Post Corona: The New Frum Community

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  • #1862383
    Chaim Shulem
    Participant

    My friends,

    As is probably the case with many of you, I’ve been working remotely for the past couple months. There is a high possibility that I’d be able to work remotely, permanently. Yeshivas and schools are also remote, and with enough time and logistics, I’m sure the switch to permanent remote learning can be a possibility, and even be successful.

    The question, then, is obvious: Why not move to a cheap small town somewhere and start a new community?
    We can work remotely. Our children can attend school remotely. There are several online frum schools that already exist, so it can be done. Our housing costs would be minimal, if we find the right place. Building a shul / mikvah / community center wouldn’t be that big of deal, cost wise, given enough time to accrue funds. Basic kosher food is readily available in almost any Walmart and Trader Joes across the country, and we can arrange co-ops if needed.

    I’m done with high costs of living, high costs of school, traffic, the social and economic pressure of the large communities.

    I’m all in. Who’s joining?

    #1862441
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    Personal interaction is very important in child development. People are social beings, so social distancing is done as a necessity not as a primary behavior.

    #1862444
    Lostspark
    Participant

    Visit Kansas City.

    #1862445
    Lostspark
    Participant

    Overland Park to be precise.

    #1862446
    ubiquitin
    Participant

    a couple of points:

    “I’m sure the switch to permanent remote learning can be a possibility, and even be successful.”

    I doubt it, it is clear (to me and all I’ve spoken too) that remote learning is not nearly as effective as in person. This is even more true for “weaker” kids that need more individualized attention.

    “The question, then, is obvious: Why not move to a cheap small town somewhere and start a new community?”

    Schools is but one item keeping people in larger communities, shuls easy access to kosher food are probably the first 2.

    “I’m done with high costs of living, high costs of school, traffic, the social and economic pressure of the large communities.”

    So go for it!

    #1862462
    NOYB
    Participant

    Why re-invent the wheel? There are numerous communities across the US with all the small town meilos you listed. Baltimore, Silver Spring, Dallas, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Phoenix, Richmond, South Bend, and Norfolk are only some of the places that come to mind. These places already have a lot of frum infrastructure, like shulls, schools, and kosher food.

    #1862467
    Kilaolomchasdo
    Participant

    Sorry, but remote learning should never be a permanent replacement for the real deal. It’s extremely important and healthy for kids to learn social skills and the kids can’t pay attention to the material nearly as well.

    If you want to open up a real yeshiva in an out of town community, then that should be a fine solution (although there are many good out of town places that actually do currently exist if you feel the need to move).

    #1862487
    Amil Zola
    Participant

    There have been rural frum communities in the US for hundreds of years. It’s estimated that 4% of the frum in America live rurally. There are small frum Jewish communities in the heart of Appalachia, AZ and all across the west and here in the PNW where I live. I think that it’s a rather unsuitable lifestyle for folks from the known Jewniverse of NY and NJ. who are used to walking around the corner to a shop to buy your kosher chicken, most of these communities live more than a convenient drive from a Walmart or Trader Joes. And listen to the women on Imamother complaining because their kids are home all day because of C19. Home schooling isn’t an alien concept in rural America regardless of your faith. And of course there are the wandering rabbi’s of Chabad who visit once or twice a year and the wandering shochet serving those Jews who raise their own animals for food.

    My late husband and I received wise counsel from our rabbi when we were considering our move to the rural PNW and we were able to network with other Jews who lived rurally on how to solve some of the unique problems of Jews living rurally. As technology advanced and the internet became more available to rural areas, many issues of supply and demand were solved. The only time I resented driving an over 30 mile trip to work over mtns was during ice storms.

    With my husband gone I downsized and moved closer to town onto what would be described as a rural residential property on the far edge of town. It, for me, is infinitely nicer than in town, with few close neighbors, less noise and traffic. It’s also less than a 30 mile drive to a grocery store which is even better.

    #1862544
    Gadolhadorah
    Participant

    I agree with MOST of your points regarding yidden leaving the NYC metro area ard relocating to less densely populated areas with a higher quality of life. When I left years ago there were certain challenges but others followed and we now have a thriving community. Depending on your mesorah and hashkafah, you may want to consider one of over a dozen smaller metro areas noted in the above posts rather than going “off the grid”. Yes, technology has made it easier to escape the city, but its hard to do virtual mikvah, and “remote hakofos and ” shalosh sa’udos.with a crowd of yidden. Physical activities and interactions are part of yiddeshkeit. .

    #1862574
    southerner
    Participant

    I live in South Carolina. It’s a total midbar and miserable. Atlanta, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh are great options. Florida too if you can stand the heat and humidity. Follow the infrastructure. More really is more.

    #1862627
    takahmamash
    Participant

    “the known Jewniverse of NY and NJ”

    As someone who has made aliyah, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this.

    #1862692
    Maivin
    Participant

    No offense, but remote learning is the most hideous suggestion right-minded people of our planet have heard in decades, maybe even in centuries!!
    B) Hypothetically speaking it would be a great idea, until- it doesn’t work, which is inevitable, and then you and your hoard of similarly minded, stary eyed young entrepreneurs will be out in the sticks!!!

    NICE TRY HOWEVER!!

    #1862689
    catch yourself
    Participant

    As a Rebbe, I can tell you that, while distance learning has been better than nothing during this crisis, it has also proven that homeschooling can not replace the school experience.

    As many have noted, social interaction is a tremendous part of childhood and of education, and homeschooled children are deficient in this part of their growth. This is true even in the best circumstances, in a vibrant community and many neighbors, and with proactive parents who make it a priority to provide opportunities for social interaction for their children.

    Moreover, the real key to teaching Torah is the relationship a Rebbe builds with his Talmid, and this is exponentially more difficult to achieve through distance learning, if not impossible. If the Torah education of your children is one of your top priorities, I do not think you should even consider putting them in a position where they will not be in real contact with their Rebbeim and Moros.

    #1862687
    rational
    Participant

    As takahmamash implied, come to live in Israel. It’s God’s country.

    #1862742
    Chaim Shulem
    Participant

    I truly appreciate all your feedback, thank you!

    It seems the most common response is the fact that remote education cannot truly replicate an in person learning experience, and I of course agree with that.

    HOWEVER-
    1) In person learning has its own pitfalls, with quieter kids and non traditional learning style kids taking the brunt of what is considered “the norm”. Online education can resolve that.
    2) I honestly feel the main problems with these zoom/online “classes” that have sprung up in the past couple months aren’t due to the nature of online learning itself. Rather, they’re due to the fact that we’re unprepared and unfamiliar with how to best utilize them. I completely my degree online, and was extremely satisfied with my learning experience. We just need to construct a real plan with how to do it properly.
    3) The whole “lack of social interaction” thing wouldn’t be an issue at all, so long as the kids in the community are regularly getting together for activities, etc. The idea that only in a school environment can kids really have social interaction that can benefit them for life is erroneous and antiquated, and quite frankly, dangerous. There are SO many social pressures and anxieties that are caused by the mainstream school system, and in large communities with large schools, these issues aren’t noticed as much.

    Another theme that sprang up – There’s already out of town communities. That is true, but not in the way I’m envisioning it to be. All of these communities (Atlanta, South Bend, Phoenix, Vegas, Portland, Dallas, etc.) have the same model as the in-town communities: They have yeshivas and day schools, many of them with high tuition costs, and many of them actually don’t have such cheap housing (I know South Bend does). The problem is many of these places are large cities, and the Jewish communities are in expensive areas. Many of these communities are STRUGGLING to stay afloat. I know, because I’ve lived in several of them. My idea would be to find a small city with very, very cheap housing.

    Everything else – like the ease of having numerous minyamin, tons of kosher food options – I’d actually consider flaws. I don’t think we truly appreciate these things when they’re in such abundance. I know this as well, because I’ve lived in both large communities and tiny communities. And I’ll tell you right now, the people in the tiny communities appreciate their shul and what kosher amenities they have a lot more.

    #1862746
    Chaim Shulem
    Participant

    Amil Zola – I’m actually curious where in the PNW you live.. near Portland or Seattle? Or somewhere else entirely? I’ve been looking at cheap towns in that vicinity.

    #1862836
    sariray
    Participant

    I’m glad remote learning is working for you. My SIX kids ages 3-16 all hate it, most are learning close to nothing

    #1862826
    catch yourself
    Participant

    Chaim Shulem –

    1) Of course, no system is perfect. Schools and educators are constantly evolving and working to make the educational experience best suited for every student. For some students, online education is truly the answer. In fact, one of my current students was barely passing until the lockdown, and has flourished in our distance learning. However, he is an exception. For the overwhelming majority, the opposite is the case. Online learning does not present them with the same education as learning in person.

    2) Without question, given significant investment and training, schools can create an online learning experience far superior to what we have scrambled together in this situation. Again, the difference between learning in person or online is qualitative, not quantitative. It is impossible to create the same relationship with Zoom that I can in person. Adult education such as your degree is irrelevant to this discussion, just as General Studies education is immaterial to Limudei Kodesh.

    3) In Torah Education, we invest much time, effort, and resources to ensure not just social interaction but healthy social interaction which is guided and inspired by Torah values. I am skeptical that this can be replaced in another setting.

    #1862792
    zahavasdad
    Participant

    It is Assur Min H’Torah for a Jew R’L to move out of Brooklyn Ir Hakodesh.

    The only MAYBE Heter is if one moves to Yerushalayim, maybe there is a heter for that, but ask your local Posek to see if that is permitted

    #1862793
    Amil Zola
    Participant

    Takahmamash re Jewniverse. I grew up in NJ, and got my undergrad degree at a uni in NJ. It has been my experience that many Frum and not so Frum Jews think the NJ NY metroplex be all end all for frum. For example, even on this forum (or Imamother) Frum don’t consider or even think that there are communities OOS whose lifestyles are quite different than NJ or NY Frum. That doesn’t mean our practices are different but when you live outside the metroplex there are variants in lifestyle. BTW I thugged that term after I read it here many years ago.

    #1863013
    southerner
    Participant

    Toco hills, suburb of Atlanta, is booming. Great yeshiva, there is full spectrum of amenities including kollel, kosher Market, kosher delis and sushi within grocery stores, and Jewish retirement home. Much more affordable than northeast and folks friendlier.

    #1863060
    Chaim Shulem
    Participant

    catch yourself – those are all valid points. But I still feel it’s a real serious option we should consider, specifically when countless families are breaking under the pressures of modern frum societal expectations, with yeshiva expenses, high housing costs, etc. We need to simply reevaluate what our priorities are.

    southerner, I’m aware of that area, it is nice but not the kind of affordable I’m referring to. Also, as much as it’s a “suburb”, it is still very much within a large city. I’m talking about small towns, with real affordability.

    Amil Zola – still curious where in the PNW you are located.

    many people decline to answer those types of questions online- just sayin’  – mod 29

    #1863240
    Amil Zola
    Participant

    Chaim Shulem. I do not live near a metro area. Neither my husband nor I wanted to live near a metro area. I live on the edge of city limits in an area that will not be developed any further (The town has about 16K fulltime residents,) The PDX and Seattle metro areas may be cheaper than Bklyn but the suburbs are nothing close to small town living. Houses are built on top of eachother, poorly constructed, traffic sucks, property taxes are high and every house looks the same.

    Thanks Mod 29!

    #1863245
    Amil Zola
    Participant

    I did want to address the complaints about remote learning. Unlike some public schools Jewish schools were very unprepared to adopt remote learning. The teachers lack training in developing remote learning classes or how to manage them. Many of the schools were/are late to adopt technologies that make remote learning possible. Mind you I have no idea how big city school districts are handling remote learning. I do understand how smaller districts spread across large areas have gradually adopted learning technologies and had back up plans should remote learning be necessary. Frankly it sounds prehistoric that one would think they could successfully deliver class material to 7 yo’s over the phone. And I’m pretty sure that many of the teachers were never trained in the pedagogy of online teaching and learning.

    #1863387
    Joseph
    Participant

    Chaim, what’s “appreciate what kosher amenities they have a lot more” mean? What is there to appreciate about it?

    #1863436
    Joseph
    Participant

    Amil, the city public schools were utterly unprepared to implement remote learning.

    As far as the Yeshivos are concerned, they do not use remote video learning for religious/philosophical reasons. Earlier or more preparation would not have changed that fact.

    #1863478
    🍫Syag Lchochma
    Participant

    Amil – with all due respect (seriously) it never to fails that someone laud the public schools superiority over our schools in regard to whatever the topic of the day is. I’m not sure what sparks the need to generate these comments but it is obviously not fact based, as you cannot have spoken to even a random sampling of each, nor read any studies. Usually it just comes from people’s stereotypical beliefs/thoughts/imaginations of what they have decided about the Jewish system at large versus what they imagine the public school system to look like everywhere.

    I obviously cannot speak for the larger Jewish world, but I will say that among the 8 or more frum schools that I have first hand feedback from, the feedback drastically varies from teacher to teacher, not Jewish school to public school. And in addition to that, I have heard from public school teachers that they have about a 50% attendance rate (again, a very small sampling) and there is not much learning getting done.

    In the 10 public schools I worked at over this decade, I would say the ability of the teachers just to put together a classroom website varied from highly skilled to barely capable. Your situation of school preparedness sounds wonderful and unique.

    Sorry to pick on you as an example, but this undertone of inferior Jewish schools, inferior teachers, inferior Jewish music, inferior Jewish books etc is just a mantra that some people inject into conversations all over the place, like subliminal messages inserted in frames of a movie reel, and repeated often enough, it lays a false and unfortunate foundation for further negative attitudes toward the Jewish communities at large.

    #1863569
    Chaim Shulem
    Participant

    Amil, I of course respect your privacy and apologize for inquiring into your specific whereabouts. I am only curious because I’ve spent at least two years, possibly more, researching small towns that have a Jewish presence all across the western half of the United States, because that is where I truly want to be. I’ve reached out to dozens of community members, shul rabbis, chabad houses and schools, across the western states, and have found NOTHING I’m really looking for. In general, the places with chabads, like Colorado Springs, Boise, St George, Eugene, etc, aren’t interested in starting frum communities, no matter how much I try to convince them it would be a good idea.

    I still maintain that given enough thought and time, there can be a satisfactory education system set up online that can accommodate the majority of Jewish children, provided there is an established, regular opportunity for them to get together for in-person activities.

    Joseph, you clearly haven’t felt the joy of shaking a lulav and esrog that you had to order months in advance, pay 3 times what you pay in New York, and get shipped in a box, hoping it all stays intact, and then being able to share that mitzvah with other Jews who simply couldn’t get their own.

    #1863583
    Joseph
    Participant

    Chaim: Not only is that factually inaccurate, it isn’t what I asked you. I specifically asked you about food. Not about religious necessities. Can you address my above question regarding restaurants?

    #1863605
    Milhouse
    Participant

    Chaim, if you’re looking to leave the city only because of cheap housing, then consider Detroit or Rochester. So long as you don’t mind the cold, and you have a job that you can do remotely, those are both excellent communities with very cheap housing. The reason for the cheap housing is the lack of jobs, but if that’s not a problem for you then it’s an advantage.

    #1863613
    Chaim Shulem
    Participant

    Joseph, it’s pretty simple: hasameach b’chelko. You learn to truly appreciate the limited kosher options that are available to you, and they soon don’t feel limiting at all. You become more self sufficient, realizing you don’t need take out twice a week, you don’t need ready made sushi to go, you don’t even need fancy flanken meat for your cholent. It’s the difference between teaching a man to fish and giving him a fish. You make it work, and you’re happier for it.

    #1863626
    Amil Zola
    Participant

    For those that are complaining that I’m using small unified regional public school districts as an example, oh well. I’ve sat on our local board of ed as well as the curriculum committee locally. I’m guessing that with smaller regionalized districts there is far more community involvement and perhaps even more $$ devoted to teacher training. For those of us who choose to live rurally or semi rurally (Jew or gentile) we do not want to emulate the failures of public or private education that are evidenced in metro or suburban areas.

    #1863657
    Chaim Shulem
    Participant

    Milhouse: appreciate the ideas, though Detroit is actually a large city with plenty of traffic and unsatisfactory people. Even in Oak Park or Southfield, I don’t exactly feel safe. I’ve been there. Rochester is nice, though if I can choose anywhere to live, it wouldn’t be in the tundra.

    Amil Zola, wherever you live, is there any Jewish infrastructure? I’d consider a place an hour or two from a mikvah, until we can build our own. So a couple hours out of Seattle or Portland works for me.

    #1863704
    Amil Zola
    Participant

    Chaim, we have a private mikvah and a community mikvah. The private came long before I got here.

    #1863716
    CTLAWYER
    Participant

    @Chaim Schulem
    I live in small town Connecticut, having been brought up in New Haven which was a large city for CT.
    There are no kosher restaurants within a 30 minute drive, no local kosher prepared food or butcher (those days are gone), no local independent kosher bakery, as opposed to the bakeries in the regular supermarkets under KVH supervision,

    We buy our kosher provisions in bulk, cook from scratch (our choice). I have eaten in the Dtamford Kosher restaurants only when it is for a meeting. We are 60 minutes from Manhattan, 90 to Queens or Brooklyn. Close enough, but far enough away.

    Growing up, New Haven had 12 kosher bakeries and more than 20 kosher butchers, 6 kosher delis and a couple of dairy restaurants. BUT we still cooked at home. We didn’t do takeout and it wasn’t a matter of cost. Just not our style. We have a vegetable patch and a smokehouse. I love to pickle what we grow as well as smoke meats.
    This lifestyle is not for everyone, BUT like Amil Zola I have been involved in local government and school boards for a long time. Some of us like living in a mixed community. It didn’t harm my children’s marriage choices, nor my grandchildren….first grandson is getting married IYH soon as=after Shavous and due to COVID 19 it is happening in our gardens.

    #1863828
    Joseph
    Participant

    Chaim: Pray tell, how is Oak Park or Southfield unsafe?

    #1865728
    Chaim Shulem
    Participant

    Amil Zola, the only places I know of in the PNW that have a mikvah is Seattle and Portland, with a few chabad mikvahs in Tacoma, Olympia, Eugene and Ashland. None of those towns seem really affordable, though, with perhaps Eugene as the exception. If wherever you are, you have a mikvah and cheap housing/rentals, I’m ready to drop everything and move.

    CTLawyer, great to see there are other Jews who think outside the box.

    To the both of you: How do you handle the need for Jewish connection while being far from any established community? I know that is something absolutely critical for my wife.

    Joseph, all I can tell you is that’s how I felt there.

    #1865791
    Amil Zola
    Participant

    Chaim your interest where I live is becoming creepy. FWIW I know of 2 more ‘unlisted mikvah here in my state and at least 4 more in neighboring states. CT Lawyer said it best, ‘Some of us like living in a mixed community.’

    #1868004
    Chaim Shulem
    Participant

    Amil Zola, I apologize for making you uncomfortable with my interest, and it is not at all my intention to do so. You must realize that I’ve been doing tons and tons of research, contacting people all over the western US, trying to find a place that I know in my heart I want to live. You’d be amazed at how little progress I’ve made. The overwhelming majority of Jewish people simply don’t do these things, and I’ve gotten more than a handful of raised eyebrows and ridiculing messages. I’ve flown out to several existing western Jewish communities, to see if it was a good fit, but have come up empty handed. I’ve also lived in some them, myself. But my heart is set on finding something new, somewhere to begin a new chapter in what a Jewish community can look like, in a place devoid of it. To find a few people on this forum who are actually living in places like this is quite astounding and exciting. So please forgive me for being so intrusive. I am simply trying to find the place my heart truly wants to be.

    #1868035
    CTLAWYER
    Participant

    @ChaimShulem
    There is a rebirth of frum Jewry in a couple of CT mill towns that had Orthodox synagogues and days schools dating back 100+ years, but when industry left so did most Jews.
    You may want to consider looking at Waterbury (Mikvah, shuls, yeshiva, food) or the neighboring town of Naugatuck that just established a yeshiva and shul.
    Housing is not expensive, Brooklyn less than 2 hours by car and it is on the Metro North RR of you commute to work in Manhattan.

    Just a consideration, not pushing it, but these are often overlooked

    #1868062
    Chaim Shulem
    Participant

    I appreciate it CTLawyer, but I am really focused on finding something in the western US. A place where there is still open wilderness and mountains just outside your doorstep. Sure, the Adirondacks / Appalachians are nice and all, but they don’t give me the true wilderness experience. I need the Rockies, the Cascades, or the Colorado Plateau. It may sound childish, but it’s the truth.

    #1868242
    commonsaychel
    Participant

    @Chaim Shulem, actually Boise and Bozeman both have mivkahs, miyanim there are sporadic, [mostly Chabad and limited to yomtov and occasional Shabbos] I use to come annually to Montana when I was doing business there, friendly people, very pro business environment and contrary to what you hear I had no issues there being a visible frum yid whereas I get plenty of hate in the outskirts of Monsey, if you love amazing views and outdoors this is the place.

    #1868285
    Chaim Shulem
    Participant

    commonsaychel, yes Boise and Bozeman were both places I was actually looking into, though again, with Chabad being the only presence (and the chabad members who live are incredible people, don’t get me wrong), it seems they aren’t interested in growing frum communities. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    #1868300
    commonsaychel
    Participant

    Chaim Shulem, yeah its true, you probably have less 1000 Jews in either of these states, and to top it off Montana is the 4th largest state in the union, just to get from one part of the state to the other can take hours even with high speed limits that are nominally enforced. [ I have a picture I took at the rest area of a cow and the caption read “just because you see more cows then cops does not mean you cant get a ticket”]
    So the shilaich focus is on Kiruv and serving the guest at Yellowstone along with the shilach at Jackson Wy.

    #1868350
    charliehall
    Participant

    Three years ago I spent a Shabbat in Norwich, CT. Very nice small community. The couple that hosted me had just moved from Manhattan. They bought a 5 bedroom Victorian house in move in condition for $160K. The shul maintains an eruv and a mikveh. There aren’t a lot of jobs in Norwich itself but there are lots of jobs in Groton or Hartford, both commutable.

    #1869530
    Mistykins
    Participant

    It’s hard to believe, but Lakewood used to be an OOT community too.

    Looking for something cheap? In the words of R. Lefkowitz, become a shtikel pioneer. In the words of some baseball movie I never saw, “if you build it, they will come”.

    I have seen the dangers of remote learning, most kids need the social interaction. But homeschooling has many more options than just online learning. Pick a town with in Middleofnowhere, USA with a shul and a mikvah, and start it becoming the next Lakewood. Future generations will thank you.

    #1869968
    Chaim Shulem
    Participant

    charliehall, it’s nice knowing there are places like that. I’m trying to find an example of that somewhere in the western US.

    Mistykins, I appreciate the support, though I need to be honest, I don’t see any new community out west becoming “the next Lakewood” (nor do I think that is a good idea, anyway), because it would so far away from people’s families. The thing about Lakewood is that it’s so accessible to the majority of frum Jews in the US.

    Perhaps it can become the “Lakewood” of Los Angeles. Then again, lots of LA people I know have been moving already to Vegas or Phoenix.

    #1874444
    Chaim Shulem
    Participant

    Bumping this up to see if anyone has any new leads or ideas. I’m sure many of us are growing more anxious living in these big cities due to the pandemic and riots. This can be a solution!

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