Dr. Fred Reiss, whose career spans five decades, is a retired, award winning public and Jewish-school teacher, administrator, and university adjunct instructor at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He received his AB in physics from Rutgers University, his M.Ed. in supervision and curriculum development from Rowan University, his MS in computer science from New Jersey Institute of Technology, and his Ed.D. in educational administration from Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Education.
My father-in-law died in December, 1979, about the same time I purchased my first home computer, a Commodore 64, through which I taught myself to program. As the first anniversary of his death drew near, I wondered if I could program the computer to find his yahrzeit date, the annual Jewish commemoration of his death, and so began my journey to understand the Jewish calendar, a quest which not only succeeded in finding those dates, but resulted in the 1986 Behrman House publication of my book The Standard Guide to the Jewish and Civil Calendars, 1899 to 2050. Since then, I have continued my research to fathom the inner workings of this most complicated of all calendars.
I read a Hebrew version of Sepher Yetzirah for the first time in the late 1970's, and believed the book to be a "Cliff Notes" rendition, written for mystics who fully understood all the concepts and ideas laid out within its brief pages. As I studied further, I came to realized that Sepher Yetzirah is much more, it is the blending of Greek philosophy and Jewish theology, offering a mystical explanation of Genesis 1, creation, through the Hebrew alphabet and the counting numbers.
The Superintendent of School, in April 2000, directed me to spearhead the production of the 2000-2001 school-year calendar, a calendar whose annual publication held--in addition to the expected monthly calendars with school events--pictures of students, parents, and staff highlighting their active engagement in school-related activities.
Public education in Camden is quite old, going back to the 1830's. Caught up in "millennial fever," it became just a small step to include a brief history of the school district along with pictures of schools no longer standing. The calendar met with acclaim and I began my journey to grasp the history of this school district, segregated from its inception until the late 1940's. I learned how the school district struggled through events such as the Civil War, mass immigration into the city, childhood diseases. and financial panics, including the Great Depression.
To gather the history, I spent many, many after-school hours researching at Rutgers University's Paul Robeson Library, The Camden County Historical Society, and reviewing school-board minutes, culminating in the publication of Public Education in Camden, NJ: From Inception to Integration.