September 27, 2023
September 27, 2023

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Not literally of course. However, as you can read in Nechama Polak’s updates on local housing stock, as of last issue there are only 58 houses for sale in Teaneck, Bergenfield and New Milford combined. Now, I’d wager that at minimum half of these houses are either not in areas with a Jewish community, or are over $1M, hence not realistic for the vast majority of Jews looking to live in Teaneck. That leaves us with around, at most, 29 houses that are realistic. While we’re talking numbers, as somebody who lives in the “Teaneck apartment area,” I’d say there’s at least 200, if not 250-300, Jewish young couples that live here renting apartments, many of whom are waiting for the perfect opportunity to move to a house in Teaneck. There are also of course many families and young couples living in other places looking to move to Teaneck. It doesn’t take a math whiz to see the obvious: Most of these people will simply not be able to move into a house in the Teaneck area. It’s just not possible.

This is creating the beginning of a very real problem for young couples that I’m witnessing at the Teaneck Apartments, but I’m sure is happening elsewhere as well. The apartments are a great place for young couples to get started with their lives. However, with the crazy growth Teaneck has had, you now have hundreds of young couples, many of whom are now parents of young children, all contained within a four block radius with no full-time shul, all waiting and paying (highly increasing) rent year after year, hoping that this will be the year a house they can afford in the area pops up. While they wait, some are paying rent payments the size of mortgage payments, and there is a huge lack of young couples and families (as in 20s and early 30s) joining and getting involved in established shuls and communities. To be clear, Ahavat Shalom and other apartment minyamin do great work to support the apartment area, but it’s not comparable to having a full time shul and building, and not sufficient for a community this large.

So what can be done? First off, I think this housing situation, and the likelihood of a young couple closing on a house in Teaneck, should be well known to everyone, especially our communal leadership. This way, instead of expecting and encouraging any young couple to settle down in Teaneck, we can be aware of how statistically hard that will be. Once we are realistic about the scenario, we can work on solutions.

Secondly, our communal leaders should be making “community shidduchim” with the young couples they know. Our leaders know the communal leaders and lay people in many other towns. So for example, if a rabbi in Teaneck knows a young couple that’s looking for a house, and he thinks they’d be a perfect fit for a specific shul/rabbi/community in Fair Lawn, they should make that introduction. There is so much potential in doing this. Think of how many younger couples and families could be infused into our communities if they actually had a warm lead for where they would enjoy living. I’m not even saying people need to move to the middle of nowhere; there are plenty of tri-state communities to join that actually have room for people.

These two steps, I believe, are important to take seriously to avoid a crisis where community leadership only consists of older individuals while younger people stay in areas with relatively minimal opportunities for involvement,
leadership and growth. The OU already does a great job helping get information on other communities out there, but people need personal recommendations and introductions from people they trust to take the next step.

Meir Brodsky
The Teaneck Apartments
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