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March 27, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 27, 2009 PAGE 17A By Stewart Ain New York Jewish Week Eight years ago, when Rabbi Anthony Fratello be- came the spiritual leader of Temple Shaarei Shalom, a Reform synagogue in Boyn- ton Beach, the congregation had 100 households--and the youngest member was 75. Since then, its member- ship has grown six fold, 250 children have enrolled in the religious school and the congregation is almost dou- bling its 10,000-square-foot building. "We are now (ruly a mul- ˘igenerational congregation, and we are getting younger and younger," Rabbi Fratello said. "There has been a lot of growth. Boynton Beach has exploded." There were almost no Jews in Boynton Beach in 1975, but by 1987 there were 9,300. That figure swelled in 1999 to 37.000 and by 2005 had grown to 59,000, according to Ira Sheskin, director of the Jewish Demography Project at the University of Miami's Miller Center for Contempo- rary Judaic Studies. By comparison, he said, in all of St. Louis there are 54,000 Jews. "This clearly has to be the fastest-growing Jewish com- munity in the United States," Sheskin said. "In-less than two decades, it has added 50,000 Jews." The growth here has come at the expense of West Palm Beach, about 25 minutes to the north, where the Jewish community in 1985 erected a major 93,000 square-foot community center on a multi-million dollar 40-acre campus. From 25,000 Jews in central Palm Beach County in 1987, the number of Jews there fell to 131000 by 1999 and to 11,400 by 2005, She- skin noted. But even as the West Palm Beach campus was going up, many communal lead- ers recognized that Boynton Beach was the area 0f Jewish growth, and as a result a satellite JCC was built here in 1998 on the 12-acre campus of Temple Torah, a Conserva- tive congregation. The JCC, known as the Boynton/Lake Worth branch, uses 10 of those acres. "We built a large branch here, but it, was too small the day it bpened," said Scott Benarde, a JCC spokesman. As a result, the buildingwas expanded just two years later to 53,000-square-feet, noted Craig Frustaci, the JCC's assistant executive director. Among the changes was the addition of a large physi- cal fitness center, despite the fact that most people here live in gated communities that have their own health clubs. "We found that some people don't want to work out with their neighbors and family," Frustaci said. adding that some members use the room more for socializing than working out. He pointed to four senior citizens in animated conver- sation in the middle of the floor, two of them sitting on exercise machines. Frustaci said that because there are no kosher eateries "within walking distance"-- there isnone in all of Boynton Beach---the JCC would like to open a caf on the premises within the next year. The JCC uses 86 percent of its building, which also features an Olympic-size outdoor swimming pool, a social hall that seats 200 and a 6,000-square-foot gy m. The rest is used by the Jewish Family and Children's Services. an adult day care group, the Commission on Jewish Education and the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County. Jeff Trynz, the JCC's mar- ketinl directorT,said the JCC here has 2,500 members compared with 1,800 in West Palm Beach and that its goal is to expand services by "get- ting into the community and partnering with synagogues and universities." "They don't all have to come here," he said. But Sheskin noted that only 15 percent of Jews in Palm Beach County have joined synagogues. Evidence of a growing number of young Jewish families in Boynton Beach is the fact that the JCC has its own 220-student preschool program, that Temple To- rah has a preschool for 150 youngsters and that Chabad- Lubavitch of Greater Boyn- ton, about three miles away, opened last year a preschool program for 60 children. All three programs are filled to capacity, according to offi- cials at the three institutions. Recognizing the chang- ing demographics here, the Solomon Schechter School of South Palm Beach County moved in August to Temple Torah fromeast Boca Raton, where it had opened in a synagogue in 2000. It is the only Jewish day school here. "We had as many as 42 stu- dents but the demographics were not good for us because younger families were mov- ing west," said Allison Oakes, the head of school. She said she hopes the three preschools will act as "feeders for us." The K-5 school now has 22 young- sters. "My kindergarten is full for next year, and we are building our next kindergarten class now," Oakes pointed out, not- ing that there are 15 students per class and that she has room for four kindergarten classes. "Our projected growth is quick." she said. "Every year we expect to add one more kindergarten, and in four or five years we are looking at 90 students" through the eighth grade. Shelly Gross7 president of the school's board of direc- tors, said she hoped that her school and the Meyer Com- munity Day School in West Palm Beach. another Jew- ish school, would graduate enough students to warrant the building of a Jewish high school. "We have room here for 120 children," Gross said as she walked through the halls of her school, located on the newly built second floor of Temple Torah. "And there's more room to build here." Mitch Turk, principal of Temple Torah's religious school, said he has 90 stu- dents and that his school started only four years ago af- ter his congregation outgrew a regional religious school. But although young Jewish families have begun moving here, Rabbi Fratello said builders are still putting up developments for active senior citizens in addition to those for young families. Thus, Boynton Beach is getting younger--but slowly. Sheskin said a 2005 study found that 74 percent of Boynton Beach is made up of Jews aged 65 and older. "And of the 59,000 Jews here, only 3 percent are younger than 18--compared with 26 percent nationally. Howard Teplitz, execu- tive director of Temple To- rah, said that although his congregation has added a religious school and a pre- school program to attract younger families, "the bulk of the people moving here are retirees or snowbirds for whom this is their second home. The homes here are affordable Boca is too ex- pensive-and you can't beat the weather... BoyfltonBeach historically has not attracted young people. It's changing slightly, but I don't see an influx of young people at this point in time." , On the Other hand, Rabbi Sholom Ciment, spiritual leader of Chabad-Lubavitch, said that in the last three years "we have experienced an influx of whole develop- ments filled with young people. Our preschool has a capacity for 60 children and what is unheard of in pre- school development is that it should be filled to capacity in its first year. And there is now awaiting list for children to come into our preschool." As a result of this growth, Rabbi Ciment said his con- gregation bought another 2.5 acres adjacent to its property and plans to "build another 15 classrooms." "We want to build the infra- structure for what we expect to be a greater and greater influx of young Jewish fami- lies into the area," he said, adding that his catchment area includes Boynton Beach and several communities to the north that encompass 86,000 Jews. "In three years we are going to have a facility of 50.000-square-feet on five acres of land," Rabbi Ciment added. The push for young fami- lies here has not been easy. Shari Young, 48, director of Temple Torah's Early Childhood Learning Center, said that when she moved to Boynton Beach in 1985 from the Mill Basin section of Brooklyn, she was single and "looking for a slower pace." She found it all right, because most of the Jews here were senior citizens. "I sat on a strategic plan- ning committee for the Jewish federation and put together the first Mommy and Me program at a day care center whose owners were Jewish," she said. It attracted some of the young Jewish families who were just beginning to move here from New York after the devastation in southern Florida caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Young mar- ried a year after she arrived. "My goal was to have a Jewish infrastructure so that people would feel there was a Jewish lifestyle they could become involved with here," Young said. "We still need a kosher restaurant and a kosher butcher." Penina Polokoff-Zakarin, 39, who recently moved here from Brooklyn with her husband and 5-year-old daughter, said she has been in touch with people who are interested in opening a kosher restaurant and a kosher butcher shop. "We have to find the prop- erty and start it up," she said. "It will be real New York." Polokoff-Zakarin said her family is renting an apart- ment here for a year to "see if we like it and to let [home] prices come down" before they buy. "It's definitely a better quality of life here," she said as she sat on a bench at Temple Torah. "My favorite thing is all of the parking and no meters or alternate side of the street parking." And she said housing prices are much lower here. In Brooklyn, she was pay- ing $1,280 a month for a 700-square-foot apartment. Here, she said. she is pay- ing $1,250 a month for a 1,536-square-foot three- bedroom unit with a private terrace. And, she said, two- and three-bedroom condos "in luxurious areas" that had sold for $350,000 to $400,000 are now selling for less than $250,000. Glenn Peleg of Realty As- sociates in Boca Raton said housing prices have been on the decline for nearly three years, with one study saying they have dropped 21 percent. He said that houses that ,.: had been in the low $300,000 range have dropped about $100.000. Asked to compare the value of a home' here with one in the New York City, Peleg said he believed a $2 million home in, the city would sell for $500,000 here. "You get a lot more bang for the buck," he said. "One million dollars here buys you a palace... I recently sold a young couple a five-bedroom home in a gated community for $287,000 in Lake Worth," just to the north of here. Stewart Ain is a staff writer for the New York Jewish Week, from which this article was reprinted by permission. By Eric Herschthal New York Jewish Week In the early 1930s, the Zionist project was at a cross- roads. Without a unifying culture to speak of, many thought a Jewish state was doomed. So Hans Nathan, a Jewish musicologist and ar- dent Zionist living in Berlin, hatched a plan. He would ask famous Jewish musicians around the world, from Kurt Weill to Aaron Copland, to create Zionist folk music. Then he'd get Zionist orga- nizations to distribute these little ditties, with lyrics and musical notation printed on five-by-seven postcards, to Jews across the globe in the hope of fostering a more unified front. "It was folk music by design," said Greg Wall, a jazz composer who is now updating this story. "Made out of thin air." When Wall debuts The Postcard Project later this month, he's adding a few new twists. Jewish artists will re-interpret many of these forgotten folk songs, adding jazz, hip-hop, indie rock and pop sensibilities to this decades-old music. The songs will be available online, sold at a virtual store akin to iTunes. And all the proceeds will go to cancer- related charities. Linking the two causes-- support for Israel and cancer research is the will of the project's main benefactor. "He wanted to do something funky," Wall said of the anonymous patron, whose plan to do a fundraiser for Israel's 60th anniversary was derailed when a relative died from cancer. "A thousand- dollar-a-plate dinner, it wasn't his style," Wall said. Wall came up with The Postcard Project, where established artists like the Israeli rock star David Broza and klezmer revivalist Frank London would each reinvent a song alongside up-and- coming acts like Jewish rap- pers Y-Love and Diwon. The artist chooses the charity his song benefits, and customers pay whatever price they wish. The patron asked Wall if he could think of a creative way to revive kibbutznik-style folk songs, a fond memory of his youth. "I knew 'Zum Gall Gali' and 'Hatikva,'" Wall recounted after a recent concert with his jazz band, The Later Prophets, in the Upper West Side. "But that was about it." Two things he had, though, were time and money.The patron approached Wall in 2007 and agreed to build a studio in New Jersey, where all the songs could be re- corded. While the studio was be- ing built, Wall was teaching a summer music course at Brandeis, allowing him to spend spare time in the university's library. There he came across the original postcards from the 1930s, inspired by Nathan's project, and then it clicked. "I wanted my artists to have that same experience," Wall said, his green eyes now opened wide. He sent musicians the scanned postcards by e- mail, with just the lyrics and scored melody as their guide. How they chose to interpret the song was up to them. By now, 30 tracks have been recorded, with the official Web site www. robe launched sometime later this month. (For now, audiences can listen to a few samples at neersforacure.) Since the gift covers most of the over- head costs, virtually all the proceeds go directly to the charities, Wall said. For many of the artists, the project is personal, too. Adrienne Cooper, a Yiddish singer who has worked with Wall's bands like the Hasidic New Wave and the Unity Orchestra, sings a folk song that was a favorite of her mother's, also a singer in her day. "She once sold out Soldier Field," Cooper said, referring to the Chicago Bears football stadium. Her mother sang the original version of the pioneer song "Shnei Shoshanim," or "Two Roses," which Cooper sings again, re-interpreted. Cooper set her song to a Middle East rhythm, while another contributor, Seth Glass, added bass, drums and a string quartet to the song Wall gave him, "Omrim Yeshna Eretz." "That really gave it a lot of sensuality," Glass said. "a lot of body." For Karen Rosen, another contributing artist, the con- nection to the project runs deeper still. For one thing, Rosen met her husband in Israel, after she moved there from her native Scotland in 1995. (The couple immi- grated to the United States a few years later.) The other, was that can- cer runs in her family. Her mother died from breast cancer when Karen was a teenager. Then, in 2006, she was diagnosed, too. "It was just after my daughter was born," Rosen said, referring • to her second child, Leah, now 2 years old. "I was 35." The cancer spread to her lymph nodes, but after months of radiation and chemotherapy she began performing again. Still, both Rosen's sisters recently learned that they carry the BRAC 1 gene, common among Ashkenazi women and one of the strongest predictors of breast cancer. Two years ago, the sisters started Step Ahead, a charity Greg Wall's Postcard Proj- ect has Jewish artists mod- ernizing many forgotten Israeli folk songs, adding jazz, hip-hop and indie rock sensibilities. for breast cancer research, which her song will benefit. So when Wall invited her to participate in The Postcard Project, she didn't hesitate. "It was a great idea," she said. "I jumped right at it." Reprinted by permission from the New York Jewish Week. Read the Jewish Week at