OU Fair for Offers Jelly Beans, Jobs and New Towns


ou-fairThe New York Times reports: At one table there were kosher jelly beans and lists of jobs. At another there were Tabasco sauce and real estate deals touted as even hotter than the sauce. The idea, at the jobs and relocation fair on the West Side of Manhattan, was to lure Orthodox Jews from New York City to towns and other cities where emerging Orthodox communities are eager to reinforce their numbers.“They’re all over the country,” said Frank Buchweitz, the national director of community services and special projects for the Orthodox Union, a Jewish outreach and social service organization that sponsored the fair. “We want to help them grow.”

At another table, Alan Katz, a lawyer from New Orleans, said that his synagogue was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina and that the city lost some of its Orthodox community afterward. “We’d like to get some people to help us raise the new synagogue,” he said. “We’re focusing on jobs and affordable housing.”

Scott Friedman, 38, a Realtor from Denver, handed a real estate brochure to a couple. “These are pretty centrally located,” he said, pointing to several four- and five-bedroom homes. “There are shuls close by.”

“For us, it’s about expanding the critical mass of the Orthodox community in Denver,” he said. “We’re trying to get to the next level.”

Jacob Sassoon, 25, a financial analyst from Washington Heights who was laid off a few months ago and got married three weeks ago, said he and his wife were considering a move to any location that could guarantee him work. “Wherever I can find a job, that’s where we’ll move,” he said as his wife, Kara, 28, a social worker, nodded beside him.

Avi Burstein, 25, a mental-health therapist who lives in Riverdale, in the Bronx, said: “We’re looking to get out of New York. I’ve been here for 25 years, and I need to slow down a little.” He and his wife, Adena, 26, an occupational therapist, see Denver as a possibility, but not Des Moines.

“I like the mountains, but no plains,” he said. “When we’re looking, we’re looking for something that already has a start-up community. We don’t want to be pioneers.”

But Janice Schwarzbaum, 50, a representative of the Orthodox community in Des Moines, whose family of nine moved there from Miami in 2003, pitched the benefits of Iowa with three simple sentences. “It’s affordable. It’s beautiful. It’s clean,” she said.

“When we got there,” said her daughter Chanee Schwarzbaum, 23, “we heard on the news that there was a 45-second delay on the highway.” She added, “There’s not much crime at all.”

At the Orthodox Union’s first fair, last year, 14 communities emphasized their ways of life and the moderate prices of their homes. This year, with heightened concern over the economy, 22 communities, from as far away as San Francisco and as close as Stony Brook on Long Island, set up tables, slide shows and PowerPoint displays that emphasized jobs.

“In our community, we have one of everything,” said Amy Brooke, a registered nurse from Norfolk, Va., touting the community’s Orthodox synagogue, mikvah, day school, boys’ high school, girls’ high school and kosher market. “And we brought jobs with us,” she added, referring to a stack of listings.

“We’re not looking for a hundred families,” she said. “We’re looking for 10. Ten would be a dream come true.”

A slide show of life in Allentown, Pa., showed rock climbers and a man tossing a ball with his son, along with images of a kosher food store and a Jewish day school. Abby Wiener, 61, who was promoting Allentown, said that when she first arrived there from Teaneck, N.J., and strangers would say hello, “I got scared.”

She added that she went to a two-minute commute from a 50-minute one. “We feel people in New York have to come out and see what opportunities exist outside,” she said “We need more people.”

{NY Times/Matzav.com Newscenter}