Sunday, June 28, 2009

Practical Demographics

As you get older and have the benefit of the RETROSPECTOSCOPE,it is both interesting and sometimes sad to both witness and be a part of changing demographics.My most recent involvement of course was living in Monsey for 38 years and seeing the community change from a dynamic modern orthodox Jewish Community to a black hat-chassidish one.Our children moved out upon marriage, and slowly through illness, deaths and moves to Israel, Florida and close to children the changes are palpable.Aside from commenting on the lack of multi-family housing for young married the results were and are almost inevitable .There is still a MODERN Yeshiva (ASHAR),but things are not the same.
For indeed that is the cycle that we have seen in Far Rockway, Forest Hills and other places.
I started thinking about this because when I moved into Fort Lee last tear, I found a small siddur that amazingly was given out at the 39th annual dinner of the Young Israel of Easter Parkway in 1962.The guest of honor was Murray Kotkes.I do not know of his current status, but his son Willie,who went on to get smichah at YU, was my youth leader at the Young Israel in my high school days.
My Rebbi, Rabbi Harold Kanotopsky of blessed memory, was the Rabbi of the Young Israel.It was a vibrant synagogue, that was founded in 1923 and sadly closed its door in the 1980's.During its heyday,it was the home to thousands of young people who learned how to conduct services in the youth minyan,and feel at home in its gym.The Rav was a dynamic leader,and each shabbat another young YU student would get up at the end of services to deliver a sermonette on a relevant torah topic.The level of Torah scholarship that he taught was second to none.
Yet the inevitable population changes took place.Chabad become strong ,and the Black and Haitian Communities grew as our people ran to the suburbs, and our young people got married and took themselves where their careers carried them.
My only thought is to warn young communities, that what you have is not forever.You must reach out and attract young married couples.The role of the Rabbinate must not be forgotten.Considering I retired young,I am cognizant of the fact that many Rabbis do not wish to retire.In general that is not healthy.Not that they cannot continue to provide services ,however when a person is over 60-65, their thoughts are on retirement and the status quo.Excitement , the desire to expand and grow and provide vision for the next decade belongs to the young. Thus Assistant Rabbis must be considered for those tasks.
Thankfully new communities spring up such as Teaneck, Boca etc, however they must plan for the future now before they reach the top of the curve.