Back in August, we blogged about an ad in the Washington Jewish Week placed by the Blumberg Family Jewish Community Services of Dothan inviting Jewish families to relocate to Dothan, Ala. The incentive wasn’t bad – a no-interest $50,000 grant to help cover moving expenses, a home purchase, and seed money for a small business. It took six months, but the Associated Press has reported that Matthew and Michelle Reed, along with their 2-year-old son and newborn baby boy, have become the first family to move to Dothan under the program.
The goal of the program is to attract 20 young families who will help reinvigorate the aging and shrinking Dothan Jewish community. Over 400 families have applied, 60 of those qualified after screening, and 10 are “in the pipeline” to move. The vetting process is lengthy, and it includes written references, a background check, and interviews. And families have to commit to living in the area for five years and being active in the community’s only syngaogue, Temple Emanu-El. But from the enthusiasm displayed in the article by both the Reeds and residents of Dothan, the first relocation couldn’t be a better fit.
At JOI, we spend a lot of time talking about ways that communities can engage more families and increase participation in Jewish life. Whether that means engaging intermarried families, recent Jews-by-choice, or anyone else who might feel they are on the periphery of the community, our goal is to let them know that we welcome them, and we want them involved. Dothan added to that approach by offering cash, and it seems to be working. With interest this high, they will have no problem reaching their stated goal. It was a bold plan to begin with, and the only question now is how quickly Dothan will bring in that 20th family.
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