Movement of the people

On April 6, the OU is putting on an event at the Grand Hyatt in New York – the Emerging Jewish Communities Showcase.

Your next community is coming to visit you!
Pursue your dream of a professionally enriching, religiously and personally rewarding life in a community with affordable homes in a friendly, supportive neighborhood, where you can be a key person, helping to bolster the Torah environment.

The cities involved are Indianapolis, New Orleans, Edmonton, Charleston, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Memphis, Oakland, San Francisco, Omaha, San Diego, Seattle, and Vancouver. This looks like a fascinating study in what it takes to build community – for any little population – as well as how small communities market themselves. I know that our local OU rabbi is busting his butt trying to revive his old shul and this sort of event is a great chance for him to make his case to young couples who are tired of paying New York rents. (Not that they’ll do much better in San Francisco…)
Of course price-fueled moves don’t just happen on the big, inter-city level. It happens all the time on the intracity level when communities send off little offshoots of folks who can’t or won’t choose to afford overpriced homes in traditional neighborhoods. I have watched in the last five years as a new observant community has sprung up on the edges of the Mission in San Francisco – previously it was the western neighborhoods or bust.
What other cities that you live in have witnessed offshoots recently? How long does it take for one community to splinter into two, into four? And if you’re trying to attract new young families to your smaller city, what kind of lures do you need for them?
The Forward: High Cost of Living Leads Orthodox To Look Beyond Borders of New York

20 thoughts on “Movement of the people

  1. Upstate New York has a number of communities that have been there for years, and just need to be reinvigorated. I’m offended that they were left off the list.
    Of course, some people in Denver are offended that they made the “emerging communities” list, since they’ve been around for decades and are well-established. They also could just use an influx of good people.

  2. Well who knows how this thing got curated. Are these rabbis who shelled out for the right to set up a booth a la a trade show? Or were they handpicked as folks-in-need-of-attention?

  3. I second what BCS said. The descriptions of Edmonton and Vancouver are… interesting but definitely just a tiny glimpse of the full Jewish picture of those two cities. (And I’m guessing the same can be said of the other participating cities.) I already have mixed feelings about the growing Orthodox community in Vancouver – I’d love to see more progressive events happening there, and more progressive, involved!, Jews moving there.

  4. I think we all seem to agree that one of the biggest problems with our fantastic progressive committed Jewish communities is that they are mostly in very expensive very urban areas. So, how do we help to foster “vibrant progressive Jewish communities in more affordable locations”? You guys willing to move to Columbus? Or even to a suburb of your current city? And if not, should we just assume there is no demand for such communities in Columbus or New Jersey, or is there something else we can do?

  5. who could host/coordinate something like this? is anyone planning/interested in going to the OU one to take notes? in as much as machon hadar is the “clearinghouse” for indy minyans, maybe this is something they could/should do? other thoughts?

  6. i’m living in a one bedroom apartment with an 8 month old, and would love to move to a more affordable suburb or borough of NYC (btw Brooklyn no longer counts as “more affordable”). i think in a lot of places – possibly even some Jersey suburbs (eep!), a small core could make something happen – but one person probably couldn’t.

  7. Just a friendly reminder that Mechon Hadar isn’t “the” clearinghouse for indie minyans. There’s more than one of those, including the National Havurah Committee (where this discussion about affordable communities has been going on, among both 20/30-somethings and people twice that age, for a few years). But yeah, this has to be an organized effort, whether formal or informal. I will be miserable if we all just scatter to random places all over the US.
    (And unrelatedly, I can’t wait to see your 8 month old, BCS!)

  8. Suggested relocation: Salt Spring Island! Seriously, I would love to see us take over the island. Or live harmoniously with the aging hippies and farmers and sheep’s cheese makers. Sure it’s in Canada, but it doesn’t get cold there in the winter, it’s stunningly beautiful, a short boat ride from Victoria, Vancouver, and Seattle… and I’ll volunteer to lead the Jewish Pirate’s association (all aboard!).

  9. My parents have been lobbying me to bring all my friends to Kent, OH, suburb of a big Jewish city (Cleveland) and full of cheap empty farmland, academics and a, um, tradition of progressive politics.
    Seriously, I am constantly wondering why we all put up with the expense. We should just up and move en masse. (The Israel option of course is a related but separate and lengthy conversation.)
    I love the idea of people checking this event out and learning from it what we can take to build our communities. I know that we in the Mission Minyan circles are constantly doing this casually, hosting people for Shabbats who are considering moving here.

  10. no offense intended — i very much love NHC (and am hoping to come up for shabbat even though I’m not teaching during the week) would love for NHC to arrange something like this to. depending, i would even be game to help if this effort gets legs.
    as far as the scattering thing – its a real issue. cities have a vibrancy that lots of other places dont, but they are becoming impossibly expensive, particularly NYC. for those of us who are investing in starting and strengthening communities, we need to start making random places less random.

  11. for those of us who are investing in starting and strengthening communities, we need to start making random places less random.
    For sure. By “random,” I just meant that phenomenon of individuals going off to do their own thing in places without friends or community because they get a job or their city is too expensive or they want a big lawn or whatever. That’s what feels random to me– when individuals go it alone. The place we pick together can be totally random; I just care that there are other folks willing to live and build community in Randomville with me.

  12. I plan on going to this event. I think it will be a great opportunity to network, and I thank the OU for putting this show on. However, I think it will be really moving if these same communities see a group of committed progressive Jews who are interested in their communities. Think what the message will be if when they come to NY it is only OU types they meet. Bottom line, I’ll be there, give me a ring if you plan on coming too.

  13. Left Fat-toosh for Squirrel Hill Pittsburgh almost 2 years ago. Somehow life went on. Daf Yomi is still Daf Yomi. Seuda Shlishit is still Seuda Slishit. Here I’m my own one man anti-Rubashkins committee. I could always use some more help.

  14. I know this conversation has come up on this blog and others before (minus the actual OU “community convention” component), but I want to mention that I don’t think there is necessarily ONE community that fits the needs of participants in progressive indie minyans. I think part of the success of indie minyans is that they welcome a variety of types of values, and although general progressive values are shared, that varies.
    I don’t think suburbs are appealing or an option for many people- from an equity and environment perspective–cities are where people are going to have to congregate in order to make the modifications necessary in the coming decades- decreasing/eliminating car use being just one of them.
    Second, I don’t know how diverse many of the places suggested (albeit suggested in an off-hand, flippant manner, I recognize) are, but I think many progressive Jews would not choose to live in a non-diverse isolated location where everyone is like them–in other words, segregated.
    While clearly, these are two preferences that I choose to point out, and I recognize that different people may have different values/issues they choose to prioritize, my general point is that, while this is an issue worth discussing as housing prices in many of the current cities of choice continue to rise [although I will note here that there are many other cities where this phenomenon is happening to a much smaller degree–i.e. NY is not the center of the universe], I think that assuming a committee could choose a location that would be encompass the preferences of the diverse minions of the minyans, is perhaps a bit simplistic or reductive.

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