In response to the economic downturn, the Orthodox Union will again be highlighting “emerging” areas of the country that are attractive — in terms of job opportunities and affordable housing — to the Orthodox Jewish lifestyle, including Atlanta, Houston and Stony Brook, L.I.
The Suffolk community’s appearance on the list, along with cities such as Des Moines, Iowa, and Richmond, Va., is throwing a spotlight on Stony Brook and just what kind of Orthodox life exists there.
“It’s a beautiful area,” insisted Rabbi Moshe Roffman, spiritual leader of the Stony Brook Hebrew Congregation. “It’s full of trees, it’s green, historic and … peaceful. There’s very low crime and it’s not congested. It’s really a great place to live.”
But conducive to an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle?
“We have Friday night and Shabbat morning services, and there is a daily minyan” during the school year, he said.
The congregation holds Shabbat morning services year-round in a room of the Student Union on the campus of Stony Brook University. Friday night services and the daily minyan are held in the basement of the rabbi’s home, about a 10-minute walk from the campus, according to David Ebin, chairman of the university’s math department and a founder of the congregation 30 years ago.
Ebin said the congregation has access to a room at the university because it is officially the Orthodox minyan of the university’s Hillel.
“We are there for students and the community,” he said. “We pay our own expenses. We receive no support from Hillel or the university and we are a longtime member of the Orthodox Union.”
Ebin said an eruv — a boundary that surrounds an area so that observant Jews may carry objects on the Sabbath — was erected two years ago “without a single complaint from anybody,” Ebin pointed out.
Asked about the Jewish infrastructure in the community, he said the Jewish Academy of East Northport is a day school that has classes through the second grade and is now registering children for third grade.
“There is kosher Bagel Boss about 15 minutes from campus and a kosher glatt kosher meat café in the Student Union that is open to the public,” Rabbi Roffman noted.
He estimated that about 20 of the 30 families who are members of the congregation are either graduate students or professors at the university; the rest are from the community.
Rabbi Roffman said members of the congregation plan to man their booth at the fair because “we are looking to grow and to get people to move here.”
Rabbi William Berman of the Commack Jewish Center, who is the longest-serving congregational rabbi in Suffolk, said he wishes the congregation success.
“It would be great if the Orthodox community came here because it could have a positive influence on the general Jewish community, whatever is left of it,” he said.
Rabbi Berman pointed out that many of the children of Orthodox families have moved from Suffolk because “they want to be in the Orthodox centers, like Teaneck, Monsey, West Hempstead and the Five Towns. Children who have been raised Orthodox don’t want to settle here.”
Frank Buchweitz, the OU’s national director of community affairs and coordinator of the fair, said it will be held June 14 at the Lander College for Women on 60th Street between 10th and 11th Ave., noon to 5 p.m.
Last year, 14 communities were invited and 800 people attended. This year, 21 have been invited, he said.
Although Buchweitz said the emphasis of the job fair this year will be on helping people relocate to Orthodox Jewish areas where there are jobs, Ebin said he has no job information to offer except to tell people about major employers in the area. They include: Stony Brook University; Stony Brook University Medical Center; Computer Associates; Symbol Technologies and the Brookhaven National Laboratory.
But Ebin acknowledged that attracting Orthodox people to the area has not been easy.
“There are some [Orthodox] people who work here but who won’t live here because they want a larger Orthodox community. So they move to Plainview.”