It’s back, bigger, and more timely than ever. Last year’s Orthodox Union “Emerging Communities Fair,” in which residents from the New York metropolitan area were encouraged to consider relocating, returns this year today as “OU Emerging Communities: Job and Home Relocation Fair,” featuring 22 localities across the country and an emphasis on jobs. Once again, admission to the fair is free.A year ago, more than 800 people attended to contemplate a move, with the biggest selling point being the more affordable cost of living an Orthodox Jewish life in the highlighted communities. Responding to the vastly changed economic conditions since April, 2008 when the first fair was held, this year’s version will highlight opportunities to find gainful employment as well as affordable housing for those making the move.
The fair will be held from 12:00-5:00 p.m. at Lander College for Women, 227 West 60th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues in Manhattan.
The 22 locales, each with display tables, exhibits, and community representatives, include (those returning from last year are noted with an *): Upstate New York (Albany, Schenectady, Troy); Allentown, PA; Atlanta, GA; *Columbus, OH; *Dallas, TX; *Denver, CO; Des Moines, IA; Harrisburg, PA; *Houston, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Malden (suburban Boston) MA; *Memphis, TN; *New Orleans, LA; Norfolk, VA; Phoenix, AZ; Providence, RI; Richmond, VA; *San Francisco, CA; Southfield and Oak Park, MI (suburban Detroit); St. Louis, MO; Stamford, CT; and Stony Brook, NY.
The locales represented will offer:
• Job opportunities;
• Affordable housing;
• Close-knit and warm communities;
• OU synagogues, together with day schools/yeshivos; and
• Kosher stores and other communal resources (such as mikvaos and Judaica stores).
In other words, Orthodox Jewish life must be alive and well in these communities.
The big difference from last year is the emphasis on jobs, in addition to the lower cost of living. Communities are not expected to guarantee jobs, but have communal representatives to help job seekers find positions.
In a message to leaders from the participating communities, Frank Buchweitz, OU National Director of Community Affairs and Special Projects and coordinator of the Fair, stated:
“The community display should highlight the unique personality and culture of the community, especially the types of jobs available and the assistance provided in helping secure employment. Unless there are jobs available, people will not consider relocation in this economy.”
He continued, “Participation in this conference by communities is predicated on the understanding that individuals or a committee will be proactive and maintain ongoing dialogue in assisting with job placement.”
He also noted, “The OU Job Board is ready to list any communal jobs and will work with your committee in developing additional jobs as well.”
According to OU President Stephen J. Savitsky, who conceived the idea of the Fair last year, “We have begun to create an awareness that there are OU communities out there that offer a great deal to people interested in relocating. It’s a process. Last year we had 14 communities, and as word spread and others wanted to take part, this year we have 22. Last year we weren’t in an economic recession and 800 people attended. This year, we can anticipate an even larger turnout.”
He emphasized that despite the emphasis on employment, the program is not a job fair. “It’s a community fair in which people who are ready to move have an opportunity to see what’s out there, and to plan accordingly, with the convenience of having all of the destinations under one roof.”
As an example of how the Orthodox Union and the locales are working closely together, the OU is developing a website that will showcase each of the communities. The OU website, with its hundreds of thousands of visits a month, therefore will provide another means for communities to show their resources that support an Orthodox lifestyle.
Online registration is strongly recommended to avoid waiting in line at the event. Online registration also offers participants a chance to win a GPS and other prizes. Register at ou.org/communities. You may also contact Frank Buchweitz at 212-613-8188.