Leaders of a group that officially formed more than two years ago seeking to revitalize Jewish life along the Old York Road corridor insist they are still working toward that goal — and they are asking the area’s seven synagogues for more money to keep going.
The message, delivered by Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom of Congregation Adath Jeshurun during a June 3 meeting on the Mandell Education Campus, is that members of the Old York Road Community Organization can’t do all the work on their own. The group needs to hire a professional; and Rosenbloom, a member of its steering committee, asked board members from the synagogues to help raise $100,000 over two years to make it happen.
Representatives of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia were also at the meeting, although the community’s central fundraising agency wasn’t asked, at this point, to contribute financially.
“This is an initiative that must not die aborning. It is too important for us not to move forward,” said the rabbi. “We want to work together in this area, for a common future.”
The effort, which had its genesis in discussions that took place in 2009, came as a response to strong anecdotal evidence that the Jewish community along the Old York Road corridor was in decline — and that young families weren’t moving in. The area includes the municipalities of Cheltenham, Abington, Jenkintown and Lower Moreland.
At the same time, the group — orignally known as the Old York Road Revitalization Group, comprised of the area’s seven synagogues across the religious spectrum — wanted to address the troubled business climate in the area, though more recently, things have improved with new shops and restaurants opening in Elkins Park and Jenkintown.
The meeting came a little more than a year after a consultant — the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government’s research and consulting arm — released a 100-page report (www.fels.upenn.edu/Old-York-Road ) outlining a plan for the group. The report, funded in part by Federation, called for a stepped-up campaign to market the area to young Jewish families and to work with other religious, civic and government leaders to address broader challenges.
The report also recommended hiring a professional to coordinate the effort.
Though they haven’t made as much progress as they would have liked, leaders said, they are in the early stages of several projects, including brainstorming about potential other uses for the Mandell Campus, which is considered an anchor of the local Jewish community.