Which American community it right for us?

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    HI everyone, We’re a family with 4 little kids, moving to the US from Jerusalem. I’m a baalas teshuva originally from Los Angeles, my husband is a bal teshuva orniginally from the UK. We’re in our late 30’s. My husband has been in Kollel/smicha for the last 13 years, and he’s ready for a change. He is a professional but not really bal habatish. He will be working 9-5 and learning/teaching in a kollel. We’re looking for a strong kollel community, full of shtark people but also open and colorful with plenty of baalei teshuva. We have a child with special needs, so we need a community with a big enough talmud torah system within which he can find his place. I am thinking Atlanta, Chicago, Philly, or Baltimore. Can anyone who knows these communities tell me more about them, what they attract, how warm they are, how developed they are? I really don’t know anything about them!



    I’m no expert on US kehillos – but I think that in order to get an answer for your question, I think you should mention your husband’s occupation.

    You mention:

    “My husband has been in Kollel/smicha for the last 13 years”

    and subsequently:

    “He is a professional”

    Unless with ‘professional’ you mean ‘Jewish religious studies professional’, this warrants further explanation…


    It’s better to stay in EY.


    If you are coming from yerushalyim your best bets for most opportunuties would be Baltimore as they have the largest populationand most choices and work can be found in dc baltimore silver spring etc.. and they also have more choice of yeshivas and Ner Yirsroel has always been very open to Baalie teshuva

    Why is NY not on your list? Work opportunity and yeshiva opportunity abound and for a child with special needs the free Jewish services and govt support that NYC offers cannot be matched anywhere. Many people coming from Eretz Yisroel think all NYers are chasidish that a baal teshuva family might have a problem intigrating into but this is not true! Queens Flatbush Far rockaway have many Balei teshuva. Why is NYC not on your list?


    Lakewood, NJ


    BTW: A) You might have some private reason for not choosing NY I should have phrased my last sentence that you should could consider NY as opposed to asking why not.Again NY has many different neighborhoods where you might feel comfortable

    B) I know a few former brits and they never felt fully comfortable with driving here.Regarding the above communities: Driving is usually a necessity and many families have two cars. In NYC you can do very nicely without having to drive you are never more then a five minute walk from shule shopping transportation.(taxis and transportation are abundant and cheaper in NYC then a suburban setting

    C)Yeshiva tuition in NYC while prohibitive like most places is still less and easier to get a scholarship for then the above aforementioned cities additionally yeshiva school bus is provided.

    For a special needs child Yeshiva tuition and/or day programs are given as part of govt grants for special needs.Outside nyc many municipalities require you to outlay some of the monies at the beginning of the school year and then petition for reimbursement(reimbursement does happen and they will cover tuition in the end but you must first register start paying tuition and then gov pays back the school after year has begun).

    Hope we can be helpful and Hatzlacha with your move.


    Haifagirl is correct. The Shchina is weeping.


    How special are the special needs? I have a fair amount of experience as both a parent and a special educator, and I’m sorry to say that many of the frum special ed programs in the NY area leave a lot to be desired. We moved to the NY area from an out-of-town community in order to allow our special needs child to be in a Jewish school setting, and we feel that because of that, our child was not educated adequately.


    Thank you for your posts! My husband is an accountant from the UK and worked 7 years before coming to kollel in Jerusalem. New York sounds overwhelming for us because we’re baalei teshuva and very laid back. We’re also coming over with no money, hoping to “FIND” work in my husband’s field. We cannot keep up with the Jones’ and we’re not looking for gashmius. What communities were you thinking of in NY? Any other suggestions?


    Chicago is great, because it is not too big but not too small and hick towny. It is still big, so although I am not sure what the job situation is like exactly, it seems to me that it is big enough to find something you like. There is a very nice Baal Teshuva population as well.

    Obviously you have to think about it based on who you are and your personality, but I would think it would be worth you looking into!

    Good Luck, and it should go smoothly wherever you end up!!!


    I’m sorry about the comments you’re getting about how the Shchina weeps, and you should stay in E”Y. Of course we would all prefer to live in E”Y, and I”m sure you are sad to be leaving. The fact is that so many of us are forced to live in chutz la’aretz, and pray for the day when we can all be zoche to return together. I don’t think the purpose of this thread is to put anyone on a guilt trip, or to offer a mussar shmooze on yishuv E”Y.

    I wish I had some solid good advice for you. I’m not familiar with special needs education. Greater NY does have a lot of job opportunities, often in a frum environment, and while housing costs are very high, tuition is, as previously mentioned, a lot less expensive. Don’t be intimidated by all the talk of keeping up with the Joneses, there are still some normal people living in NY. Good luck!


    Radiantglow: Wherever you go there will be shules and social circles where you feel you have to keep up with the joneses. It is all a matter of where you Daven and who your social circle is and the pressure you put on yourself. In NY there are all types.If you are coming without money Yeshiva tuition and needs for your son can be overwhelming. As referenced above NY would have the best support system. Do not feel overwhelmed. In NY tuition per child will be between 5-10 thousand. Out of ny and in certain ny suburbs tution will be between 10-18thousand and scholarships will not be as forthcoming. Additionally as referenced above special needs cannot be matched. Coming from Eretz Yisroel where you have plethora of shopping and yeshivas and then going to a one horse town would be very hard. Additionally parnasa wise baltimore and nyc would be much easier for your husband to find work.


    takahmamash: The shechina weeps when a couple gets divorced. Please see to it that folks do not get divorced.


    The shechina weeps when a couple gets divorced.

    And I weep when I cut onions. And my baby weeps when he’s bored. And my wife weeps when she reads the newspaper.


    To yehudayona: I am sorry for your personal experience and do know that the system at times can be very frustrating. However, I know dozens of parents that have been involved with otsar hamaspik hasc etc.. that have the opposite impression, whose children excelled in unimaginable ways.The men and women that by and large do their jobs with special children do so with tremendous ahava mesiras nefesh and knowledge.


    Thank you again for all the suggestions. My son has adhd and strong sensory problems. He is in 2nd grade and here, In Israel, he doesn’t fit into the cheder system and even the special ed that was offered us is substandard. He is in an integrative cheder which puts him for the mornings in a regular class of 36 boys, then in the afternoon in a special class of 9 boys. The school has no money, and the regular cheder doesn’t want the “special” kids because they “bring down our reputation”. I hope there is something better in America and that the school system has something to offer a child like mine. I feel that the charedi cheder system here is in the stone ages and I’ve scared for my kid’s future. ANy thoughts?


    btw, what is a down to earth community for us in NY?


    if yous consider canada, toronto is amazing, with great resources for kids w/ special needs.


    Seems like everyone here is suggesting their own hometowns…


    If you want to live in the NY area which as far as I know offers the most to special needs children, maybe look into the lower East Side. I don’t know so much about it but from what I hear it has a diverse community. The people who live there love it. They have a boys yeshiva and girls elementary school both of which have small classes which will benefit your special needs child. Maybe look at Far Rockaway which has what is probably considered the best yeshiva in accommodating special needs besides being tops for regular ed children and I think might have a large BT community because Shaar Yoshuv is located there.


    Boropark and williamsburgh are chasidish. Flatbush, and Marine park in brooklyn are a mix.Kew garden hills in queens and flushing are a mix as well but does not have as many education or employment choices as brooklyn.Far rockaway is very nice as well but is dependent heavily on the five towns for its shopping work and educational needs and two cars are a must.

    In Brooklyn a few boys yeshivas can cater to your son very well in mainstream classes just based on your description. Therapists meet with boys during and after school hours and if your son can be only partially mainstreamed there are boys yeshivas that have classrooms within the class or use arrow smith and other resources if necessary.

    I actually know of a few boys with sensory issues and adhd that are doing quite well.

    If your son needs a Yeshiva with modified learning but not necessarily full special ed there are a few of them in brooklyn.

    Unfortunately I have lost contact with them but I know of two therapists that were actually brought to Eretz Yisroel to help modernize programing.


    az mah?


    Torontos tuition is sky rocketing there are pple that are sending to public schools because it’s too expensive


    Boropark and williamsburgh are chasidish. Flatbush, and Marine park in brooklyn are a mix.Kew garden hills in queens and flushing are a mix as well but does not have as many education or employment choices as brooklyn.

    Far rockaway is very nice as well but your monthly expenses will be very high for all said purposes it is dependent heavily on the five towns for its shopping work and educational needs and cars are a must. As mentioned above the Boys Yeshiva in that area Darchei Torah is an excellent yeshiva and as referenced by the above poster for a child with needs they do a tremendous job of integrating kids.Yeshiva tuition and day camp will run you about 30% more then Brooklyn. As you said you were from L.A. the five towns are very similar in cost.

    Solely on your brief description of your son, I can think of a few Yeshivas in Brooklyn that can cater to your son very well in mainstream classes. Therapists meet with boys during and after school hours and if your son can be only partially mainstreamed there are boys yeshivas that have classrooms within the class or use arrow smith and other resources if necessary.

    I actually know of a few boys with sensory issues and adhd that are doing quite well.

    If your son needs a Yeshiva with modified learning but not necessarily full special ed there are a few of them in Brooklyn.


    Staten Island.


    I maintain Lakewood, NJ, Its not exactly NY , but you should have most of what you are looking for


    As a person with a similar background as you, and living here in EY, I have not thought to go back to America to live, but if I did, I would strongly suggest a pilot trip before you and your husband pack up and just move (I hope I am wrong in understanding that this was your plan from your posts).

    You have much to consider, including having a job lined up for your husband, and schooling lined up for all of your children. Don’t forget about a visa for your husband for working purposes if he does not have American citizenship. Many places may not be able to employ him for this reason. I don’t think you can even consider Toronto or anywhere in Canada because from what I know they have very strict restrictions on working without citizenship in their country. Have you thought about looking into the situation in the UK? Your DH will have an easier time getting work since he’s a citizen.

    You will probably also have to consider getting a job since expenses are so much higher in the US than here in EY. I have to work even here, how much more so in the US.

    Once you get some ideas, make a list of possible places you would be interested in sending your SN son and contact them before you spend $ on the flight over, but do come and check into things before bringing the whole family. Things appear different in reality than they sound on the phone.

    As far as your other kids, do find out about the BT community and how well they are integrated. You don’t want your kids going to BY and chadorim and finding themselves segregated based on their backgrounds.

    I hope your transition goes well and you find the right solution for everybody in your family.


    to Nechoma: “As far as your other kids, do find out a…. segregated based on their backgrounds” You unfortunately have been exposed to prejudices that exist in Eretz Yisroel due to political affiliations. In Brooklyn Baltimore Chicago etc… the yeshivas have balei teshuva. Only a chasidic school is where this might be an issue, and that is not do to being a baal teshuva but only because you are not chasidish.

    While finding a job anywhere needs mazel for the husband it will Not be to bad re being from UK as the poster is American.


    Hello radiant glow,

    Of the four communities that you are considering, I have experience living in the Philadelphia PA area. The cost of living for Philadelphia itself is significantly lower than for many other major US cities. I wasn’t sure if you were thinking of living within the city itself, or rather the suburbs referred to as the “Main Line,” which has a thriving Orthodox community (but can be quite expensive).

    Having worked as a child advocate attorney for ten years in Philadelphia, I can tell you that it is in general a very violent and dangerous city, although the sections that you may be interested in (e.g., Old City, Center City) are relatively very safe, historic, and pleasant.

    If you are considering the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia, Bryn Mawr has the excellent Akiba Academy, now known as Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy. I frequently see many Orthodox families in this general vicinity, walking with ease to shul and other areas (shopping, public transportation, etc.). This location is very convenient and accessible by walking to anything you may need.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I was born in Bryn Mawr and lived the first few years of my life in nearby Narberth, and I am extremely partial to this area! It is very safe and has incredible cultural opportunities. The Jewish community (of all denominations) is very large in the Main Line. Although you are interested in a religious school, it may interest you that the Lower Merion School District there is the absolute best in the state, due to the resources available in the Main Line. This fact may have some bearing on the special education services that are available, even for children in private school.

    If you can give me an idea of where in the Philadelphia area you are looking at, I can give you more specific information.

    I wish you the best of luck in finding the right fit in terms of communities for your family, and with your move!


    The cost of living for a frum consumer can widely differ from the cost of living for a secular American.

    For example, New York City has one of the highest cost of living expenses in America, yet for a frum/kosher consumer it can be a considerably lower cost of living to reside in NYC than almost anywhere else in the United States. This is because kosher food and yeshiva tuition costs considerably less in New York City (Brooklyn, etc.) than almost anywhere else. This is since NYC has a tremendous kosher food industry and that is where much kosher food originates from and thus is less expensive than elsewhere. And the school tuition is lower there than elsewhere for a myriad of reasons.


    From your choices Chicago is a good all around place. All kinds of people and very good in special ed I am told. Problem is Chicago is not cheap to live in.

    Another good city which is more affordable and has good programs for special ed is Cleveland OH.


    Barrack/Akiba is a middle to high school not elementary. Torah Academy of Philadelphia would be the elementary school for Lower Merion/Main Line. A few years ago I would have told you not to think about it with a child with special needs but they have really improved in that area to accommodate as much as possible. Lower Merion (Merion/Bala) is a really nice area with over 600 families of every type! – Kollel/Yeshivish to young israel to modern to MO…. The school is a real mix and kids from every type attend it. It is great for a family that is no “typical”. YOu can check out their website for more info.


    I think out of the 4, Baltimore seems like a good fit. There are quiet a number of boys schools, large and small, so your husband can find a good fit to teach at. There is Ner Yisroel and a number of smaller yeshivos and kolellim. Baltimore has a large BT population and they are well integrated into the community, same schools, shuls, neighborhoods) Baltimore is an inexpensive place to live and there are quite a few job opportunities, particularly in healthcare and in government jobs (Social security has a huge campus). The special needs children have services through SHEMESH (they have a website) which integrates kids into the classroom and other organizations. Tuition may be a little more expensive than in NY, but everything else will be cheaper(house, taxes,gas (not by much). There are scholarships available to many schools generously funded by the ASSOCIATED. Baltimore is a very warm, growing community that is characterized by a sense of achdus that is not commonly seen in other places.


    abcd2 – I’m not so sure about your confidence that it won’t be so bad for poster’s husband since she’s American. I have a friend who is American and husband is South African. When they wanted to simply visit the US – not take up residence and get a job – they made lots of problems for the husband. They had to bring documentation showing that they owned property here in EY and that they intended to return here afterwards before the officials were willing to give him a visa to US. I don’t think it’s a simple matter.


    I agree with those who say you should take a second look at the UK.

    We moved from E”Y to the UK last year, also for financial reasons, and it worked out great. We, too, came without any funds – we had to rely on family and friends to give us money for the flights and to rent an apartment (flat) here, but we made it. Now, we earn about twice what we earned in E”Y, we’re paying off our debts and in another year our financial situation will be quite good!

    Now, following the others who praised their hometowns, I’ll do the same – though Gateshead isn’t really my hometown (I’ve only been here for just over a year).

    First of all, Gateshead has the smallest significant frum community of the UK, around 450 families I believe. Total number of people is 4000 during ‘season’ including the sems and yeshivos. Advantages?

    * There are possibilities for children with special needs. I know there are several here, and the mainstream schools do a good job, AFAIK, in helping them.

    * Life is cheap here. Much cheaper than in London, Manchester, or the US. Housing is quite cheap (cheaper than London and Manchester and much cheaper than the US), shopping isn’t too expensive. Public transportation is very cheap and you absolutely do not need a car here.

    * The area is quite safe. Not very safe – some of the local non-Jewish population is rather unpleasant – but in general, it’s a pretty quiet and peaceful area.

    * I think tuition is a bit lower here than in the US. Don’t have any children myself yet unfortunately, but from what I know I think the US is slightly more expensive.

    * There are jobs around here, if he’s a qualified UK accountant it shouldn’t be impossible for him to manage here. If he’s willing to travel a little bit (say up to 1 hr by public transport, which is what I do) and work with non-Jews, I’m sure he will find a job in no time. The area is quite big and has plenty of major employers – Gateshead is basically one with Newcastle, and a few other towns/cities next to it; altogether the area has something like 1 million people.


    Also make sure your kids have American Citizenship with American Passports.

    Nechomah is right about the husband, It might be more difficult than you think, When you apply for residency for him make sure you apply under EU Passport and not Israeli (EU citizens have easier rules than Israeli citizens) for example EU residents dont need a visa to come to the US, Israelis do and once you get here assume your husband cannot legally work here until he gets a green card


    Also, can a UK accountant find work so easily in the US?

    Doesn’t someone who wants to work as an accountant in the US need to have a CPA certification? (If I remember correctly…)


    1: The Chassidishe Gatesheader’s suggestion of Gateshead

    2: Lakewood NJ

    I don’t see the Five Towns for someone who has children & no support. You will have to find an apartment that can fit your children, which will be expensive (I would think), and will just add stress to you family (which is probably already stressed). I agree that if money was not an object, then the best place for a special needs son is in Darchei.

    Both Lakewood & Gateshead (from TCG) have cheap housing (Lakewood has huge basements for under $1000), cheap tuition, and support for special needs children.

    Alternativly, you can consider joining the Chardal community in EY (or Dati Leumi). I don’t know much about it, but they might be more accepting of your children.


    Is it a lot of trouble for newcomers to get their children into Yeshiva and Beis Yaakov in Lakewood?


    If you have 4 little kids, I assume you could manage with an apartment with 3 bedrooms. You can get those in Gateshead for ~500 GBP (about $800 or 3200 NIS).

    We live in a 2-bedroom apartment (flat), not too big but *way* bigger than the little 2-room chosson-and-kallah apartment we had in Yerushalayim (which cost us 2300 NIS). Here, we pay NIS 2500 for an apartment that is at least two and a half times bigger.

    Anyway, if you were planning to go to the US without any finances at all, and with your husband only being a *British* accountant, I really, really doubt your plan.

    Do we have any American accountants here who can tell us what job prospects a British accountant might have in the US? (Keeping in mind he didn’t work for 12 years, but does have 7 years of experience prior to that.) As far as I know, you *need* a CPA certification to be an accountant in the US – however, I’m not an accountant and not even American, so I’m not sure.


    I really think Staten Island is a great choice. In Staten Island, you get the benefits of living in N.Y. without the hassle of living “in town”. Brooklyn is a 25 min drive away, though you have everything you need in S.I. In the Willowbrook community. Theres a great mix of kolel yingeleit as well as baal habatim ranging from yeshivish to modern orthodox. Staten Island has their own yeshivos; yet its proximity to Brooklyn as well as New Jersey gives you more options. The community has a laid back “out of town”, atmosphere.

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