OU SAYS TO 37 COMMUNITIES NATIONALLY: “MEET ME AT THE FAIR”
The doors opened at 12:00 noon at the Grand Hyatt New York and closed at 6:00 p.m. By the time the last participant had left, more than 1,l00 people had passed through those doors, many of them storing their baby strollers in a special “parking lot,” and visited 37 communities from Maine (Bangor) to Arizona (Phoenix), with substantial representation from the New York metropolitan area as well: Long Island, Staten Island, New Jersey and Connecticut. They were there for the Orthodox Union’s third “OU Emerging Jewish Communities Home and Job Relocation Fair.”
The Fair, a project of the OU Department of Community Services | Jewish Community Programs, was under the direction of Frank Buchweitz, OU National Director of Community Services and Special Projects.
When the concept of the Fair was created in 2008 by then-OU President and now Chairman of the Board Stephen J. Savitsky, the purpose was to strengthen OU synagogues and their communities outside of New York, to make it clear that a full and satisfying Orthodox lifestyle could be lived in cities large and small beyond the great hubs of Orthodoxy. It was one of the priorities of Mr. Savitsky’s six-year presidency to help these communities “emerge” and reap the benefits of an expanding population and congregation.
When the Fair was next held, in 2009, there was a new emphasis: on jobs. Given the economic calamity that had occurred since the first Fair, participating communities were called on to seek out job opportunities for people who had either lost their livelihoods or were looking for greener horizons. The communities worked in tandem with the OU Job Board | Employment & Resumé Opportunties, and its director, Michael Rosner, to “mine jobs” for prospective residents.
Now, in 2011, with the availability of jobs still a major factor at the Fair, and with the local communities added for those who wanted to stay in the New York area while enjoying a more suburban lifestyle, the attendance was the largest of the three Fairs, exceeding all expectations. With the heavily utilized stroller parking lot as proof, young families were far and away the largest group of participants.
As interviews made clear, the fairgoers were looking for affordability, jobs, and close-knit communities.
“An ‘emerging community’ is not a single institution,” Rabbi Steven Weil, OU Executive Vice President, explained. “Each community was represented by a consortium of schools, synagogues and job opportunities coming together. These communities were appreciative to the OU not only for this opportunity to showcase their unique attributes but also for the ongoing support through our Synagogue Services and Community Services departments. It was clear that, truly, we are collectively one greater Orthodox community.”
OU President Dr. Simcha Katz declared, “It was exhilarating seeing the enthusiasm of the community representatives and the huge crowds swirling around the large hall. The crowd over the six hours of the Fair consisted of primarily young people, with dozens upon dozens of baby carriages parked outside the hall. A number of attendees and exhibitors thanked me for the OU’s expression of concern and the strength it gave them that we care.”
In a message to Fair coordinator Frank Buchweitz, Mr. Savitsky said, “Thank you and all your wonderful staff for making my dream become a reality.”
Emanuel J. Adler, past Chairman of the OU Commission on Community Relations and Synagogue Services, stated, “To hear both a Federal judge from Bangor, Maine and a prominent businessman from Lakewood, New Jersey (with flowing beard) and many, many others enthusiastically proclaim the event a Kiddush Hashem (a sanctification of God’s name), was an incredible affirmation of the scope of the OU’s service to the Jewish community.”
In thanking his colleagues for their work over many weeks to make the Fair possible, Frank Buchweitz said, “We’ve planted the seeds, and now it’s up to the communities to help themselves grow.”
The participating communities included:
Connecticut: New Haven, Stamford
Kansas: Overland Park (Kansas City area)
Louisiana: Metairie (New Orleans suburb)
Massachusetts: Malden (north of Boston), Springfield
Michigan: Southfield (Detroit suburb)
Nevada: Las Vegas
New Jersey: Cherry Hill, Elizabeth, Linden, Long Branch, Manalapan, Parsippany, Springfield
New York: Binghamton, Long Beach (Long Island), Merrick (Long Island), Oceanside (Long Island), Plainview (Long Island), Rochester, Roslyn (Long Island), Willowbrook (Staten Island)
Pennsylvania: Allentown, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, White Oak (suburb of Pittsburgh), Wynnewood (suburb of Philadelphia)
Texas: Austin, Dallas
Representatives from Richmond, exclaimed “The South Will Rise Again!”
Dedicated to rebuilding New Orleans, Rabbi Uri Topolosky has become a regular visitor at OU fairs.
Overheard at the Fair: “We are from New York and our family is here in New York, but everything costs so much. We could definitely see ourselves moving not too far.
There are more options than we realized.”
OU Board Member Lorraine Hoffman extols the glories of her native Milwaukee, including the city’s NFL claim to fame, the Green Bay Packers. Qualities promoted at the Fair included affordability, employment options, and becoming part of warm community.
Parking was free in the Stroller Storage Area.
Maine is famous not only for L.L. Bean.
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