“Welcome to Overland Park! Come to Kansas for a Shabbat visit!” “There’s an eruv in Linden, New Jersey!” There were assurances of minyanim and mikvaot, promises of welcoming communities and affordable housing. One of the most impressive amenities was the invitation to “ask about free day-school tuition in Richmond!”
Sunday, April 26, The Orthodox Union held its Fifth Annual Jewish Communities Home & Job Relocation Fair. The event provided 47 diverse modern Orthodox communities from 22 states with an opportunity to discuss the positives of living a Jewish life in smaller cities across America. Representatives from places as diverse as California, Texas, the West Coast’s Washington, and the East Coast’s Connecticut gathered on Manhattan’s far west side to speak about the unique values and advantages of living in their communities. Elvis—or was that Melvis?—came from Memphis, affordable or free day-school tuition was discussed, and a doctor from Savannah offered kosher cookies baked from a treasured family recipe. On another floor, Nefesh b’Nefesh discussed the realities of aliyah for OU members.
The Fair, now in its fifth year, provides information and answers for “individuals and families inquiring about improving their quality of life by relocating to affordable Jewish communities,” says Rabbi Judah Isaacs, OU’s Director of Synagogue & Community Services. Martin Nachimson, President of the OU—himself a transplant from Brooklyn to Los Angeles—notes that the four previous fairs “led to hundreds of relocations.”
Couples, mostly young, many with a small child or two in tow, packed the aisles. Conversations were serious: Many who spent Sunday afternoon at the fair are facing steep metropolitan-area day-school tuition and housing costs that are increasing twice as fast as wages. In addition to information about Jewish life resources, many of the communities were also offering employment assistance for the benefit of those especially sensitive to the requirements of professional career growth.
The atmosphere was warm and welcoming. Each synagogue provided information and extended a welcoming, making the value and importance of each possible new resident evident.
By Maxine Dovere