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One Move Ahead

Baila Rosenbaum

Housing costs in established Jewish neighborhoods are pricing young, frum families out of the market, while opportunities to come in on the ground floor of new communities are beckoning. Many young families are taking the bait and opting to move “out.” But is all the idealistic talk about building a new kehillah really for everyone — and what’s the trade-off if you’re a hopelessly “big city” person?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The combination of eight years of marriage, three kids, and a two-bedroom rental just wasn’t working anymore; so Mara and Ezra Berger* decided it was time to buy. Like many young families though, the question was, where? Housing costs in their Manhattan neighborhood precluded staying, and home prices in the outer boroughs of New York were untouchable as well. In the end they chose to move to an old Long Island community that was looking to attract young families and revitalize what had once been a healthy Jewish kehillah. Attracted by the low-cost housing in the area, they jumped in. “We had high hopes,” says Mara. “They were renovating the shul and canvassing to attract more couples. We thought we were in on something new and exciting, that we’d made a discovery. We bought a home, moved in, and volunteered in the shul and at the children’s school.” Unfortunately the neighborhood’s dreams never materialized. “There was no growth. The neighborhood never took off. We thought we would be putting down roots and growing a new community, but instead we were stuck in a virtual no-man’s land, commuting our kids to other neighborhoods to do homework with friends, to buy challah, or pick up a slice of pizza.” Four years later theBergers sold their home and moved to an affordable area in Queens where they are happy and thriving. “We thought we’d be pioneers,” Mara laughs, “but it seems we were just wannabes.” Finances, shuls, and school choices are all major factors to consider when buying a house. But what happens when a family like theBergers finally takes the plunge and finds that their hopes and expectations are not met? Ezra and Mara were able to recover, but how do other families weigh the risks of starting out in a new community — and if they fail, how do they recoup their losses and regain their standing?


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