25 Jun Should I Move Upstate This Summer?
The thousands of families who head upstate for the summer months really enjoy the area. From Swan Lake to Woodbourne, from Monticello to Woodridge, the mountains are teeming with men, women and children enjoying all of what the area has to offer.
But how many of us have ever thought of not just spending 8-10 weeks and perhaps a Yom Tov here, but actually relocating their family to the mountains for the entire year. For most of us the thought hasn’t crossed our minds. Yet, for some who have made the move, they are thrilled with their decision. The lower cost of living, the out-of-town environment (at least for most of the year) and the relatively close proximity to Monsey and New York, make the mountains one of the more attractive options for a family looking to move out-of-town.
If one takes a drive around the Catskills during the winter months there are plenty of frum people around, say local residents. There are residents based around the yeshivos in South Fallsburg and Mountaindale, the Viznitzer community in Kiamesha Lake and others based in Monticello, White Lake, Woodridge and other places.
But the likely place for a family who would make the move to settle for the long-term would be in Woodridge, where the proximity to the historic shul and mikva, and the availability of affordable housing, has made the village a real option for those making the move. Over the past few years several families have moved into Woodridge.
The 3 Questions:
Schools, Jobs and Does
Your Wife Like It
Chaim Lomnitz and his family made the move to Woodridge from Brooklyn four years ago. The family had in the past moved to New Haven, CT, but ended up moving back to Brooklyn. When looking for an out-of-town option, an ad for using the premises of the Hebrew Day School of Sullivan County during the summer months caught his attention, and got the Lomnitzs thinking of whether or not the area was a long-term solution.
“After some phone calls to the principal of the day school, Rabbi Menachem Fruchter, to hear about the school, and to a local real estate agent to find us a place to rent, we made the move”, says Lomnitz. In his words his family “took a gamble”, but so far they have really enjoyed it, and they purchased a home in Woodridge.
When people ask him about the move there are inevitably three questions that he is asked: what are the schools like, what is the job situation and does your wife like it?
The cost of living in Brooklyn, Monsey, Lakewood and other parts of the tri-state area continues to be unaffordable to many young families.
Living in Sullivan County which is within traveling distance of New York City and other big cities offers ample job options for the breadwinner in a family.
Furthermore, the existance of hospitals in the area; Catskill Regional, Middletown, and Touro Medical School also increases the opportunity for various positions.
There are others who live year-round in Woodridge who commute to areas in New Jersey for business. For those who can find employment in Monsey, just over an hour away, there is a bus that runs a number of daily trips.
Homes in Woodridge, of which there are an ample amount for sale, can be purchased in the $150,000 range, a quarter of the price of what homes in the tri-state area can go for. For that price you can get a 3-4 bedroom home on a sizable property. And with taxes in the $6,500-$7,000 range, purchasing an affordable home is a reality.
Having resolved a job hurdle, that’s where the prospects of living upstate really become a bright reality. When it comes to the Catskills, says Rabbi Fruchter, principal of the local day school, Hebrew Day School of Sullivan and Ulster Counties, the cost of living and the school situation is a real plus.
To that end, Rabbi Fruchter says The Hebrew Day School has maintained from its inception an affordable and reasonable scholarship policy.
What is the school like? Today the school has over 50 children.
With the small classes in the school, the faculty is able to offer individualized attention to the students, which pays dividends in the long run. “The high schools where we send our kids always ask me if we have more of these wonderful kids for them”, says Rabbi Fruchter.
This year the Hebrew Day School is starting a ninth grade girls class. Graduates took four Regents this year proving the excellent education the children are reciving. “The school will never be huge, but our motto is ‘small is huge’. We are one big happy family.”
One of the beautiful programs the school runs is a bi-annual trip to Eretz Yisroel for the 7 th and 8 th grades. A long-time resident of South Fallsburg, Mr. Elias Greene A”H, wanted every child to have the opportunity to experience a trip to Eretz Yisroel, and left a fund which helps to subsidize the cost when necessary. The impact on the children moving forward into the all-important high school stage of life, and on the adults from the community, some of them unaffiliated who join the trip, last a lifetime, says Rabbi Fruchter.
The community also works well with the local public school system in providing special education for those who need it.
With two of the biggest questions answered it leaves the inevitable third question, and perhaps the most important one: How does your wife like it? Or in simple terms, what is life like upstate all year long. After all, what Lomnitz hears from people all the time is that, “I would do it but my wife..”
In fact, living in Woodridge has opened up a whole new social life for his family, says Lomnitz. “In Woodridge we are part of a community with many community events for the whole family, whereas in Brooklyn people can get lost in the crowd.”
There are two shomer shabbos grocery stores open year-round in the Catskills, one in Woodridge Buy Rite and Yagdil Kosher Supermarket in South Fallsburg. Both stores are open daily throughout the year, with many of the amenities one would come to expect from grocery stores in big cities such as late hours and cholent on Thursdays. There is a pizza shop open year-round at the four corners and Riverside Café opened this year in Woodburne as well. Avos u’banim in South Fallsburg is packed every Motzei Shabbos, similar to any in-town community. There are 9 families with young children living in Woodridge, and many more in South Fallsburg.
Several families have moved into Woodridge in the past year. Another young family with 3 young children just bought a house in Woodridge and 2 other large families are looking to move in as well.
One keeps telling the other “come now chap a metzia, prices are still low and affordable”.
For those who feel they may be “missing out” on all the amenities of the city, local residents point to the fact that for 10 weeks out of the year the mountains are a full-fledged bustling city replete with all sorts of restaurants and shops, round-the-clock minyanim, events and of course traffic. For local residents, they get their “in-town fix” during the summer months, and then during the rest of the year the pros of living and raising children out-of-town come to the forefront.
But Lomnitz is quick to point out that if a person wants to live in-town Woodridge isn’t necessarily going to replace the city too quickly. Residents view their community as more comparable to an out-of-town community; if someone is considering a move out-of-town, that’s when they should consider the Catskills. “We are within driving distance of your family simchos in Brooklyn or Lakewood, and there is a possibility of commuting to the city”, says Lomnitz. “I’m surprised that more people don’t think about it.”
An additional benefit, says Rabbi Fruchter, is that, “you save the $10,000 on a bungalow rental during the summer and thousands of dollars of tuition.
For more information, please contact
Rabbi Grossman or Rabbi Fruchter at (845) 794-7890
or (845) 434-3580.