In his op-ed, Josh Einstein makes a strong case for an increased Jewish federation presence in lower Hudson County (“Hudson County needs a federation,” April 11). However, one would get the erroneous impression from his piece that lower Hudson County is not part of the federation system whatsoever.
The communities of Bayonne, Hoboken, and Jersey City are part of the Jewish Federations of North America’s Network of Independent Communities. This is the arrangement that JFNA has with more than 300 small Jewish communities that are not part of North America’s 153 Jewish federations with professional leadership. As fully independent communities, Hoboken, Jersey City, and Bayonne each conduct their own fully independent volunteer-run UJA campaign and conduct a fully independent allocations process.
Our community has greatly benefited from the dedication of Ed Finkel, Network’s northeast regional director, who provides professional support to Bayonne, Hoboken, and Jersey City, together with all other Network communities from Maine to Maryland, plus South Florida and Puerto Rico. Especially when our community in Hoboken was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, we greatly appreciated Ed’s devotion to our community’s needs and his assistance at marshaling regional and national support in our hour of crisis. As Josh Einstein noted in his piece, we also have benefited from the generosity of our neighboring federations, who have shared some federation services with us even though we are outside of their catchment area.
Many of us in lower Hudson County long have noted that our communities are quite anomalous in the Network of Independent Communities. Most other Network communities nationwide are small and isolated Jewish communities with minimal Jewish infrastructure. Other than Hoboken, Jersey City, and Bayonne, no other Network communities are at the center of a major metropolitan area with a large Jewish population. Few if any have a quickly growing Jewish population, including many young adults and young families, as Hoboken and Jersey City do. For all the reasons that Josh Einstein cites in his piece, reaching out to the Jews of lower Hudson County should be not only a local priority, but a regional priority. The Jewish residents and institutions of lower Hudson County ought to receive a level of Jewish communal services that are typical of the investment that Jewish federations make in areas with quickly growing Jewish populations. I think we would be most likely to achieve that level of Jewish communal services by becoming part of one of our neighboring federations, though I believe our local leaders would consider any option to bring this level of Jewish communal services realistically to lower Hudson County in the short and long term. We look forward to continuing our discussions with our neighboring Jewish federations, with the JFNA Network, and with the JFNA central leadership to ensure that the lower Hudson County Jewish population is most effectively connected to Jewish communal life.