Global, Mishegas

The ingathering of the exiles…to Alabama

So I’m currently in Israel for the first time in around a decade and am actually enjoying re-acclimating myself to Jerusalem and the society here.  The other night I went to a bar frequented by American olim, where they speak English to one another and listen to bands playing music from the likes of the Grateful Dead.  I was speaking to a new friend who works for Nefesh b’Nefesh about the phenomenon of American olim binding together and not shedding their American cultural norms.  For those who don’t know, Nefesh b’Nefesh is an organization that helps Americans move to Israel.  I do not know the details at this point, but a decade ago (when I was interested in aliyah) people could get a decent amount of money to make the move from America to Israel.  Well, now you can get a decent amount of money to make the move from America to, well, the American deep south…
This from the AP:

Matthew and Michelle Reed, along with their 2-year-old son and newborn baby boy, are the first of what could be a stream of people to move to Dothan under a program that offers Jewish families as much as $50,000 to relocate and get involved with the city’s only synagogue, Temple Emanu-El

My personal favorite was this quote:

The couple heard about the relocation program through family members in Alabama and applied in September because Matt Reed was finishing a stint with the Army at Fort Bragg, N.C. They moved to Dothan after he left the service on Feb. 1.
“We always wanted to raise our kids Jewish, but we didn’t want to do it in North Carolina,” said Michelle Reed, 26.

So you picked Alabama!?! Truth be told, the mother of the family has roots in Dothan, Alabama–but still… It’s gotta make people think about the old adage, “I wouldn’t do that even if somebody paid me.” Personally, I’m uncomfortable with the notion of Jews getting paid to move places, even Israel, simply because they’re Jewish. In times of severe economic crisis the world over, $50k would seem better used elsewhere than to tempt a Jewish family to move to Dothan, Alabama.

23 thoughts on “The ingathering of the exiles…to Alabama

  1. Genesis 37:17
    “And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.”
    This entire story is incredibly weird.

  2. I actually relate to the Alabamans a lot more – the people there are probably worried their community will die out, and want to bring in people who will become part of it. In that case it doesn’t make much sense to bring in people who aren’t Jewish since the entire function they’re supposed to perform is participation in the synagogue. Israel, by comparison, is not at risk for having no Jews left in it anytime soon.

  3. “Personally, I’m uncomfortable with the notion of Jews getting payed to move places…”
    Are you still uncomfortable if they’re getting paid? Getting payed is one thing (and I can see how it would make you uncomfortable), but getting paid is a whole different bowl of chicken soup.

  4. I’m gonna come right out and say this: growing up in the South has made me a better, more committed Jew. I am tired, tired, tired of North Eastern American Jewish supremacists. It is as though the only place in America you can live a fulfilling Jewish life is in New York, Boston, New Jersey, or Chicago.
    Get over it, New York. It is now possible to be a Jew just about anywhere in America but Wyoming. (hey, we all have to look down on something, right?)

  5. Reference David’s comments about Wyoming. I was born in Alabama 60 years ago. Growing up in Alabama, I met an orthodox boy from Wyoming who was visiting in Birmingham.

  6. David, That’s both hilarious and true.
    East Coast American Jappy culture grates me.
    Regarding Dothan, if they really wanted to revitalize their community, in my opinion, all they had to do was call up Crown Heights and invite 20 Jewish families in a state of near poverty to migrate south. It says on their website they’re into Tikkun Olam, so why not help your fellow Jew? Including children, they would have instantly added 150 members to their congregation, which would now be the most youthful Jewish community in all of Alabama.

  7. I lived near Dothan for 3 years. ‘Beautiful weather, nice people, low prices that afford one a high standard of living & only 45 minutes north of Panama City FL beaches. 50 thou you say? Hmmm

  8. My grandfather was born in Bay Minnette, Alabama in 1921 because of similar program. His family moved from the lower east side.

  9. J-
    thank you for correcting my grammar. I actually typed each and deleted both numerous times… usually i’m ok with things like that, but i flubbed, thanks for catching me.

  10. Thanks, but haredim from Crown Hights don’t want to live anywhere but Crown Hights. Also, they won’t revitalize the community, they’ll make one all their own.
    I think it’s a great idea!

  11. Victor, I don’t think the liberal Jews of Alabama are too gung-ho to have some Brooklyn fundies join their ranks.
    I think the issue is more that the Brooklyn fundies aren’t going to join a place called Temple Emanu-El.

  12. I am tired, tired, tired of North Eastern American Jewish supremacists. It is as though the only place in America you can live a fulfilling Jewish life is in New York, Boston, New Jersey, or Chicago.
    As a Chicago expat living in New York, I can testify that the northeastern supremacists in question wouldn’t include Chicago on that list.

  13. “haredim from Crown Hights don’t want to live anywhere but Crown Hights.”
    wtf are you talking about? aren’t those people with the untrimed beards, 17th century Polish hats, and an irrational love of Crown Royal and Mashiach – aren’t they living all over the world? Isn’t their headquarters homefront command in Crown Heights?

  14. Of the Chassidim (which is not the same as haredim), Chabad is the only movement I’m aware of that goes on shluchus all over the world. Most of the other movements are more insular and regional, either in NY or Israel. How many of us haven’t stayed in a Chabad house in some obscure corner of the planet, and if you haven’t, what’s wrong with you?! 🙂 If you’re going to be traveling, whether in the US or practically anywhere else abroad, it’s always good to check their site’s directory. You’ll always have a place to stay for Shabbos, kosher meal, etc.
    So yes, I’d imagine if Congregation Emanuel in Alabama called, offering $50k for each family, they would have more applications from Chabadniks in Crown Heights than they would know what to do with. As for bringing their own flavor of yiddishkeit… isn’t the whole point of this program to revitalize the Jewish community there? If what they were doing was working they wouldn’t need to spend $2 million!
    If they want a community they way THEY want a community, on their terms, within their comfort zone, why not pay non-Jews to convert in that case? Maybe they can hire actors to play Jewish parts just the way they want. I’m only half-kidding.

  15. Hey Justin–why the hating on Alabama? Why the regionism? I grew up in the Midwest, but I was born in Alabama and my entirely Jewish family has lived there since about 1900. My rabbi emeritus was friends with Martin Luther King Jr., my parents met at the Birmingham JCC, my uncle received enough Jewish education to prepare him for Hebrew University, my grandmother helped out in her parent’s department store (Goldberg’s) while attending high school English class taught by Harper Lee’s sister. Jewish life is vibrant in the South too. Honestly, I expect better than this from Jewschool.

  16. Oh wow, I’m sorry if you thought I was hating on Alabama. Far from it, I love ‘bama! I really do! I was simply smiling at the fact that one would not expect to hear a person say that they want to give their kids a Jewish upbringing so they’re moving to Alabama, that’s all. I’m sorry to make you feel like I was “hating” on any Jewish community! It was not my intention at all. My ultimate issue has nothing to do with Dothan or Alabama as a whole, but rather the idea of paying Jews to move somewhere. Again, please accept my apology if you felt I was getting down on your homestate.

  17. Thanks Justin for the clarification! I guess it seems normal to me to pay someone to move somewhere since that’s what job relocators (headhunters) do and it is essentially what the Israeli gov’t does in streamlining the Aliyah process. Dothan just isn’t Jerusalem, so it looks stranger.

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