Friday, January 8, 2010

Not the Promised Land

Just a few thoughts to ponder. Why are so many determined to fight for and protect a few hundred square miles of territory? No, I'm not talking about Eretz Yisroel--I'm talking about the East Coast regions where the majority of frum Jews in the US congregate. That a whole lot of frum Jews are here is purely an accident of bureaucracy married to a physical feature. The port of New York and Ellis Island were the designated arrival areas on the East Coast for immigrants coming to the US. Boston Harbor was also an entry point--it's where my family entered through. Mostly the immigrants arrived sans money and ended up settling in close proximity to their arrival point because they couldn't afford to be anywhere else. Yes, some of these immigrants obviously started shuls and schools and communal organizations. But please, let's not endow these places with some sort of holy significance. There is no "kedusha" in living near these places now. And yet, there are some people who act as if there is.

There have always been some brave souls who pushed west and north and south, evidenced by the fact that there are frum communities spread across the US. But could we please have some perspective here. Those aren't communities "in exile" from the great promised land of NY/NJ. They aren't lesser in any way because they fall far from New York City. There are an awful lot of people who are confusing the fact that we face to Mizrach when we daven with the geographical fact that NY is also in the east.

The urban frum centers, and yes, some of the suburban centers, in the East are at present riddled with problems, many of which are an outgrowth of their being in the East to begin with. New York and New Jersey fall in the designation of 5 most expensive states to live in in the US. Massachusetts falls in the top 10 most expensive states to live in. New York City is the most expensive city in the US to live in. Warning lights blinking like crazy--is no one looking at what is so clearly obvious and right there in front of them?! Where people are living is impinging on how they can live and do live. Mention a problem in Klal and money raises its head immediately. And a whole lot of those money problems are tied to geographical location.

The way I see it, until people are going to lose the blinding mindset that New York and its Metropolitan satellites are "irim ha'kedoshim," a lot of Klal's problems are not going to be solved or reduced in scope. Living elsewhere is NOT an action of last resort or of desperation--it may be the only sane and doable solution.


Allen said...

Spoken like a true out of towner--and I'm with you. Where we live is not without its own problems due to the downturn and the frum kehila is dealing with some problems but nothing, nothing like what I read about happening in the NY area.

Anonymous said...

I think it's because Jews are fressers and like the proximity to hundreds of kosher restaurants with hashgachot of all the desired levels. The same occurs in Paris, London, and Toronto.


Hersh said...

On the other hand, it's hard to leave the place where most of your family lives, the place where you grew up, and the place that has so many of the frum/kosher amenities.
Another point is that while NYC is an expensive place to live, many of the Jews in NY/NJ only have their parnasah on account of Manhattan. Were they to leave to somewhere cheaper, their salaries may diminish more than proportionate.

Zush said...

Hersh, along with the probable reduction in total amount of salary also comes lower taxes of all kinds and reduced costs that are proportionately way lower than in NY for things like housing and schooling and basic living costs.

Well, the family/friend thing is a real issue but unless you live down the block from your parents and no friends moved out of the neighborhood, don't you really have the same thing in NY too? People consider it a trip to go from one boro to another one and they are busy with work and their kids and they don't see each other all the time even living in the same city.

Aviva said...

It's not really ruchnius that is the problem when easterners look at oot--it's gashmius. People have seriously told us that it must be very hard for us to be frum with only having one shul and one bakery and one butcher. Not having any restaurants they can't understand at all. Our frumkeit is under suspicion because we can't eat out or buy all the things consumed in NY? Just how are any of these things in any way related to being frum--if I can't have pizza I'm not as frum as you are? Puleeeze!

Anonymous said...

I think some NY area people think of moving oot as some kind of admission of failure. Moving out says you couldn't make it in NY. Or at least that is how some of my friends look at it. Even though they know that money problems would be less oot, that they could afford to buy a house and not die under the debt they won't do it.

efrex said...

There certainly is something to getting out of the New York City rat race, and I've known many friends to head out to Cleveland, Atlanta, Baltimore, etc. Lovely communities all.

As Hersh pointed out, however, it can be extremely difficult to leave a comfortable community. For me, leaving the New York City area means leaving behind no less than a dozen free babysitters (parents, siblings and siblings-in-law, aunt/uncle/cousins), the shuls and yeshivot that I grew up in, and virtually all of my childhood friends. For me, at least for now, it simply makes financial and emotional sense to stay where I am.

I've known representatives from western & southern communities to appeal directly to young New Yorkers to move there, and it certainly seems to me that it's having some effect. The trick, though, is catching them when they're flexible enough to be able to make that move. In the current economy, that's a really tough call to make.

Ruth said...

An interesting point Anonymous and I think a true one in lots of cases. Friends of my married kids who want the whole NY lifestyle and just can't afford it for a lot of reasons. But suggest they move out of town and you get an answer that basically is "I'm not a loser!

Not just the kids though. When one of mine moved real out of town people assumed that we must be having money troubles or we would have fixed it so thtey didn't have to move.

Mystery Woman said...

Right this minute, I wish those immigrants had settled in Florida...
But, seriously, although I do agree with you...I'll continue living here in NY and struggling with living expenses. My kids go to school here, my family lives here, I grew up here, I work here...and when I weigh the pros and cons, this is what works for me.

nachum said...

Efrex and the others who mention the emotional aspect of living in NY, you aren't wrong. But there is a way to have at least some of that emotion go with you.

A few friends and I got married and just couldn't afford to live in the same community where we grew up. We'[re all of us working but salaries don't start on the high end and move down--they start on the low end and move up. So to start out with we weren't living near our parents anyway. Babysitting was a sometimes thing because of the traveling involved.

Three of us decided to make the move out of town together. This way we had friends because we took them with us. Two siblings have already joined us and a couple more friends. They found it easier because we were already there.

So maybe think about groups moving out together instead of just one couple. Do I miss the old home? Sure sometimes. But for our kids this is the home they know and the shul and the friends. And we adjusted.

HolyCityPrayer said...

As a former resident of the USA, even of Queens NYC, I agree that Metro NY is not all it is made up to be.

But I am sorry to see such a seemingly quality blog about frum living has so little in the way of Israel.

I am not accusing you, I don't even know you, but if US Jewry, especially frum Jewry, hasn't realized yet that moving to Israel is an option, that it is the most correct option, then something is terribly wrong. I hope this blog owner and her followers will face themselves and write about "Why I am not even considering moving to Israel my homeland".

Anonymous said...

Any chance that this posting relates to your forthcoming move to Las Vegas?

ProfK said...

I've always been a big fan of spreading the Jews of the US out and around the country, even before we took the steps to make our own journey to LV. I like looking at the bottom line, and for many living in the East the bottom line is painted thick in red--they can't afford what they want or even what they need if they continue to live there. Yet, they cry aloud as they continue to debt spend themselves into a deep black hole. They cry as if there were no alternatives, and there are many.