“Time Flies Like an Arrow…” by David Drimer

“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana,” Groucho reputedly quipped. I have had the high honor and distinct privilege — as the saying goes — of serving our community as executive director of the Jewish Federation of Ulster County for just one year.

It’s time to take stock. 

The Federation is a sentinel for the safety and security of the Jewish residents of Ulster County. One of our first initiatives during my tenure was founding the Ulster County Antisemitism Hotline, a 24/7/365 resource for reporting bias-related torts and crimes. There was a clear need; just on word-of-mouth chatter we were considering establishing the Hotline, we received three incident reports in four weeks. Consequently, we moved up the launch date. The Hotline has become the linchpin of our efforts to help protect the area’s Jewish residents. 

We continue to advise anyone who witnesses or is the victim of a bias-related incident to immediately call local law enforcement. Then, call the Hotline at 845-859-9858, or file an online report via the intake form provided on the Federation’s website (UCJF.org). We have resources and strategic partners, like the Secure Community Network (SCN) and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, on tap to follow-up with law enforcement, government agencies, and media, et al. to seek and obtain resolutions. Anonymity is guaranteed for those who wish it.

Among the Federation’s mission-driven projects is the Ulster County Holocaust Awareness Initiative, an ambitious program designed to address dismal Holocaust Awareness among Millennials and younger. New York ranks in the bottom ten of all states according to a national research study. We’re building comprehensive programming to supplement already mandated Holocaust Education. The Federation believes NEVER AGAIN begins with NEVER FORGET, and we are ethically compelled to vigorously pursue better educational outcomes for our student population.

The Federation introduced and lobbied for passage of a Resolution Against Antisemitism in the Ulster County Legislature. We sought a bipartisan, pre-emptive, and assertive statement from our local representatives that hate has no place here in Ulster County.  We were gratified indeed when it passed unanimously. 

More recently, we brought the Jewish community together in a Yom HaShoah remembrance to sustain grim memories of the Holocaust, lest it fade from the collective memory. Without question, the vivid but tragic reminiscences of Auschwitz survivor Lola Mozes will resonate with those in attendance for many years to come. The entire program – featuring testimony by three generations of survivors — is available on the Woodstock Jewish Congregation’s YouTube channel: it’s well worth watching. 

Upcoming, the Federation is sponsoring a free, in-depth briefing by expert law enforcement personnel on Situational Awareness, hosted by the Secure Community Network on tightening the security profile of local Synagogues in the wake of the Colleyville, Texas hostage incident. The necessity of staging this and similar events is a result of the grim realities of encroaching antisemitism. It is up to all of us to remain vigilant, and the Federation takes its responsibility to support our community in this regard very seriously. 

Like security concerns in the wake of Colleyville and other antisemitic incidents, unexpected situations pop-up that demand our immediate attention. The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is one such event. The Federation raised tens of thousands of dollars for Ukrainian Jews devastated by the Russian invasion. Perhaps, you’ve seen the video appeal the legendary Arlo Guthrie recorded to support our efforts (he broke out the famous Woodstock guitar just for us). We passed those donations along to the Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA), our international umbrella organization. One hundred percent of those proceeds went to emergency relief agencies in that embattled nation.

  The history of the Jewish Federation of Ulster County extends back to the chartering of the Kingston Jewish Community Council in 1951. It assumed its current appellation in 1992. All the traditional activities you’ve come to rely on over these many years continued unabated, even during the pandemic: funding College scholarships and Jewish Summer Camp grants, and subsidizing Israel trips; producing the Annual Fall for Art juried art show to advance the area’s standing as a vibrant creative community; and, coordinating an annual Day of Jewish Learning to preserve a heartfelt appreciation of our most-valued Jewish customs and traditions.

 New initiatives were added. We built the first-ever Community Sukkah in a Kingston park. We expanded our newsletter and branded it as Kadima, (“Forward” in Hebrew); it’s focused on Jewish issues and promoting and preserving the richness of our culture. Readership is growing rapidly. We radically upgraded our digital presence through social media to capture the interest of a younger Jewish demographic. We produced a Kosher Certification informational webinar with the Orthodox Union (OU) to improve local quality of life for those who keep Kashrut. We continue to grow the PJ Library project, providing free books to Jewish children, to instill an early appreciation of Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam

We’re looking forward eagerly to the rollout of JewishUlster.com, a comprehensive resource website we’re building for families and individuals considering moving to Ulster County, or who have recently relocated here. The theme of the site will be “Ulster County is a great Jewish Place to Live.” Look for it this Summer.

I have been blessed with the most hands-on, well-informed, and dedicated Board of Directors I’ve encountered in my not-for-profit career. They are fully committed to the growth of the Federation and its service to the Jewish community, as Ulster County also undergoes unprecedented population growth.  

Much has been accomplished in the past year. So very much remains to be done. If there is ever anything we can do to be assistance, please don’t hesitate to call 845-338-8131, or e-mail development@ucjf.org

Ulster is, in fact, a great Jewish place to live. And we are working to make it even better. We’re happy to have you along for the ride.