The Jackson Pulse
February 16, 2023
Connecting the Jackson Jewish Community
The word conjures up images of the Wild West in the 1800s, of sleeping under the stars, of forests and backbreaking labor.
What doesn’t come to mind is 21st-century New Jersey.
But pioneering in its basic form is heading out into the unknown and creating where nothing yet existed. It’s putting effort into a dream no one else can picture. It’s seeing possibilities in the raw potential and being brave enough to put your faith in it.
Its what’s happening every day just a few miles away from central Lakewood.
The first frum family crossed the border into Jackson six years ago. Their new home was only a few minutes away from shuls, conveniences, and regular life. But with that divide, a whole new world needed to be conquered.
It took years. All the work that the average frum Lakewood citizen takes for granted had to be done again with a new township, police force, and mayor.
But with hard work, persistence, and siyata d’Shmaya, the pioneers of Jackson have done it. They’ve arrived at the other side and can say they are a real community.
It happened slowly. The first frum families moved in just past the border in 2014. A slow trickle kept coming in the next few years, all within walking distance of Lakewood.
In 2018, the dynamic shifted. Lakewood’s constant growth pushed more potential home buyers to consider Jackson as their next option. Attracted by the available, affordable housing and slower-paced lifestyle, people came in droves and new communities popped up.
“It used to be that Jackson was a last-choice option,” askan Tzvi Herman explains. “You went there because you couldn’t find anything in Lakewood. Today, it’s a first choice for young families.”
With a steady growth of 600 new families moving in each year and new construction slated to house 5,000 families, Jackson is poised to match Lakewood in size within the next decade.
“Do the math. In ten years, there will be 11,000 new frum families living here plus the 2,000 that are here now,” Tzvi asserts. “Lakewood is 20 square miles and Jackson measures 100. While it might sound outrageous to some, those with an eye to the future can agree that now that much of the groundwork has been laid, Jackson’s growth is set to skyrocket.”
While not pioneers in the literal sense since Jackson had all the typical amenities of a regular town, the first frum families to inhabit Jackson did have to live with the lack of certain benefits that Lakewood residents take for granted. The carefully cultivated relationships that the Lakewood community has with the township, police department, and other community-service members have been in place for so long that starting again seemed like a formidable challenge. In addition, Jackson’s slower-paced lifestyle made the process of creating the frum infrastructure an uphill struggle.
The joke in Jackson was that that it was the land of “coming soon.” Building, developments—everything happened at a slower pace. It took years for permits to be approved and warehouses to get built. For the frum members who moved in six years ago, this state of affairs frustrated efforts to build the shuls and schools they needed. The progression took time.
Jackson was considered a bedroom community, meaning that it lived off the resources of the towns near it instead of producing its own. But with so many energetic young families putting down roots there, Jackson is entering a new phase. There’s demand for growth and progress.
“If I live in Jackson and I work on Cedar Bridge, that’s an impossible commute. Offices will need to be built to accommodate those who live here. New stores will be started. And there will be a push to make these developments happen faster than they have previously,” one Jackson resident shares.
In their quest to become a full-service community, building schools is at the top of the to-do list. And the prognosis for that looks good. There’s already one mesivta set up, with more before the planning boards.
“Jackson is looking to share the burden of education,” Avi Schnall, director of Agudath Israel’s New Jersey office, explains. “Of course, children from Jackson will attend schools in Lakewood and vice versa, but the goal is to share the burden. As many kids as there are in Jackson, that’s how many seats in schools there should be. Our goal is to work with Lakewood so we benefit each other.”
As for shopping, that’s still a challenge for some members of the Jackson community. Although NPGS has been there before any families arrived, for those living further out, getting the basics can be a struggle. However, more and more stores are being built on the border of Jackson and Lakewood, and at the pace that Jackson is headed, it’s not likely that the shopping potential will remain untapped for long.
The time is ripe
Jackson’s growth means the community will likely soon be able to stand on its own feet and be fully self-supporting. With that comes a need for unity, a common goal, and the feeling of working together for something, notes Ari Berkowitz, publisher of the Voice of Lakewood.
“That’s why we felt that now is the perfect time to debut a publication geared exclusively toward Jackson,” he says.
The debut issue of the Jackson Pulse, a subsidiary of the Voice, will be mailed out to the families in Jackson on February 22. Starting out as a monthly, the magazine will serve as a mouthpiece and connecting point for the families in Jackson.
“Jackson is five times the size of Lakewood in land mass. The neighborhoods are scattered. There is a need for something that connects us all together. That’s the goal of the Jackson Pulse,” Tzvi Herman, who will be undertaking the role of editor of the magazine, says. “It’s an exciting new venture, and we’re looking forward to seeing the growth of the Jackson Pulse along with the community of Jackson itself.”
A sneak peek at some JP columns
- Ask the Personality willfeature members of the Jackson township, the mayor, askanim,and others to educate the readership on the latest updates and progress. The topics will range from getting more lights on busy streets to more pressing issues, the goal being to create a framework of awareness and change.
- Close to Home will spotlight a different neighborhood in Jackson each month. The article will highlight the special features of the neighborhood and discuss its history, rabbanim, and shuls.
- Behind the Business will feature local stores and provide background and trade tips.
- The Jackson Report will cover all news of interest for Jackson residents.
- Community Highlights will share the simchos and milestones that took place throughout the month.
- DIY Forum will offer ideas and solutions to challenges that come up in many Jackson homes such as how to clean a fireplace and how to manage with one sink.