Monday, June 15, 2009

"Emerging Communities Fair" mostly about Jobs

Lots to contemplate from yesterday’s OU Emerging Communities Fair.

The scene was somewhat chaotic, with individuals and couples circulating randomly around the closely-placed tables of the 23 featured communities, but I’m not sure it could have been done any differently. I think that over-regimenting, by requiring specific registration for specific tables, would have been counter-productive. And there just wasn’t a better way to use the space.

Some communities emphasized their amenities; Dallas, for example, had a well-done brochure outlining all of its offerings. Others emphasized the way its young couples take active roles in the community; Memphis had life-size cut-outs of actual young families, for example. Ours was more of a collection of amenities and opportunities for involvement and jobs and we-aren’t-that-far-from-New-York.

Not everyone who visited was looking for an immediate move. Some people were there to do research for the future; others were investigating possibilities for an eventual could-be we-might relocation. And one or two were just there to have a good time, asking bizarre questions to amuse themselves and wasting the time of the sincere, earnest people staffing the booths.

Some people were looking but didn’t want to make it known… particularly those who came as representatives for one community but visited other tables, handing out resumes. A photographer there told me about couples who were afraid their families would find out they were considering leaving New York.

One thing’s for sure: Job ranked over every other factor for those who were seriously looking. Based on my conversation with dozens of the people making the rounds of the tables, most of them were simply looking for work, and anywhere they could get it. Not only in the obvious fields of finance and marketing, but in normally-solid fields like medicine and law.

YU’s Center for the Jewish Future did a survey (“Community Growth Initiative”) of young couples two years ago, to find out how they would choose a community. They offered 12 options, and asked participants to rank them by importance. This was the way the ranking worked out:

1. Hashkafa
2. Choice of Day Schools
3. Affordable Housing
4. Job / Higher Education
5. Young Couples
6. Eruv
7. Values
8. Mikvah
9. Convenience
10. Proximity to Family
11. Rabbinic Leadership
12. Kosher Restaurants

I have a lot of questions about the survey and the surveyed, but at the moment I’ll just say that if the survey would have been re-taken at the Fair yesterday, Job would have been #1, and there would not have been a #2.


  1. As my kids are fond of telling me, there isn't a community in the world that has a Jewell (an Albertson's, a major grocery store) with as great a kashrut selection than the one in Chicago's West Rogers Park.

    Although technically it might be in Evanston.

  2. Haskafah and choice of day schools are numbers one and two, but rabbinic leadership is at the bottom of the list.

    But this is not the place to discuss that survey.

  3. FlyingBubbie-
    Not sure; I've seen that one, but I've also seen Sobey's in Thornhill, Toronto.

    Why not discuss it? Go for it. (I have my own theory about why rabbinic leadership is so low on the list; someday I may write about it.)

  4. We saw the brochure for this. (The community we live in emerged several decades ago.) The thing that caught my attention was how they were lumping places like Atlanta (which, as far as I know, is well established, just outside of NY) with places like Des Moines, which I imagine must be truly emerging for people outside of kashrus.

    It just seemed like a really wide range to have in the same place, but I guess that was the point.

  5. OneTiredEma-
    Thanks for commenting.
    Could be that was the point. Also could be that these communities petitioned for inclusion, and the OU didn't want to be too exclusive.