Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Beacon of Hope (for MidWestern Jews)

A lot of Mid-Western Jews (myself included) like to bitch and moan about the fact that all the young Jews graduate and move to the coasts, or Chicago. Communities like Detroit reported that there are more Detroit-born Jews living in LA than Detroit itself (who would wanna leave Detroit?).

It may seem bleak for those of us who remain more than a 5 hour drive from a beach, but all is not lost.

A recently released report from the Cincinnati Jewish Community Study had a few surprising results.

First, the community is relatively stable. That is to say that the Jewish population of Cincinnati is stable, sort of. More than 50% of those surveyed were born outside of Cincinnati and decided to move to the City of Cin. Another 16% were born in da Nati, left, and then returned.

This report is important in a few ways.
The first is that St. Louis and Cincinnati are similar. Very similar. I mean like post-industrial-rust-belt-river-cities-with-a-lot-of-large-corporations-who-are -trying-to-figure-out-how-to-attract-young-talent-to-a-place-with-an-image-problem-similar.

Cincinnati has some things going for it that STL doesn't, many more fortune 500 companies that attract a lot of talent, for sevaral.

St. Louis has some things that Cincinnati doesn't, like Washington University/BJC, a rudimentary light rail system (Vote YES on Proposition M if you want to see it become useful), and about 10 more years of investing in lofts and development downtown, made possible by a historic tax credit.

These differences aside, both live in the shadow of place like Chicago, New York, DC, LA, and Boston, to name a few. These are cities in which young adulthood is played out without regard to the future, responsibilities, or savings.

Young adulthood, particularly Jewish young adulthood is difficult in places like Cincinnati, St. Louis (Minneapolis, Detroit, etc.) particularly because you don't have the mass of young Jews that can feed fresh energy into the community.

You end up seeing the same people at every event, which can be great, but can also be stifling (see Rosh's post on dating in STL).

The real importance that I see in this study, however, is that we matter to the current generation. A lot. You can see it in the choice of Rabbi Davids and his speech on Gen Next in the community (which you can read about here). It is apparent when communities like Dotan, Alabama offer Jews $50,000 to move in.

The established federated community is foaming at the mouth to outreach to us, connect with us, and bring us into the fold.

This is the beacon of hope. That the these people are starting to come around and embrace our reality. But they can't do it without us.

Knowing that the interest, and money, is out there.... How do we take advantage of it?

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