New Orleans will be one of the communities featured in the Orthodox Union’s upcoming “Emerging Communities: Job and Home Relocation Fair,” to be held June 14 in New York.
The Fair comes on the heels of last year’s successful “Emerging Communities Fair,” in which residents from the New York metropolitan area were encouraged to consider relocating. More than 800 people attended to contemplate a move, with the biggest selling point being the more affordable cost of living an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle in the highlighted communities.
Responding to the vastly changed economic conditions since April 2008 when the first Fair was held, this year’s version will highlight opportunities to find gainful employment as well as affordable housing for those making the move.
New Orleans was selected to join the Fair because of its presence of Jewish life and resources, such as synagogues, learning opportunities, kosher establishments and other mainstays of a close-knit and warm Jewish community; relatively low cost of living; charm; and multiple employment opportunities.
Rabbi Uri Topolosky, of OU member synagogue Congregation Beth Israel, declared, “We applaud the Orthodox Union for recognizing the value of smaller communities and how they uniquely contribute to the overall fabric of Jewish life in America. Our community in New Orleans, for example, boasts a rich history of Jewish immigrant life and a proud, ongoing story of Jewish philanthropic activity related to the city’s cultural and economic development. New Orleans has also been a celebrated hub for travelers, both personal and professional, and our Jewish community continues to serve a vital role in enhancing and enabling their stay.
“Congregation Beth Israel is honored to participate once again in this year’s fair for emerging communities as a means of sharing the strength of our Jewish community with young families looking to be a part of an affordable community where they can make a difference, and also to share with others the inspiring story of our revitalizing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In particular, our synagogue has rebounded from total devastation, re-energized our community, attracted new faces, and is about to break ground on a new building.”
He added that New Orleans has a kosher deli and an upscale Moroccan restaurant, a kosher market, a mikvah, JCC, Day School, and an eruv (boundary). New Orleans’ renowned Cafe Du Monde is also now certified kosher.
Beth Israel launched the “Minyan Project” — a commitment to relocate 10 young families to the community by offering financial incentives, job assistance, and Southern hospitality.
Topolosky said “This past year, two new families moved here to join this exciting community — perhaps the only place in the country where you can help shape the redevelopment of an entire city, redefine the image of a whole Jewish community, and even help rebuild a synagogue community and its spiritual home. This is a community where you can make a difference.”
At the fair, Topolosky will also present the OU with a gift in thanks for the help the organization provided New Orleans with in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. At its Annual Dinner in April 2008, the OU presented Rabbi Topolosky with a check for $235,000 toward Beth Israel’s building campaign. Afterwards, Rabbi Topolosky declared, “The check received at the dinner was truly a major boon for us in our efforts to build a new home for our congregation.”
Other communities at the fair include Houston, Atlanta and Memphis.
The big difference from last year is the emphasis on jobs, in addition to the lower cost of living. Communities are not expected to guarantee jobs, but have communal representatives to help job seekers find positions.