Today is January 25, 2020 -

Where is Rensselaer?

In 1986, the Jewish Federation of Greater Schenectady and the Greater Albany Jewish Federation consolidated to become United Jewish Federation of Northeastern NY.
When I started working here in 2000, people were still “joking” about needing a current passport for the border crossing on route 7 to get back and forth between the communities. I’m happy to report that in 2019, most people have accepted the 20-minute drive and are willing to “cross the border.”
Well, now we have a new problem. For the first time, at least in the last 19 years, Thursday night we are hosting a program in Rensselaer. Rensselaer?? Where is that? Isn’t Rensselaer way over, on the other side of the river?
Friends: Apple Maps, Google Maps, and Waze all projected a 13-minute drive from my house to Thursday’s venue (14 minutes if you hit the heavy Dunn Memorial Bridge traffic, for which all Hudson River crossings are famous). As an added bonus, the bridge is totally free, in both directions. And speaking of free, the venue, SUNY’s School of Public Health, has a wide open, large, free parking lot, right in front of the building.
For my readers downstate, used to daily commutes exceeding 90 minutes in each direction over expensive bridges with expensive parking options, my sincere apologies. I know that you have no appreciation for anything that I’ve written.
Ok, fun aside, Thursday night’s program might be Federation’s most important program of the year. The opioid crisis affects all of us. I personally know three people who have suffered from this terrible disease. One is getting help. The second committed a horrific crime while high and will be in prison for the rest of his life. The third’s difficult life has already tragically ended.
Our religion, education, affluence, ethics, and upbringing are not protecting us. Some are asking, “Why is Federation hosting this program? What’s Jewish about it?” Maybe we avoid such programs because we fear the stigma of identifying? Maybe, if it’s our program, we’ll consider stepping out of our comfort zones with our friends and community to participate.  Panelist Sheriff Craig Apple said, “This program is so important that if even one person shows up and learns something, it will be worth my time to serve.”
Please do not miss this program. We’re charging $20 per person ($25 at the door) to cover our food costs. I’m opening it up to our students for $5 per student, because we really need them there. Please register yourself and your students here, now!
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