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‘Guiding light’ honored for preserving history
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‘Guiding light’ honored for preserving history

Ruth Marcus Patt accepts an award from the Jewish Historical Society of Central Jersey’s president, Nat Reiss, left, and vice president, Harvey Hauptman. Photo by Debra Rubin
Ruth Marcus Patt accepts an award from the Jewish Historical Society of Central Jersey’s president, Nat Reiss, left, and vice president, Harvey Hauptman. Photo by Debra Rubin

Described as a “woman of valor” and a “guiding light” whose determined efforts have helped preserve the Jewish history of central New Jersey, Ruth Marcus Patt was honored in a tribute that drew government officials, educators, and leaders of the general and Jewish communities.

The April 13 event was held at Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, where the 90-year-old Patt has been a lifelong member and the first woman to sit on its board.

“Any day honoring Ruth Marcus Patt is a great day for the Jewish community,” said Rutgers Hillel executive director Andrew Getraer. “She is one of the most extraordinary leaders of the Jewish community and a vital leader of Rutgers Hillel.”

Patt, who founded the Jewish Historical Society of Central Jersey in 1977, was called its “guiding light.” Although she no longer serves as president, Patt continues to speak and plan its lecture series. She has also authored five books on local Jewish history.

“I’m just so pleased so many people are here,” said Patt as she scanned the room of 125 well-wishers. “I think it’s probably a tribute to the organization.”

The society’s current president, Nat Reiss, said Patt was the “first person in 275 years of Jewish history in central New Jersey to try and preserve it.”

Located in Anshe Emeth, the society preserves photographs, memorabilia, and synagogue and family documents. Its purview includes Middlesex, Union, Mercer, Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren counties.

Patt’s twin sister, Adelaide Zagoren of Monroe, said her sister “inspired all of us.”

“She was always looking to make her community a better place, especially the Jewish community,” she said.

New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill recalled Marcus’ work as chair of the committee responsible for the city’s 300th anniversary celebration in 1980. “Ruth has been a tremendous asset to this city,” said Cahill, who credited her ability to bring together neighborhoods and people of different backgrounds. “That tercentennial created a lot of pride. I don’t think much of what happened in New Brunswick would have happened if it weren’t for you and your efforts,” he told the honoree, who was named New Brunswick’s citizen of the year in 1981.

Patt was a lifelong resident of New Brunswick until moving to Monroe about 12 years ago.

“Ruth Marcus Patt is a real aishet hayil, a true woman of valor,” said Rabbi Eliezer Zaklikovsky of the Chabad Jewish Center in Monroe.

Keynote speaker Dr. Douglas Greenberg, executive dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University, praised the society. “The records of the past need our preservation,” he said.

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