[Marxism] I can get it for you wholesale

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Sep 19 08:27:29 MDT 2012

NY Times September 18, 2012
To Revive Communities in U.S., Jewish Groups Try Relocation Bonuses

When the Soloveichiks moved to New York City in June, they passed over 
neighborhoods overflowing with kosher restaurants and yeshivas to settle 
in a barren stretch of the Bronx with a dwindling Orthodox Jewish 

The incentive?

A synagogue in Pelham Parkway offered to pay them $625 a month — for a 
total of $22,500 over three years — just to live and worship among its 
members. The money helps cover the family’s $1,750 monthly rent; if they 
had chosen to buy, they would have received a lump sum of $40,000.

“Pelham Parkway is most certainly not on the map,” said Yakira 
Soloveichik, 38, a nurse, who relocated from Chicago with her husband 
and four young children. “You have to make it worth coming here. Money 
is a great way to pull people in.”

If religion is good for the soul, keeping Sabbath has never been better 
for the bottom line.

Many synagogues and other Jewish groups have dangled lucrative 
incentives in recent years to attract new members to their graying or 
shrinking communities around the nation. Advertised in Jewish 
publications or through word of mouth, relocation bonuses have included 
partial down payments on homes, discounted yeshiva tuition, repayment of 
student loans and even free memberships to the Jewish dating Web site JDate.

While Israel has long showered tax breaks and perks on those returning 
to the homeland, Jews no longer have to go anywhere near the Dead Sea to 
reap financial rewards. In Dothan, Ala., a $1 million “family relocation 
project,” offering packages of up to $50,000, has drawn more than 500 
applicants. In Meridian, Miss., a Reform synagogue has $25,000 grants 
for families who stay at least five years.

Such incentives have even spread to traditional Jewish strongholds on 
Long Island long viewed as desirable in their own right. At Young Israel 
of Plainview, newlyweds and young families can net $25,000 interest-free 
loans and free or discounted synagogue membership.

Stephen Savitsky, chairman of the board of the Orthodox Union, an 
organization representing synagogues, called such enticements a “proven 
model” for attracting new members that has become more common and more 
generous over the past decade. “Today, if you don’t have a financial 
program in the greater New York area, then you’re probably at a 
competitive disadvantage,” he said.

But some scholars and synagogue members have questioned if these kinds 
of efforts — once associated more with dying towns — send the right message.

“I feel much more comfortable in us being able to show the inherent 
value of living a Jewish life than using financial incentives to draw 
people in,” said David Bryfman, director of a Jewish education program 
in New York. “Intrinsic motivation will be far more enduring than 
external incentives.”

Certainly, some families have shopped around and tried to negotiate 
better terms. In Plainview, for instance, one man asked why he should 
take a loan when he could go elsewhere for an outright grant.

At the Soloveichiks’ new synagogue, Young Israel of Pelham Parkway 
Jewish Center, Rabbi Shmuel Zuckerman said some people initially balked 
at offering incentives, saying a synagogue should not have to pay for 
members. “My response is that may be the case, but it takes some 
sweetening of the deal,” he said.

Rabbi Zuckerman and others said that the money was simply a way to get 
people’s attention and help those who could not afford to move on their 
own, but that it was the community that won them over. The money 
typically comes with many strings: an extensive vetting and interview 
process, payments spread out over years and a contract requiring that 
the money be paid back if a family is not active in a synagogue or moves 
away too soon.

“We’re not writing a blank check to buy Jewish families,” said Robert 
Goldsmith, executive director of the Blumberg Family Jewish Community 
Services of Dothan, which is overseeing the Dothan project. “We’re 
building Jewish community for the long term, so it’s all about fit.”

Mr. Goldsmith said five of the six families who had accepted money to 
move to Dothan since 2008 remained; one left after the father lost his 
job. Karen Nanning, who arrived in July with her husband, said they 
asked for, and received, $22,000 to relocate from Augusta, Ga. “It 
wasn’t about the money,” Ms. Nanning said. “The money was just to cover 
the expenses we incurred.”

Some communities have even reduced their cash awards, relying more on 
social and cultural benefits as more families have moved in. The Jewish 
Federation of Greater New Orleans cut its cash incentive to $1,800 from 
up to $6,000, but the program, which started in 2007 after Hurricane 
Katrina, still receives more than 50 inquiries a month, said Michael 
Weil, the executive director. About 2,000 people have taken the 
incentives, which include free JDate, job networking and newcomer parties.

Similarly, a New Jersey synagogue that embarked last year on a second 
housing incentive program, after a successful 2007 effort, reduced its 
top award to $20,000 from $36,000 partly because of a decision not to 
make the amount so high that it would be the deciding factor, said Ben 
Hoffer, a vice president of Congregation Israel of Springfield.

Steven M. Cohen, director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at the 
Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York 
University, called these cash incentives a modern version of “Jewish 
residential social engineering” that has a long role in Jewish history 
and includes the 19th-century European settlements in what is now Israel 
financed by the Rothschild banking family. He said these efforts were 
driven by the communal nature of the religion — at least 10 adult men 
are required for key prayers and readings in an Orthodox service — and 
by more recent concerns over intermarriages and lower birthrates among Jews.

“Being Jewish is not an individual spiritual practice,” Dr. Cohen said. 
“There’s a free-floating anxiety about the future of Jews and whether 
there are enough children and grandchildren to continue these Jewish 

Young Israel of Pelham Parkway Jewish Center has struggled as the Jewish 
population in the northeast Bronx has fallen to 7,500 from more than 
60,000 in the 1970s, even as it has rebounded elsewhere in New York 
City, said David Edelstein, a synagogue leader who oversees a Jewish 
social service agency.

By 2009, it could no longer afford to keep its building on Lydig Avenue 
and sold it for $3.2 million. After moving in with another synagogue, it 
allocated $225,000 for a new incentive program — called the Growth 
Initiative — to rebuild its ranks.

In a city with abundant Jewish amenities, it has been a tough sell for a 
neighborhood with only one kosher restaurant. Despite more than 30 
inquiries, no one has applied yet for the $40,000 to help buy a home, 
and just three families have taken the rental assistance, one of whom 
voluntarily stopped after being unable to attend services regularly.

But synagogue leaders say the incentive has spread the word that there 
are still Jews in Pelham Parkway, and re-energized their congregation of 
about 60 families. The synagogue revived a moribund youth program and 
now holds a weekly reception after service.

Three young families have even moved in without taking the incentive.

Ariel Lippman, 26, a medical student, said that while he and his wife 
did not have the time to commit to the synagogue, they were drawn by its 
efforts to recruit young families. “It’s always nice to have peers your 
own age, or within 10 years, instead of an entire community being your 
parents’ age,” he said.

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