From the impressive showing of nearly 2,000 attendees on Sunday, November 24, at the OU’s seventh International Jewish Home and Job Location Fair, it is evident that Jewish families are always on the lookout for new communities, housing and employment. Fortunately, today, throughout the U.S., Jewish communities offering the full gamut of amenities facilitating an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle are readily available. These include affordable, spacious homes; Jewish day and high schools; and in many cases a choice of synagogues. These communities also offer attractive job opportunities. For young families looking to put down roots, these alternatives to the dense Jewish communities of the metropolitan area are often attractive—hence the large turnout of young families at the recent OU fair.
According to Rebbetzin Judi Steinig, OU director of community programs and fair coordinator, “The response to this program has been incredible. Since our last fair in 2017, well over 250 families have relocated to communities that were showcased at our event.”
The attendees, who represented the broad spectrum of Orthodoxy, also included retirees and empty nesters as well as singles looking to relocate to smaller, but still vibrant, Jewish communities. The fair offered an international component with representatives from Nefesh B’Nefesh promoting the communities of Efrat, Beit Shemesh, Modiin and others in the north and south of Israel. Workshops for those contemplating aliyah and first-time homebuyers were presented throughout the day.
Among the 63 communities presenting at the fair, 15 were from New Jersey. They included Cherry Hill, East Brunswick, Elizabeth/Hillside, Highland Park/Edison, Linden, Livingston, Marlboro/Manalapan, Parsippany, Randolph/Mount Freedom, Springfield and West Orange. North Jersey Sephardic communities in Fort Lee, Paramus, Teaneck and West Orange presented as well. The positive response from throughout the U.S. to the mission of the project was so overwhelming that 16 communities had to be turned away for lack of space, despite the expansive venue of the Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan.
“The excitement could be felt throughout the huge exhibition hall as participants went from booth to booth, many decorated with colorful banners and posters. Some even offered special foods identified with their communities such as the ‘Philly hot pretzel with mustard.’ In addition to rabbis and educators, the community presenters included lay members who were obviously passionate about the quality of their Jewish lives and were most informative and welcoming to those who stopped by,” Steinig offered.
OU President Moshe Bane endorsed the highly successful event by adding, “For various reasons, including the high costs of tuition and housing in the NY/NJ area, there is a growing cadre of Orthodox families exploring other locations throughout the U.S. and Israel to establish their homes. We are pleased to have been able to assemble so many Torah communities and to enable them to showcase to these families the attractiveness and advantages of their respective communities.”
Allen Fagin, OU executive vice president, commented, “Each of these communities represented shared common characteristics and common goals: the desire to grow in an environment rich in educational facilities, active synagogue life and supportive communal infrastructure. It was truly a matchmaking festival made in heaven.”
To learn more about the numerous national/international projects of the OU, visit www.ou.org.
By Pearl Markovitz