|All interviews were taped and documented. They are available through the Reference Department of the Teaneck Public Library. The Library is not responsible for the accuracy of the statements nor does it necessarily endorse the opinions expressed.|
|DATE OF INTERVIEW:||June 12, 1985|
|TRANSCRIBER:||Jackie Kinney (12/1985)|
(I) Yes, I will talk to you about; that a little later if you don't mind. Hold that. OK. So you went certainly through the school system into other areas and would you say that participation in the activities, the school type activities, led you into other areas?
(N) Well you know we, my husband and I, both, you, asked me whw I began to go into Fair Housing when I moved to Teaneck. We both have the tradition and the history of doing work in the community. It is just something that we do. It doesn't matter where, what particular (END OF SIDE I - BEGIN SIDE 2) I just thought of one of the couples who worked with us and hard on all these issues and that was Dr. Hal Salwin and Monu Salwin (?) They live on Riverview Avenue in this neighborhood here and I am sure that some other names will come to me as I go along. You were asking me what I did after P.T.A.
(I) Yes, whether or not the experiences that you've had in your organizations in town led you into them or how did you ...
(N) Well, as we were meeting people around town, we began to be invited to various, let me go back, we joined Temple Emeth early on but we never were very active and our boys were resistant so we never pushed them too far to go but we maintained membership and we began to become involved. People would invite us to functions and affairs and I had a very dear neighbor across the street who's dead, Annette Weiselberg, who began to drag me to luncheons for the United Jewish Community it was the U.J.A. at that time and involvement breeds involvement. The more involved you get, the more you begin to do and to feel involved and so when P.T.A. stopped for me and I was working as Democratic committeewoman with Hal Salwin who was the committeeman and we did that for several years and we worked hard at it and were very good at it and we enjoyed it but I began to work more and more with the mainstream Jewish, these mainstream Jewish agencies that specifically the U.J.C. and the Israel Bond Campaign. I never, I maintained membership in several of the others, in the National Council of Jewish Women and the Hadassah but it is a paper membership. There is just so much you can do. You can't go to so many meetings and do so much work. I am at the moment a vice president of the Women's Division of the U.J.C. and I am also active with the Israel Bond Campaign whenever I can and specifically at Temple Emeth I do most of the things that I do. I am very committed, we are very committed to Israel, we are strong Zionists and we have been many times. I have some family in Israel and we've been there many times and our oldest son lived there for two years so we have a strong personal commitment and involvement there and Emeth, as you know, is a Reformed temple. We are very proud of Rabbi Segal. Again, to go back to that original school struggle, Segal was very outspoken and in favor of the school desegregation and he's a very courageous man and he has spoken out many times on all kinds of issues and never holds back from what he believes is right.
(I) What about other clergy people during that period?
(N) That particular thing I can't account for but we do have some wonderful people in Teaneck as I am sure you know. Wonderful clergy people. Very concerned and outspoken and again, the variety of, well the variety of organizational life in Teaneck must be some kind of a record but also the variety of religious life here is quite astounding and people take it very seriously as well as other types of, well the political activity and other types of activity. Again, one of the things that we are very proud of that we should be very proud of in Teaneck is our non-partisan form of government and it is something that we have to maintain vigilance to keep going because again we are one of the few communities with a council manager form of government and non-partisan, non-political council. Our council people do not run as Democrats or Republicans.
(1) That's what you mean by non-partisan?
(N) Yes. And that I think is a very fine and wonderful thing and I think it should be maintained because the issues are Teaneck issues and not issues of patronage or political parties in any way. I don't even know what Mayor Brooks is or Lucille Steiner is in terms of their political affiliation but I know what they are in terms of the things that they do for Teaneck. I had a brief flurry a couple of years ago when my neighbor, Judith Glashman, ran for council and that was really a wonderful experience because Judy was such a fabulous candidate and wonderful person and I think wonderful council member and she moved to New York and I am very sorry about that. I think she was great.
(I) You spoke so positively about Teaneck in terms of so many areas and especially in terms of raising your children here. Those are the positives. Can you think of any downers, any problems, negative aspects ...
(N) You mean specific to Teaneck?
(I) Yeah, that you felt during that time and perhaps even beyond that.
(N) No, I really don't. If I am going to live in the suburbs, I think that Teaneck is about the best place that I can think of to live in. It is very diverse, it is an exciting community, it is full of fights. Everybody, constantly issues get, people get very passionate about issues and
(I) Can you think of other issues beyond the segregation issue?
(N) Oh, Glenpointe the high rise apartments, that was a big, that was also a council political issue. But those are the kinds of issues that come up and ... but I know whenever we talk to people from other communities about the kinds of communities that they are, even people from Tenafly, I feel kind of sorry for them because they don't have the richness and diversity that we have and the children don't have it. They don't have it in school. Whether they end up with friends from other ethnic backgrounds or not, and they don't necessarily, but. nevertheless they know that they are there, that people are people and it is such a rich heritage to be given to a young person. I think it is really extraordinary.
(I) Did you find, when your children were growing up, that their friends were from all areas of town and from the various ...
(N) It varies from different times. When they are very little and you are transporting them around, of course then they go all over town and not only allover this town but to other towns where they meet people in nursery schools or camp and so on. When they get older, they tend to relate more to people from their specific environment. Now again, the central sixth was a wonderful experience because at that point, they're older children and every so often, you meet a friend from another part of town who would not have been a friend had they not met in the central sixth grade because the kindergarten children, it is harder for them. Their mothers have to be involved in order for them to play with kids from other parts of town. And then of course in the high school but by then, the kids have their own logic. I don't understand it very well. They don't end up,. I don't know how true it is, I really don't know. My kids did not end up on a strong interracial note. Inter-religious, yes. Not necessarily interracial. But they did have friends along the way, there are people they know and they know that it is there and you know, if they meet someone in later life, they can react to a person and not to a label. For myself, having lived in New York and in Teaneck all my life, when I go away from this area, and I am reacted to as a Jew, it is startling to me because I am not used to it and
(I) Not used to what exactly?
(N) I am not used to being met by someone who reacts to me as a Jew first in, and not as a person. I am much more used to just taking it for granted that this is what I am. There is nothing unusual to me. But when someone meets me and says, you can see that the wheels are turning, it is startling. And it still happen in places.
(I) Out of this country?
(N) Out of this community. Out of this area I would say.
(I) That's interesting. I have a number of friends whose kids are still in the school system and mine just graduated very recently but in terms of integration, racially, a number of parents have said that when their kids were younger, there was certainly full integration as long as the kids were in school, in a particular class together within a school, but as the kids seemed to have approached what used to be the junior high but it is now the middle school, there seemed to be some changes. Not necessarily brought about by the kids themselves but perhaps by other pressures. And that seems to be, it is not necessarily accurate, but it appears to be that this is the way it is heading today and this is why I asked you that question to see whether it was noticeable even a few years ago.
(N) Well it might have been a little bit less when there was, in the first flush o£ the civil rights victories and whatever. But I think that there was a lot of truth in that. When they get into high school, kids tend to be much more involved with, their friends tend to be much more involved, much more people who are very much like them I think. I don't know. I am not a sociologist, I don't really, never thought a lot about it. I don't worry a lot about it. My feeling always has been that it is much more wonderful for them to have been exposed to know that people are there, to be open to the experiences so that should they have them, should they come across them, rather than never having been in a class with a black person or whatever. When I first moved to Teaneck, I remember one of my kids saying that there were two kinds of people - all Catholics and Jews, because that's all they were meeting in the section of town that we were living in.
(I) Can you make any comparisons ...
(N) Excuse me. While I am on the subject of Catholics and Jews, one of the very exciting things again, when I was involved with P.T.A. Council, there was strong Catholic representation from St. Anastasia's and we had a mutual, I assume this is still true, I don't know, maybe it isn't, but we had many mutual affairs and parties and fund raisers at St. Anastasia and we knew...
(I) Mutual fund raisers for who?
(N) For P.T.A. They were part of P.T.A. Council. I think they still are.
(I) St. Anastasia? No, they are not.
(N) Well at that time, St. Anastasia was a member of the P.T.A Council as well as some of the smaller private schools, the Lutheran schools. But St. Anastasia had strong representation. Jay Williams was very involved. I am not even sure whether he may even have been president of the P.T.A. Council but certainly he was involved and Rita Hall came out of that and we were very involved again on that level too and that was another very exciting time when it was going on and I am sorry if it still isn't.
(I) No it isn't as of now. But you taught me something. I wonder when that relationship was severed and what brought it about?
(N) I don't know if they were really severed. Maybe they just amicably parted company.
(1) I don't know but this is rather interesting. What I was going to ask you before is if you can make some kind of comparison of today's Teaneck to the time when you were most active, what would you say?
(N) Well, I don't like to generalize because we live in our own little corner and we haven't been involved in many broader issues. I was briefly involved when Judy Glassman ran for council. I had gotten involved with her campaign. But then since then I haven't been so much although we still have ties with people on individual level and we get into issues but overall I can't say that I am really up on all that's going on in Teaneck. One of the big changes in the last ten years has been the Orthodox synagogues in town. Our neighborhood, of course, has B'nai Suren which is the biggest. It is within walking distance of this street. And there has been a large, well large not in terms of numbers but in terms of percentage perhaps the neighborhood of young affluent Orthodox families into this particular neighborhood and I think the other biggest one being on Queen Anne Road although there are some smaller ... to me this has been a very positive experience. I know that a lot of people, there have been a lot of tensions over the synagogue itself. The expansions of the synagogue, the fact of people walking on the street on Shabbath, the fact that they don't use the public schools. But I have found there are several families on this block who moved in within the last five years and I have found them to be extraordinary young people. A pleasure to know, a pleasure to be with. Bright, educated. They don't fit any stereotype at all. The women work, the women are professionals. They're highly educated. They are observant Jews but they don't fit any of the stereotypes. Now I know that that isn't universally so but it has been my experience and particularly on this block and it has been a joy to know them, to relate to them. We talk about things. I ask them why they don't use the public schools and they tell me. They tell me that they want their children to have an education that they feel they should have and they can't get it in the public school. They can only get it in a complete environment. On the other hand, they vote; they are involved in issues. They are involved in political issues and local issues. They are concerned about their property. They have expensive homes. Maybe I've just been lucky on this block. There are three or four young Orthodox Jews families and they really are delightful.
(I) Have any of them spoke with you about why they chose this town?
(N) Well, I don't know how the synagogue started to tell you the truth. It would be an interesting thing for somebody to do, how B'nai Asuran got started, but once it started, people become attracted to it and this neighborhood thing, because they have to be within walking distance to their synagogue. And it is a very, I think a very remarkable group of people in this particular synagogue. And that's how they, now they've begun to come. Now these are rather expensive homes on this street so that most of them, the same way that we moved up from a smaller house, most of them have moved up from a smaller house but in Teaneck and many in this area or in the area of the other synagogues. But I enjoy knowing them; I enjoy learning from them. It is a great experience. It really is. It is like only in Teaneck can you get all these ...
(I) Well I am sure they are learning from you too June. with your background to give to them.
(N) But they are great. I love them.
(I) Let me ask you this - is there any committee perhaps or any policy-making board of any kind in town right now that you think that you might favorably make a contribution to?
(N) Well I never have been involved in any townwide, township committees. I never wanted to run for council or school board myself. I don't really know that there is anything at this point in my life that I would want to get involved in. I am really trying to taper off a little.
(I) Yes, you mentioned that to me on the phone. That your energies were directed elsewhere.
(N) No it isn't that. Even where I've been putting most of my energy in the last few years, in the U.J.C. and so on, I am really beginning to feel like tapering off there a little bit too.
(I) Do you have any communication with any of the other groups that we have in town now? Teaneck is becoming more and more involved with divergent groups of people, the blacks and the whites and Orthodox Jews. We have people here from the Near East, the Far East, Russian immigrants. Have you had any contact with any of these people?
(N) Well, when I was committeewoman I guess I did because we went around and we signed people up and made sure they were able to vote. But that was five years ago and I think the neighborhood has changed a great deal since then. Not so much organizationally. I work mainly with the temple now and of course you know that's a specific group. On a personal level, it is interesting. My husband recently had surgery and was home for a couple of weeks ... and he began to walk. It was true he was home in May which was a beautiful time of year in Teaneck when everything is blooming and everything is lovely. And he, the only thing he could do to keep himself active was walk so he began to walk and he walked all over town. He walked to Cedar Lane and he walked back and he even walked to Teaneck Road and Cedar Lane and he really did an extensive amount of walking. And he was astonished at how many people he really knew. How many storekeepers we've known for a long time and were so friendly. The amount of help the people were willing to give. The smalltown feeling that you have when you walk on Cedar Lane on a Saturday afternoon and you see people you haven't seen for a long time and all the shopkeepers and the kind of things. He really appreciated living here. It was something that was like a bonus to him. The fact that he had the time because you know he, being a commuter to New York, he didn't have all that much time to enjoy the town and so to him this was really a revelation. Those of us like me who do not work for wages, are much more involved with the town itself and we spend a lot more time and I guess everyone does.
(I) Bob has since gone back to work.
(N) Yes, he has gone back to work. Hopefully everything will be OK.
(I) What do you think your feelings are right now about remaining in Teaneck when the times comes that Bob may contemplate retirement ?
(N) Well all things being equal, we would like to live in town. It is, we were unfortunately in favor, I shouldn't say it that way, I will start that over again, we were in favor of the original development plan for the Glenpointe area in terms of the apartment houses that were originally supposed to be built in the original Hartz Mountain plan.
(I) Do you want to talk about that just one moment?
(N) Yes, and then well that was when Frank Burr was mayor and the council election of that year, whatever year that was, I've forgotten the date, Bob would know. He knows everyone of these. but the town elected three people who were opposed to that plan and the plan was scrapped and then subsequently the current plan developed later and as far as we were concerned, it was very unfortunate that those buildings were not built because people who want to move from houses into apartments can't do it in Teaneck. You have to go to Fort Lee or Hackensack. I mean you just there is no place to go. And I think that is very sad. Because all things being equal, we would like to stay. When that time comes, I don't know what we will do. And it may come soon because I've got this big house and our youngest still in college but he's got one foot out the door and the other two have their own apartments in New York so it probably will come fairly soon and I'm beginning to think about it but I HAVEN'T been able to come to any decision. I really don't know what I will do. I would like to stay because we have a real feeling of community and we have, I certainly have my life here. I play tennis. The last few years we've also been involved in fitness my husband and I and so I spend a lot of time exercising and playing tennis and worrying about my weight and stuff like that. You know, keeping fit. It is a good feeling. Let's see. Was there anything else I wanted to say about ...
(I) Is there anything else you would like to say or to add or to further clarify or any kind?
(N) I think we both still feel that living in Teaneck is really a positive experience no matter what problems people have and everybody's got problems, every group has problems, every area, nevertheless, there is in this town the open ability to express feelings, to get other people to work with you on issues. There was a whole thing back then when the Northeast Community Organization was formed (NECO) and
(I) You say back then. What year was that?
(N) I am going back to the 60s when all this excitement was going on. Community interracial groups working together. It is not the same now but nevertheless I think that when issues surface, when specific things come up, that people still have the ability to coalesce with each other and work for the larger good and the larger issues. The potential is here and I think, we think that Mayor Brooks exemplifies it. That he is a really wonderful example of exactly what I am talking about. His devotion to the good of the town and the ability to carry it forward for all the people, not just for anyone group. And we are glad that we had the experience here. It is a small town in many ways and yet it is cosmopolitan in many ways and most of the communities in the United States just don't have that.
(I) I wonder if that is because of our proximity to the city where so many people have moved from the city...
(N) I think there is something to that but it is also more than that. We do perhaps attract certain kinds of people but I don't know, I really can't answer it. I think it is the quality of the people but there is also something in the collective life of the town that contributes to it and makes people involved and care about other people. It's good. I am not saying it is perfect and that we don't have a lot of problems and I know there are a lot of tensions and things that are still going on and will continue to go on but
(I) Would you care to talk about any of those tensions ...
(N) No, I think I've really covered most of them but it is a matter of good will and recognizing people as individuals. We are all members of our own groups and yet we are able to transcend them and to look beyond our noses and I think that that is part of what's made it a pleasure for me. I will always feel that way about any community that I live in but some of them, it is easier to do it in than others. OK?
(I) I really thank you for sharing your experiences with me tonight and I've enjoyed learning from you.. It has been wonderful. I really thank you.
(N) I'll probably think of twenty five things after you stop. (END OF TAPE)