DAVID GOLDSTEIN IN CONVERSATION WITH WJC ARCHIVIST JILL CASLIN
Jill Caslin enjoys keeping track of our history. Having been busy for years as head of the Westchester Jewish Basketball League while working full time, Jill was approached by then WJC President Josef Raboy, who said to her one day, “WJC should have someone in charge of keeping our history. How about you?” To this day Jill is not clear about why Joe asked her to do this or why she accepted the position! But taking on this role changed both her life and the life of WJC.
The role of the archivist, while relatively obscure, has critical meaning to a synagogue, especially one as proud of its history as WJC. The story of WJC’s growth is also the story of how the Jewish community in Mamaroneck has grown. As Jill remarks, “Jewish families would take the train from New York City, get off at Mamaroneck, say how nice a place it was, and decide to make their homes and businesses here.”
From 1989 to 1991, Jill and fellow congregant Walter Reichman interviewed many long-time members of WJC, with their tape recorders. Beginning in 1990, Jill began including a monthly article in The Review, describing events that had happened in that month from long ago. “People loved reading about the olden days and still do,” said Jill.
But then things started to get REALLY interesting. A request for congregants to bring in old papers and photos was met with an overwhelming response. Jill had to ask the Trustees for her own cabinets to store all of these memories! Critical to the success of these efforts were Rabbi Irving and Marly Koslowe, who filled in wonderful memories from their early years here. Marly also came up with the idea of creating a huge Sisterhood tablecloth to help raise money for the move from Halstead Avenue to our present location. People who donated had their family trees embroidered on it—and recently Marly sent us a video from Florida in which she talked beautifully about our history. These were displayed last fall; maybe they will be again one day.
In 1994, Jill created a glossy booklet of our history so far, publicizing WJC’s 75th anniversary. And in doing this, Jill focused attention on what has been a longstanding difference of opinion regarding WJC: is 2019 really our 100th anniversary? As Jill explains, “1919 is when Jewish families in Mamaroneck officially formed a shul (originally named Hebrew Institute of Mamaroneck) but 1924 is when ground was broken for a building on Halstead Avenue.” As we have seen, Jill has taken her prerogative as the WJC archivist in declaring that 1919 is truly the beginning of our wonderful community.
What does Jill most love about WJC? “We are a peaceful, interesting, always evolving place to be for our Jewish lives.” In thinking about all that Jill has done for WJC, it is clear how much she means to us!
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