was shown that these activities within the school system did not have to interfere with people's religious activities.
(I) I think the thing that caused the fuss was the fact that it was made kind of legal instead of a situation where people worked things out together.
(N) You sometimes have to make things legal.
(I) Well, yeah. There is the question of establishment of religion and things like that which were upsetting some of the Civil Libertarians in town.
(I) Well, I am not in agreement with the Civil Libertarians. I never will be in agreement with the Civil Libertarians. I think the American Civil Liberties Union has stepped too far afield when they can back somebody like Angela Davis. I am a graduate of Brandeis University and one faction was trying to make her president of the Alumni Association and the Civil Liberties stepped in there to protect her rights and she had no business being president of the Alumni Association. Fortunately, we were able to defeat her. She would have only antagonized the alumni. So the Civil Liberties Union tends to become much too involved in things that really do not have a direct bearing on people's civil liberties. There is no reason why the rights of the minority must project and hurt the rights of the majority and vice versa. We must reach a common meeting ground where all people can find some sort of harmony and peace in this country. That's what this country is all about.
(I) I think that was the point that they were trying to make.
(N) No, ,no. They were. . you can really have, I am sorry, but they were interpreting it totally different. They were trying to say that you have no right to impose your feelings and we were saying we have every right to demand a sensitivity from the American public. If we can be sensitive to certain groups, well why can't they be sensitive to our needs. And that's the beauty of this country. We have lots of immigrants from all over and shown them sensitivity. That's what makes America America.
(I) You mentioned the fact that Olive Tamburelle was very helpful to you in writing the history. Could you describe. .
(N) Olive Tamburelle is a lovely, intelligent, sensitive person. She was very excited about having various segments of the community record their history in commemoration of the bicentennial. Unfortunately they found only one dopey volunteer and that was yours truly who conducted it for the Jewish community. The Irish community, the black community, the Catholic community, whatever, Italians, they could not find such a dopey volunteer. At any rate, she was doing her very best to encourage every group, even the fire department, the police department, every single civic organization in town - record your history and send it to our archives. She is a librarian in the best sense of the word. A true archivist really. At any rate, when I began the project and we knew it was going to take the shape of a book, whether it be one book or one that was going to be mass produced. Olive could not do enough for me. She gave me the run of the entire library facilities, any help that I needed in any way. Even the control of the Xerox machine. I mean I stood there like a guard dog with the key and anyone who came near me, I growled because I had to keep Xeroxing so much. But I can't tell you, it is so hard for people to understand her true dedication, her enthusiasm for this township. She was a single lady and I believe she just devoted herself entirely to her work. The love that she was capable of was really, was most generously devoted and given to this town. She couldn't do enough of it. Her motives were pure. Just to help the town itself. And in any way she could be of help, she assisted me grandly and beautifully. She made my contacts with the various civic groups, as I said, with the fire department, the police department, the civil engineering department. I have listed every tree, every piece or shrubbery in Teaneck. You will find that. Now that has nothing to do with the Jewish people but I don't think you are ever going to find such a complete list of what grows in Teaneck and I was very lucky. The groundspeople cooperated beautifully and that was through Olive's help so she opened doors to me which might have been otherwise closed but I tried to make the book a little bit more universal than just limiting it to the Jewish people and I was able to accomplish this with Olive's help. She is a marvelous lady. She worked terribly hard for the establishment of the library, to see it grow and I for one truly miss her.
(I) In your book, you describe some of the difficulties that Jews had when the Jewish population first increased in Teaneck. Do you see any remnants of that in Teaneck today?
(N) I think anti-Semitism will always be here, whether it is sotto voce or whether it is overt, it depends on the temper of the time. Unfortunately, not just anti-Semitism, whatever, anti-black, anti-Catholicism. I don't know if it is in the true spirit of man to be fully accepting of other fellow man at the time but I unfortunately do believe anti-Semitism will always be, well what can I say, not prevalent but you will always find some strains of it. In Teaneck, we had our subsequent issues. Not so much with the original residents of Teaneck. Many of them have left. Many of them have become resigned to the Jewish presence and many of them even accepting and enjoying the Jewish presence here in Teaneck. Nothing's ever perfection and it is a marvelous, fantastic, dynamic community that inter-reacts and often conflicts and that's what really, that is the Teaneck dynamic. I call it the Teaneck tapestry. People like to call it a mosaic. I prefer tapestry because we become intertwined; we don't just surround ourselves with cement from the other person. We do become intertwined and we work together and we fight together. And that's what a tapestry is all about. Yes, I've known anti-Semitism, not personally but being involved in the Jewish Community Council of Teaneck. I have been a member of the board there or an officer rather for quite a few years now. There were times when some anti-semitic slogans were sprayed on the synagogues, on the Mikva. Well the Mikva was a very hot issue.
(I) Was it?
(N) Yes it was. It was a very hot issue also among Jewish residents. They did not want it. Swastikas were sprayed on synagogues and swastikas were sprayed on the Mikva and much to the credit of the non-Jewish community, a non-Jewish person came forward and sand-blasted it off which was a marvelous, marvelous gesture. Really a marvelous gesture. Showed quite a unification of feeling there and we were extremely grateful. Not that we would not have been willing to pay the gentleman but he appeared to do it at his own expense to wipe out the shame of the situation. So yes, there have been occurrences but throughout the country there have been occurrences. This is, as I say, the nature of Teaneck. When somebody is frustrated, they will take it out on somebody else. So you can't immediately say, oh my goodness, there is a rash of anti-semitism. These are isolated incidents. However, with the Saturday activities scheduling, there was quite a bit of black backlash here in Teaneck which I think was the mood throughout the country unfortunately and it was reflected here in Teaneck. I believe the black community at that time wanted to keep the dances and so forth on a Friday night, not for any malicious intent but it was convenient for them. They preferred Friday night, let the children have their activities and Saturday night, let the parents go and do their own thing and not have to worry about what the children were doing, whether to chaperone a dance or to provide the transportation to and from the dance. And they just could not see that we were insisting to protect our right to observe the sabbath. And therefore quite a bit of conflict arose and many other non-black people became involved but originally it had been a matter between Jews and blacks and it mushroomed from there and the Civil Liberties Union was called in and many unaffiliated Jews jumped on the bandwagon with the Civil Liberties too. So we were fighting many different elements. But you had very negative feelings and of course, please don't let me generalize, I can't say the entire black community but there were hostile feelings unfortunately. But again it reflected what was going on within the country and then the NAACP made many gestures, many overtures to restore the friendship that had existed between blacks and Jews, especially in the very founding of the NAACP. It's entire legal department.
(I) Was the NAACP involved in any of this in Teaneck?
(N) Not on an official basis, no. But many overtures were made through your clergymen. Interfaith services, interdenominational services.
(I) You mean after the Sabbath Ban went into effect?
(N) Yes. To override these differences and to create greater harmony that had existed originally because the Jews were extremely active in the founding of integration in Teaneck. If you look in my book and you look at the chapter on education and integration, you will see how many Jewish families were extremely instrumental, especialky Matty Feldman.
(I) Yes, I think he felt very strongly. So how do you feel that the situation between blacks and Jews is today in Teaneck?
(N) Oh, I think it is much better. It has improved dramatically. We hope it will stay this way now between blacks and Jews and between whites and Jews.
(I) Jews are white.
(N) The WASP community. Let me put it this way, the non-Jewish community. OK. I just hate using, singling out the black community as such. You are always going to have conflict among groups which will reflect the tenor of the times within the country. Teaneck is
(END OF SIDE 1 - BEGIN SIDE 2)
(I) Mrs. Appelbaum, would you describe the activities of the Jewish Community Council?
(N) The Jewish Community Council started again with Matty Feldman and many other early, prominent members of the Jewish community who act as an umbrella group to try to stem any acts of anti-semitism here in town. It started because originally religious activities were conducted in the school system to commemorate such Christian holidays as Christmas and Easter. Our children felt very confused, very deprived. They wanted to participate in these plays to some extent. Others were horrified because these plays conflicted with what they were learning in Hebrew school. At any rate, it was inappropriate to have the Christ birth scene on a school stage. It was inappropriate to have the Resurrection of Christ on the school stage. And the community, the Jewish community, feeling very much at home here in Teaneck because of all of its good points got together and decided, let's attack the problem as a unified group, not as individuals. Perhaps we will have more influence that way and also we really don't want to do this to antagonize the rest of the residents of Teaneck. We want to coexist. We want to cohabit nicely, the way we are doing. They didn't get very far in the beginning. However, with quiet persistence and appealing to the various school superintendents and principals and so forth, little by little, it took a long time until the last school finally gave up its religious performances to commemorate the holidays. It took a very long time. As far as not having football tryouts on Jewish holidays and so forth. Well we provide the school system with a calendar showing Jewish holidays as well as non-Jewish holidays. We take in the Armenian holidays, the Oriental holidays as well. It is quite a calendar that we do provide the school system with. It is put out by B'Nai B'rith. They've gone to a great deal of trouble to try to be sensitive to everybody's needs. Every so often, things do come about but we are very fortunate, except for the Saturday activity scheduling, we have not had major confrontations. The organization has grown beautifully. We only meet four times a year. We have a vice president who is in charge of social action. When any disruption comes along, somebody will call the vice chairman and he or she will get their committee together and call a special meeting and see if they can handle this as a unified group in as calmly and as discreetly a manner as possible. We find that the newspapers try to sensationalize any kind of conflict within a community. We've seen this not only with matters concerning the Jewish community but any part of our community, blacks or what have you, and we've been very active in trying to get The Record to cooperate and not to blow these things out of proportion and not to antagonize other people as well as our local newspapers. Our local papers have been much more cooperative. The Bergen Record however tends to sensationalize at times. So this is a part of what the Jewish Community Council is all about. To help the Jewish members and the rest of Teaneck's community to coexist happily. Also we do many things within the Jewish community to keep it unified. For example, this past year we had a beautiful commemoration of the Holocaust. It was open to the general public, not just the Jewish community, and we had many people. It really became almost an inter-denominational affair. Many of our speakers were non-Jews as well and we knew that many of the people in the audience were non-Jewish as well. It was a very beautiful production carried on at the high school -- Helen B. Hill Auditorium -- it was packed to capacity and we were so pleased that non-Jewish residents carne as well and enjoyed it as much as we did.
Other activities that have taken the time of the Jewish Community Council - the establishment of the Mikva - the Orthodox community, growing as it has, wanted a Mikva, considered it very important to their women to provide this service in a nice locale. The only other Mikva nearby was in Washington Heights, I believe, in New York or in some undesirable area of New Jersey and they were fearful for these women going late at night into these areas. That became a problem because the location they had selected which was near the synagogue on West Englewood Avenue was primarily a residential area and could not handle traffic and the residents, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, were very unhappy, up in arms about it so the Jewish Community Council undertook to find a more desirable area that would not infringe upon people's residential rights to privacy and we fortunately found one on Windsor Road next to Temple Emeth. They owned some land there. They relinquished part of their property and it has worked out beautifully. Had it not been for an umbrella organization of this kind to peacefully pursue (goodness, I split an infinitive) to pursue peacefully. .
(I) That's permitted.
(N) this project, perhaps there would have been much more conflict than originally existed and that's what basically the Jewish Community Council tries to do. It tries to settle conflicts before they become conflicts and also it tries to unify the Jewish community within Teaneck.
(I) You did have some help from Eleanor Kieliszek who was mayor at that time, didn't you? Am I right?
(N) Well, Eleanor was extremely cooperative. When I wanted to have a park established for Dr. Bookstaver, she told me the procedure. She was very much in favor of it. Lovely lady, really lovely. And very much ahead of her time. Teaneck's fortunate to have such extraordinary people, women and men alike. But our women have always been top drawer. In the book, I devote some pages to women doctors who go way back. I mean this was really revolutionary. To have so many women doctors back in the 30s. Think about that, right here in Teaneck. Really outstanding women. But Eleanor was really lovely. She couldn't be more helpful in any civic matter. Any time I needed access to records, she cleared the way for me. Totally open and totally progressive, lovely person. Always wonderful to see her involved in Teaneck affairs.
Getting back to the Jewish Community Council, one thing we did do because we felt it would be insensitive to the rest of the community, the non-Jewish community, the Lubavitche movement wanted to establish a very large menora on municipal green. They were objecting because some of the trees on the municipal green are still decorated with lights. We felt that is not a religious symbol basically, just a joyous symbol and let things lay. We planted some trees on the community green in honor of our various Jewish holidays to make donations to the town to improve its beauty. At any rate, they wanted to come and establish this huge menora on the municipal green. They had done it in other towns. And we felt this would be very insensitive to our non-Jewish neighbors. After all, we had requested that they keep religion out of the schools and they don't have a creche scene on the municipal scene, what right have we to put a large menora. So it took quite a bit of maneuvering behind the scenes but we got them to establish, to erect a menora, in fact they do it in New York City. So that's fine. You can do it in New York City, you can do it wherever you like, but since our neighbors had cooperated so beautifully with us, we saw no need to exasperate any situation and we accomplished that. Again, we are not just one sided. We are very mindful of the balance here in Teaneck.
One of the very marvelous aspects of Teaneck, I don't believe we've touched upon it, are all the talented people who live here and therefore offer the town something very special. You have an organization known as TAP, Teaneck Artists Perform. These are members of the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra who live within the town and perform on a regular basis, charging a very moderate fee. We have art all about us. We have many outstanding gifted artists living here who have received world recognition. People in the world of letters, writers for example, who are very well known throughout the world as well as our own country and offer us something special. That's why Teaneck had this Office of Community Talent, people coming in, sharing their professional experience with our students and are very generous of their time within the township. Bob McGrath from Sesame Street can always be called upon to participate at programs for our very young children. Placido Domingo lived in town for a while before he built his villa in Spain. I can't say the gentlemen gave of himself but he was here. But these other artists, we have many, many, prominent musicians from the field of jazz and they give of themselves and perform regularly, charging a very modest fee. All about us, if we look at our neighbors, we just never know who is your neighbor and what his position is. We have a gentleman in town who I had the privilege of interviewing who was almost a candidate for the Nobel prize. He's the one who discovered the theory of complex carbohydrates. What a brilliant gentleman he is with an M.D., Ph.D. and goodness knows what else. All around us, you just really don't know with whom you are going to bump into at the supermarket or at the library or who is out there raking his leaves. People who have received worldwide recognition who live very inconspicuously and yet very generously give of their time. Erna Weill, an outstanding sculptress. She takes voter registrations on Election Day. These people just aren't affected by their positions and go about trying to be good residents and good neighbors and you can meet them in the most ordinary circumstances and yet, at the next moment, you will see them performing on the Teaneck stage. So this is a unique place and you have unique opportunities here that I don't think you are going to find in many other communities.
(I) That's true.
(N) And it is another aspect of why I love living here. The vitality. Yes, you have conflict. But wherever you have vitality, you are going to have conflict. The conflict is minimal, the pleasures are ... much outweight the conflicts. It is exciting, it is thriving, there is always something doing, there is always an organization forming to foster a cause, to provide for the education of the townspeople as well as the children. In my book, I say the only real minority in Teaneck is the uninformed and uneducated. That's our only minority group. We are a dynamic society and may we keep on being so.
(I) Thank you very much, Mr. Appelbaum.
Teaneck Public Library
840 Teaneck Road, Teaneck, NJ 07666
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