Posted on Apr 29, 2010

Jennifer Winkelried '10, A Glimpse of Jewish History, Senior History Project, April 2010

While growing up in New Jersey, Jennifer Winkelried ’10 enjoyed the stories her grandfather, Irwin, shared about living in Newark, where he was part of a wave of Jewish families who settled in the state’s largest city.

Irwin, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Rutgers University and was a standout running back, earning the nickname “Bullet,” would recall the bonds that were formed within the Jewish community and their impact on his life. A successful real estate appraiser, he, like many others, eventually moved out of the city. But his roots remained in Newark.

“Because of my grandfather, I learned to appreciate the rich history of both the city and the culture that Judaism fosters in the people,” said Winkelried.

Jennifer Winkelried '10, A Glimpse of Jewish History, Senior History Project, April 2010 – with father, John

A history major with a passion for photography, Winkelried has taken her appreciation for the Jewish culture in Newark and created an exhibit, “A Glimpse of Jewish Newark: The Immigrant Experience 1844-1953.”

The exhibit opens Friday, April 30 on the second floor of Social Sciences and runs through May 13. A reception will be held Friday, May 7, from 3 to 5 p.m.

Working primarily with the Jewish Historical Society of Metro West in Whippany, N.J., Winkelried assembled an exhibit that features more than 50 historic photos and numerous artifacts, including a stained glass window from a synagogue, an antique camera and a collection of books.

The material is displayed by category, including commerce, people, worship, culture and recreation, and community.

As part of her research, Winkelried also interviewed former citizens of the industrial city, and religious and academic scholars.

Jews of Newark, Jennifer Winkelried senior project

“There has been a great deal of attention focused on the history of Jews and other immigrants in New York City, but little on the experience of Jews in New Jersey communities,” said Winkelried, whose family lives in Short Hills. “I had heard so much about the Jews in Newark from my grandparents, and I thought it was important to tell their story.”

The exhibit, which is Winkelried’s senior thesis, traces the first wave of German Jews who came primarily from small farm towns in the mid 1840s, and the arrival of other Eastern European Jews in the early part of the 20th century, when the city was teeming with activity. The exhibit wraps with a snapshot of the city’s Jewish life during the post World War II decline, when Newark, like many large American cities, saw an influx of people move to the suburbs.

Winkelried had help in putting together the exhibit. She was awarded a grant from the David Potts Fund for Student Research in History, established by Neil Kramer ’70 in honor of Potts, who taught history at Union from 1967 to 1979.

Teresa Meade, the Florence B. Sherwood Professor of History and Culture, is Winkelried’s senior advisor. She said the project fits nicely with the College’s new public history program, which strives to teach students about history in a palpable way, such as when a group from Union spent their winter following the celebrated path of our nation’s civil rights movement.

Jennifer Winkelried '10, A Glimpse of Jewish History, Senior History Project, April 2010 with Prof Meade

“Jen’s exhibit is so much different than simply putting printed words on a page,” said Meade. “She was able to tap into her skills from a visual point of view, and tell the story of a changing community.”

Mandeville Gallery Director and Curator Rachel Seligman also provided technical and logistical assistance.

“I feel that it is vital to support this kind of creative student project,” said Seligman. “Jen’s project will engage a much broader audience than a thesis paper would, and it is the kind of exciting and ambitious undertaking that should get as much support as possible.”

Winkelried has dedicated the exhibit to her grandfather, who was 81 when he died in 2008.

“Before his passing, he always referenced his life and the relationships he made in Newark,” said Winkelried. “In the last years of his life, when he was sick, his four closest friends from Newark still came to visit him every week. Those bonds never went away.”