OU scopes out new sites for frum families
If you’re part of a young Orthodox family in the metropolitan New York area but haven’t yet planted any roots, the Orthodox Union has a few suggestions for you.
On Sunday, April 6, at New York’s Grand Hyatt Hotel the OU will showcase 13 North American cities with developing Orthodox communities. The goal, according to organizers, is to encourage young couples now living in established Orthodox communities, such as Teaneck, Englewood, Fair Lawn, and Passaic, to relocate and help these communities grow.
The program is part of OU President Stephen Savitsky’s plan to focus on smaller Orthodox populations. When he took over the presidency three years ago he went on a 10-city tour "to get an idea of what it is we can do," he said in a telephone interview. "All of us have a responsibility to provide the best quality of life for all Jewish people wherever they may be."
The showcase represents one of the first steps toward providing that quality of life by encouraging growth in smaller communities, he said.
The highlighted communities include: Charleston, S.C.; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colo.; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Houston, Texas; Indianapolis, Ind.; Memphis, Tenn.; Oakland, Calif.; Omaha, Neb.; San Diego, Calif.; Seattle, Wash.; and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
"They were chosen because they were really at the second stage of growth," Savitsky said. "Beyond just being a fledgling community, they already have day schools, synagogues, places for kosher food enough critical mass that we felt that with a little extra push they could get to the next level."
While the OU recognizes the importance of young families to the continuity of the Jewish community, Savitsky said, he is confident that the showcase will not spark an exodus from the metropolitan area but rather provide new opportunities. "There may not be a job opportunity in the city they’re in now," he said, whereas "there may be a job opportunity in the other place."
Young families are not the OU’s only targets. Many of the showcase communities are attractive to retirees, he added. He does not expect a population boom in the showcase cities but believes enough people will move to make a difference.
"If five or 10 new couples move to those communities they would be very happy," Savitsky said. "Small numbers go a long way."
Reaction from OU-affiliated synagogues, like Fair Lawn’s Cong. Shomrei Torah, have been generally positive. Shomrei Torah’s Rabbi Benjamin Yudin said that because the showcase is targeting families that are not yet established that have not bought their first home or are looking for work that is unavailable in their current locations the OU deserves "kol hakavod" for its effort to develop these emerging communities and alert families to possible opportunities.
"It’s not encouraging families to go to one place and diminish the other place," he said.
"Young Orthodox-committed families can only help to rejuvenate the community. I don’t see a second side to it, I think it’s wonderful."
For more information on the showcase, visit www.ou.org