Is the Jersey shore any place to raise an observant Jewish family?
The Orthodox Union seems to think so. The Long Branch/Elberon section of Monmouth County is one of 36 Jewish communities around the nation selected to be featured at OU’s Emerging Communities Home and Job Fair, on Sunday, March 27, at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan. Congregation Brothers of Israel in Elberon and Yeshiva at the Jersey Shore in nearby Deal Park will represent the region at the fair.
The third OU fair of its kind, this year’s event is expected to attract up to 1,000 people. The fair was created to encourage residents from the New York metropolitan area to consider relocating to smaller communities that can offer a high quality of observant Jewish life in a more affordable setting. Towns nominate themselves through an extensive application process through which they must demonstrate that they offer all the resources expected of an observant community.
For Orthodox families, that means a synagogue, a ritual bath, kosher food, and access to yeshiva schooling for their children, among other things.
“Our goal is to let people know there is vibrant Jewish life outside the New York area, and that Judaism is alive and well in places like Southfield, Mich., and Phoenix, Ariz.,” said Frank Buchweitz, national director of community services and special projects with the New York-based Orthodox Union. “In many cases housing outside the New York area may be more affordable, and the sense of community may be warmer or closer-knit. Sometimes people feel they have the opportunity to have a real say in smaller communities.”
This year’s fair will be the first year to feature NJ communities; four others — Cherry Hill, Springfield, Linden, and Parsippany — will also be represented.
While the shore, especially Deal, has long been a haven for the large Syrian Orthodox community that keeps one foot in Brooklyn, it has seen the growth of a largely Ashkenazi Modern Orthodox community as well.
Dr. Andrew Samuel, CBI’s membership committee chair, told NJJN that the thriving beachfront community of Long Branch and Elberon was selected for the fair because of its range of Jewish resources, relatively low cost of living, and employment opportunities. In addition to synagogues and the yeshiva, there’s a mikva, or ritual bath, in nearby Oakhurst. There is an eruv, a boundary of string and existing fencing that forms a symbolic Shabbat border for observant Jews.
The JCC of Greater Monmouth County is in Deal.
“Elberon is the place to be for today’s modern Orthodox Jews looking to get away from the heavily congested and high-priced areas of northern New Jersey and New York,” said Samuel. “It offers all the mainstays of a close-knit Jewish community.”
CBI and YJS will send representatives to the fair, laden with display tables and exhibits touting the Jersey Shore community. Based in Elberon with a satellite shul on Ocean Avenue in Long Branch, CBI is the largest Ashkenazi Orthodox congregation at the shore, according to Samuel. Founded in 1898, it is the only Modern Orthodox shul in the Long Branch/Elberon area with an OU affiliation, he said.
“Our residents like to say that Elberon and Long Branch are the best-kept secrets in modern Orthodoxy,” said Rabbi Nasanayl Braun, religious leader of CBI, which has a membership of 230 families. Braun and his family moved to the area five years ago from New York, where he served as assistant rabbi at Lincoln Square Synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
“We are growing steadily every year,” said Braun, “especially since the creation of Yeshiva at the Jersey Shore [in 2006]. The growth is also due to the inclusive nature of our shul, the meaningful davening, and our full range of programs and services, from weekly Gemara shiurim [lessons] and Halacha classes, to women’s lecture series, and Shabbatot/scholar-in- residence programs.”
This year’s fair will also emphasize jobs. While the communities are not expected to guarantee employment to any people who choose to move there, representatives will be versed to help guide job seekers. CBI will offer lists of the largest employers in the county, as well as information on job postings.
The health care industry has attracted many of CBI’s newest families to the area, Samuel said. “With three state-of-the-art teaching medical centers within an eight-mile radius of Elberon, many people move here for residencies and internships. They like it so much, they end up settling and practicing here,” said Samuel, a periodontist with a practice in Ocean Township.
Ocean Township real estate broker Michael Danziger will provide housing information in a wide price range, as well as mortgage rate packages.
“We are honored to have been selected to showcase our community at the fair,” said Samuel. “We are very fortunate that our community is large enough to offer everything, yet small enough where every family counts.”