Four representatives of the Toco Hills Orthodox community met in New York City Nov. 24 to participate in the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Community Home and Job Relocation Fair. There, the Atlanta group pitched some 2,000 in attendance to try to convince them to relocate here from New York.
Registering their interest in moving here were 73 people, according to Hannah Fleshel, an Orthodox Realtor with Keller Williams and member of Congregation Beth Jacob. She presented those inquiring with a one-page sheet with statistics about Toco Hills, its synagogues, Jewish schools, housing prices, kosher offerings, and general Atlanta weather and demographics.
“We were talking nonstop for six hours,” Fleshel said. “I feel like we had successful meaningful conversations. … We are thrilled with the potential for 73 more families” to move into Toco Hills, she said.
Over the past four years, Fleshel knows of two families that have moved to the Orthodox community after learning about it at a past relocation fair. The purpose of the fair was to give those looking to relocate a resource on Jewish communal life, including schools, synagogues and kosher food options, she said. There were also informational sessions on seeking employment.
The Atlanta group participated in the seventh-annual fair in New York as “chesed,” kindness, Fleshel said, to share what they love about Atlanta. She believes there’s a better quality of life here, higher standard and lower cost of living.
In addition, the average commute from Toco Hills to downtown is 25 minutes versus an hour in New York and the average winter temperature is 43 here versus 20 in New York, Fleshel said. Another reason observant New Yorkers may consider Atlanta over other smaller communities at the fair is the option of a co-ed or single-sex school in Toco Hills, she said.
“Atlanta offers all of the amenities you would find in a larger community,” said Josh Joel, who also represented Beth Jacob and Atlanta at the fair. “We have large shuls with hundreds of families in each, a Kollel, mikvaot and many school options, including a great special needs program. We’re hoping that we can show people that we are a great community, a great economy, a great place to raise children, great rabbis, and a great infrastructure.”
Orthodox Union President Moishe Bane said in a release, “For various reasons, including the high costs of tuition and housing in the New York City area, there is a growing cadre of Orthodox families exploring other locations throughout the country and Israel to establish their homes. We are pleased to have been able to assemble so many Torah communities and to enable them to showcase to these families the attractiveness and advantages of their respective communities.”
Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Allen Fagin said, “The enthusiasm shown by the representatives from Atlanta as they demonstrated the vibrancy of their community’s Orthodox Jewish life was truly extraordinary. As dozens of community fair participants crowded around their table, they had an opportunity to be introduced to a welcoming community which is rich in the infrastructure necessary for a full and meaningful Orthodox life.”
In other OU news, the Semichas Chaver Program, an innovative learning initiative, has opened 28 new locations, including Beth Jacob in Atlanta, bringing the total number to 53 worldwide. The program has also welcomed 700 new participants in the past month, with 1,300 total participants to date.
“The Semichas Chaver Program value lies in its ability to bring practical Torah values to life,” said Beth Jacob Assistant Rabbi Dov Foxbrunner. “It’s an amazingly engaging, high energy format that draws participants in and provides them with inspiration for the entire week. Here in Atlanta, we are blessed with a wide variety of attendees with varying backgrounds, all of whom rally around SCP’s Torah.”
The Semichas Chaver Program is a fast-paced, interactive halacha learning program with a specialized focus on the practical meaning of halacha, according to a press release. The program was founded in 2017.
“Semichas Chaver is an example of the OU’s efforts to expand Torah learning among all segments, and all ages, within the observant community,” Bane said. “This wonderful program extends beyond the class itself to positively impact the participants’ daily learning, as well as learning with their families both during the week and at their Shabbos tables,” he said.
“The community response to the Semichas Chaver Program has been very enthusiastic, and as a result, we more than doubled the number of chaburahs for this year,” Fagin said.
Founded in 1898, the OU represents American Orthodox Jewry with over 400 congregations in its synagogue network.