It is often said there is always room for improvement. For more than 30 years I have been living in the Capital District and always wondered why the Jewish community was not thriving more than it already does. I recently came to the conclusion that we do not promote ourselves as a culture and ethnicity to areas outside our small circle of comrades.
After the terrorist attacks on 9-11 many Jews were looking for more serene confines to relocate. For the most part, Jews went everywhere else but the Capital District. When more than 150 Israelis came to the Capital District to work at the NanoTech facility in East Greenbush, where was the welcoming committee by our local Jewish community? I realize that not all Israelis are Jewish but I can only imagine that most of the ones coming to work at NanoTech are Jewish.
When I would go back to my hometown of Mill Basin, Brooklyn, my rabbi and other friends would say to me, we know why you went to Albany (to go to college at UAlbany) but why did you stay? Is there any sort of a Jewish community in Albany? This area is viewed as a vast wasteland of Jewish life and culture from folks outside this region and, I have come to find out, folks within the region believe the same.
Ultimately, I did not move to a more urban area because we have a welcoming, vital, vibrant Jewish community with untapped potential and that story needed to be told. Last year I began my mission and discovered there are more than 20,000 Jews within the 16-county greater Capital District encompassing 50 congregations, 30 Jewish-run organizations, more than 900 Jewish business owners and professionals as well as many Jewish education opportunities. I posted all that information on a website named JBizTechValley.com.
The website is designed to serve three purposes:
1. To inform prospective newcomers to this area that there is a Jewish community with a broad base;
2. To show folks outside the region that this area supports a vibrant and vital Jewish life and culture; and
3. To encourage people within the Albany-area Jewish community to support local Jewish businesses.
The website features a column entitled News Jews Can Use. All the reporting is original content that pertains to the Jewish community in some fashion. One of my goals is to offer the Jewish community something unique, a new and different perspective not covered in existing local Jewish publications.
During this two-year process, it was recommended that I reach out to the publisher of The Jewish World newspaper, a bi-monthly 49-year old publication. The prime focus of that publication is not original content news, which is what I wanted to produce. There is a custom in Judaism that two businesses should not compete where one business puts the other one out of business. As a way of complementing the content in The Jewish World newspaper, I feel comfortable that I am offering the Jewish community something different.
To make the website content more dynamic than just existing in cyberspace as an online directory, I teamed up with Rabbi Nachman Simon of the Chabad House of Delmar, who hosted a long-running program on Bethlehem cable called The Jewish View. Once a month we taped two half-hour programs featuring newsmakers from the town of Bethlehem. The tapings are during the week and during the day so it was difficult to book guests.
While we still tape shows at the Bethlehem cable channel, the city of Albany, combined with other entities, began Channel Albany last year, located at the main branch of the Albany Public Library. The use of this additional facility allowed us the opportunity to attract more guests and tape additional shows. In one year we taped more than 100 episodes from the Albany facility. Our guests have included elected officials on the federal, state and local level, government officials and leaders of the area arts and entertainment communities.
I love the concept of community and I’m trying to work together with as many people as possible in this area. We have a marvelous Jewish community. Let’s take a moment to celebrate all that our community has accomplished. We have been leaders in the arenas of academia, economics, entertainment, arts and politics. We have shown guidance as advocates, mentors and volunteers. We are a diverse, strong, lively and energetic community breaking new ground in everything from technology to medicine and innovative ways of doing business.
By standing together we have and will continue to empower Jewish men and women throughout New York state to build a better, more prosperous future for all.