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April 23, 2013 By:
Selling Philly’s Orthodox High Points to Out-of-Town Families
Jeff and Sarah Rosner, the parents of three children, were anxious to leave Raleigh, N.C. Though Jeff Rosner was settled in his law practice, the couple felt there just wasn’t enough of an Orthodox community in the city for the family to lead a full Jewish life.
Enter Jeff Rosner’s father, who attended the Orthodox Union’s Home and Job Relocation Fair in New York in April 2011. He collected brochures from a number of communities, sent them to his son and daughter-in-law and, now, just two years later, the Rosner family lives in Wynnewood and belongs to Congregation Beth Hamedrosh.
“We are very happy as far as what we came here to get” in terms of community and day school education, said Jeff Rosner.
On April 21, some 1,600 Orthodox Jews, mostly from the New York area, packed into the Metropolitan Pavillion in Manhattan for the 2013 edition of the fair. Many hoped to relocate to a new place with a strong Orthodox community, just as the Rosners were able to do.
The cost of living in the New York metropolitan area is hard enough without trying to maintain an observant lifestyle or pay private school tuition. According to organizers, the goal of the fair is to emphasize that affordable housing, solid Jewish education, job opportunities and kosher restaurants exist in towns and cities throughout the country.
The fair started in 2008 and featured 14 communities. The event grew when it was held again the next year and further expanded in 2011. (Since 2009, the event has become semi-annual.)
This time, participants were able to meet with representatives of 41 observant communities — the largest showing yet — from 18 states scattered throughout the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, the Rockies and the Pacific Coast. Communities have to apply to the Orthodox Union in order to be included.
For the first time, the Elkins Park community sent a delegation, eight people in all, to the fair, joining representatives from Wynnewood and Cherry Hill, N.J. Cherry Hill gained seven new families after the 2011 gathering.
Other Pennsylvania delegations came from Allentown, Bethlehem, Harrisburg, Scranton and White Oak, in the western part of the state.
Michael Feinberg, a board member of Young Israel of Elkins Park, which has 75 families, said he hopes his community becomes more well known in the Orthodox world and is able to increase in size.
“Stagnation is not good for anyone,” he said. “If you are not growing, you are really moving backwards.”
The Elkins Park group included a realtor who spoke about available properties near the synagogue, as well as information about day schools in the Philadelphia area, including those across the river. Young Israel member Israel Roling, of Roling’s Bakery, also brought some fresh cookies to give out.
“It is really a psychic obstacle, to get people to think about moving out of the New York area,” Feinberg said, adding that he thinks Pennsylvania has advantages over places that are farther from New York. “People don’t want the high price of New York, but they still want to be close. They want to still be close enough so they can be part of their extended families.”
Rosner, who moved from North Carolina, said his oldest two children are settled into Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia. And they are taking advantage of learning opportunities that didn’t exist in North Carolina. He and his oldest son, Yisroel, 9, regularly take part in father-son Torah study sessions on Saturday nights at the Philadelphia Community Kollel in Merion Station.
He acknowledges that not everything about the move has been easy. He’s had a hard time building a law practice here and so he returns to Raleigh to keep up his practice there, though he hopes that will eventually change.
“It’s somewhat of a struggle as far as business is concerned,” he said, but “it’s far better here for us.”
Click on the multimedia section to see a video that Young Israel made to promote itself to potential members.