It’s time for Hudson County to be annexed by a Jewish federation.
Hudson County is home to an exploding population of Jewish young adults, and Jewish life in general is growing fast. Not only are the Jewish young adults of New Jersey following the trend of the rest of their cohort in moving to Hudson County, but families with young children and empty nesters who desire an affordable and cultured urban area near New York City are settling down for the near future and retirement.
Crazy as it would have sounded 10 to 20 years ago, Hoboken and Jersey City are desirable spots for the post-collegiate but still partying demographic, refugees from Manhattan and Brooklyn, and seniors. What draws them here are Hoboken’s 200 bars, Jersey Cities art galleries, fine dining, high culture, quality living, and more.
Two New Jersey federations already have a toe in the door here. Both the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey and the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest operate Jewish Family Services (Metro West in Jersey City and Hoboken, Northern New Jersey in the rest of Hudson), both generously support Moishe House Hoboken, and both have been engaging Jewish young adults in cooperation with a host of local partners (including but not limited to the Moishe House, United Synagogue of Hoboken, and Jersey Tribe).
Since its inception in 2007, HudsonJewish (HudsonJewish.org), a community umbrella group, has been working with Hudson County Jewish organizations from synagogues to the Moishe House, from Jersey Tribe to the Bayonne JCC. HudsonJewish has facilitated innovating programming for all ages and been a constant advocate for the needs of the Jewish community, including annexation by a New Jersey Jewish federation.
In recent years, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey has upped its involvement in Jewish life in Hudson County. It has invited Hudson County residents to participate in the Russell Berrie Fellowship, has sent its Center for Israel Engagement director to Israel film screenings, and now is poised to create a partnership with the Moishe House and United Synagogue of Hoboken for young leadership development.
While Hudson County needs the full presences of a federation, the truth is that even more than Hudson County needs a federation, the New Jersey federation system needs Hudson County. Without active involvement by the organized community, the thousands upon thousands of Jewish young adults living here will be left devoid of any Jewish connection with the federation system in their crucial early adult years. These Jewish young adults come from all over New Jersey and many of them will be moving back to the suburbs, but if they have developed no relationship to organized Jewish life it is highly unlikely that they will become involved.
Annexing Hudson County doesn’t just offer positive long-term results by investment in engaging Jewish young adults. It means a concrete opportunity to reach two populations that have had significant growth, will continue to grow, and have disposable income – untapped upwardly mobile young families and empty nesters. While most young adults who move to the area pass through to the suburbs after a number of years, many have begun to settle down and raise families. Bolstering the indigenous fundraising potential are the empty nesters, the retired and near retired, who like the young families and young adults move to Hudson County for its proximity to NYC and local culture. Both the young upwardly mobile families and the empty nesters present a potential federation with a positive cost benefit analysis when examining short- and medium-term results.
Jewish life in Hudson County, from Jersey City, Hoboken, Weehawken, and beyond, is growing at an astounding rate. From Moishe House to HudsonJewish, there are indigenous efforts and national Jewish organizations on the ground. From the North Jersey Jewish Film Festival movie screening by the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey to the Jewish Family Services of MetroWest in Jersey City, there are amazing partnerships taking place. But the occasional and periodic involvement of the local New Jersey organizational Jewish world is not enough.
To build the bridges of lasting, meaningful, and substantive connections for post-collegiate young adults, young families, and empty nesters, Hudson County must be annexed by a federation.