Looking north up Broadway from Mill Street, c. 1922. Courtesy John Matthews

Looking north up Broadway from Mill Street, c. 1922. Courtesy John Matthews

In the spring of 2002, three members of the Board of Directors of the  Jewish Federation of Ulster County, came together to create a Jewish History of Kingston exhibit.  They were Geoffrey Miller, the project coordinatorBarbara Blas and Barbara Cohen, and they became known as the Jewish History Project Committee.  The exhibit was planned as the Jewish Federation’s contribution to a year of special activities commemorating the 350th anniversary of the founding of Kingston, New York.  They called themselves the Jewish History Project, and set to work inviting the Jewish community to provide them with information, family photographs, stories and whatever other memorabilia people were willing to share.  They were delightfully surprised by the response, and very quickly accumulated enough material for a substantial  exhibit.  Susan Basch and Howard Blas joined the committee at that time to help plan and mount the show.

The success of the exhibit, and the continuing interest in the project on the part of the Jewish community, encouraged  the committee members to plan a follow-up event, A Nosh, Some Nostalgia and a Two-Cent Plain.  Over a hundred and fifty people turned out for this event in June 2004, filling the social hall at Congregation Agudas Achim for an evening of food, oral history, seltzer and chocolate egg creams.

Again, the enthusiasm of the Jewish community’s response to the program encouraged the committee members to plan for a third program in 2005.  Then, in the fall of 2004, Hyman Reher, the last of the Reher Family bakers, deeded the Bakery buildings to the Jewish Federation shortly before his passing, and the efforts of the committee shifted to figuring out the needs of the buildings and how to raise the funds necessary to stabilize and adapt them for use as a cultural center.  Dr. Randolph Myerson, a returning member of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Federation of Ulster County, joined the committee at that time.

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