Ulster County: A Great Jewish Place to Live By David Drimer, Executive Director director@ucjf.org

Flag of Ulster County, NY

After months of planning, we’re launching a new website we’ve been buzzing about for almost a year. We’ve teased it more than a few times, but now all its content and functionality are being unveiled for everyone to see. We’re confident it will have a significant impact on Jewish life in our ever-growing community, by helping to attract and encourage new Jewish residents. That influx will fuel and sustain a bright future for Jewish life and culture locally. That’s the Federation’s principal mission. JewishUlster.com is a resource site and e-newsletter — supported by social media on a variety of platforms — targeted at individuals and families who have recently moved to Ulster or who are considering relocation. It speaks to the needs of every stream of Judaism, from Reform, Reconstructionist, and unaffiliated to Conservative and Orthodox. In combination with the Jewish Federation’s current, more activist website at UCJF.org, visitors can tune into the zeitgeist (the defining spirit) of our community. The tagline is – as noted above – “Ulster County is a Great Jewish Place to Live.” The theme of the advertising and promotional campaign to build traffic is: “Can I build a Jewish life for my family outside of the City?” The extant Jewish community knows one can, and it becomes truer every day as the downstate influx continues and organizations like the Jewish Federation of Ulster County (UCJF.org) grow their agendas to meet an extensive list of evolving needs. Ulster County ranked as the second fastest growing county in New York State last year. Much of that growth was spurred by the Pandemic. The NY Times reported that much of the population growth springs from the Upper Eastside (UES) and Upper Westside (UWS) of Manhattan. I lived on the UES before I moved here just over one year ago. Local real estate professionals say that analysis ignores the huge cadre of Brooklynites – who skew slightly younger – staking their claim to local residences. “Brooklyn has moved here,” one broker told us. Bear in mind Ulster reputedly experienced the highest real estate appreciation in the country in 2021, about 30%. Our newest neighbors are affluent above the median. Many seek to work remotely even as Covid quarantining winds down, so we can assume they’re mostly working full time online. Ulster is a convenient home base for someone who needs to pop into the city for business from time to time, but few are likely to commute back-and-forth every day. That implies a subset of professionals – mostly college graduates — are seeking to maintain their current employment while fleeing the city. Many are couples, with one working remotely and the other seeking local employment opportunities. Put those demographic factors together and it paints a picture of a largely Jewish urban Diaspora, quite likely more than half of new residents. Based on anecdotal observation, the local Rabbis I’ve spoken with about this phenomenon totally agree. So JewishUlster.com will answer those questions new members of a community are likely to have and provide resources for assimilating to life in our neighborhoods. Every synagogue has its own free page on our site that links to its own site. There is a podcast that explores Jewish life in our neighborhoods, in tightly edited 8-minute segments. I’ll be interviewing prominent guests about Ulster life, schools, Shuls, and real estate. My first interview was with Ward Todd, president of the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce. There is nobody better tuned in to the workings of this area than Ward. Future interviews will be with rabbis and membership chairs of all the local synagogues, real estate brokers, educators, and local political leaders. 5 Jewish Federation of Ulster County | OUR VOICE We’re especially excited about our proprietary jobs board, providing access to both local and remote working opportunities. There’s a photo and video gallery which documents the joy and diversity of Jewish life here. We share news and essays on Jewish life from a local perspective, and JewishUlster.com offers a shared community calendar so there’s one place to access literally all Jewish cultural events. We aggregate Jewish news from a vast array of sources and blogs that have relevance either to our locale or provide access to compelling Jewish trends and ideas. The individuals we’re targeting in the marketing campaign to build site traffic are loosely defined as: young professionals and families with younger children;  more likely to read Haaretz than JPost; highly compensated or entrepreneurs; college grads and graduate degrees. Importantly, most belong to synagogues now and must find a shul when they settle down here.  They probably went to Israel on Birthright and/ or belonged to BBYO or a similar organization. They have a history of Tzedakah. Where to shop for kosher food for every day, and for the Chagim? Where can I find a Mohel? (If you need one, Mazel Tov). Where can my children go to school? What shul best meets my family’s needs? Is there an Eruv? Is it safe to be Jewish here? (Yes, it is. Very). JewishUlster.com is one-stop shopping for those answers, and more. Visitors from outside will learn things about the community they would hear about in few other places. That includes the new tradition of a Federation Sukkah in a public park, the availability of free Jewish books for children through PJ Library, the Ulster County Holocaust Awareness Initiative, our observances of Yom Ha’Shoah and Yom Hazikaron, the Annual Day of Jewish learning, the upcoming celebration of Israel’s birthday, as well as various support services. It’s intended as an advertiser-supported website. The local merchants and services who will benefit from this targeted exposure are obvious. We don’t have a local Jewish weekly newspaper in any of our towns, but a combination of original material, useful resources and curated information will meet much of that need. We intend to poll our site visitors regularly about critical areas of Jewish life. JewishUlster.com – and the Jewish Federation – will respond dynamically to the wants and needs of its constituents based on what we learn. Everyone knows somebody weighing the benefits of abandoning the cities for a better life, often “away” but “nearby.” We’ll be relying on you to share the link with your own social networks to help accelerate meeting our growth goals. The objective is not only to prove Ulster is a great Jewish place to live right now. The Federation is committed to making sure that, every single day, it’s an even better Jewish place to live than it was the day before. Shalom.