Jews are not a common sight in many southern rural towns, such as Dothan, Alabama, but a local businessman Larry Blumberg has a solution.
He has been offering Jews elsewhere $50,000 to move to Dothan to help keep the Jewish community alive. His condition for the grant is that families stay for five years.
His $1 million fund has brought six families with 18 people from New York, Florida and elsewhere, and the once-dying Jewish community now is alive and vibrant.
Now that $900,000 has been paid out to bring Jews to the rural south, the community soon will be on its own to draw more families or reproduce quickly, unless Blumberg has more money to invest in the project.
One of the newcomers is the small city’s new Reform congregational leader, Lynne Goldsmith. She moved from Connecticut to Alabama to lead the reform Temple Emanu-El about a year before the program began and thinks the idea could spread to other towns.
But Dothan is special.
Its name is the Hebrew word in the Book of Genesis (Bereisheit). It is the area where Joseph’s brothers heeded their sheep before they kidnapped him and threw him into as pit, the event that put into gear the 400-plus year process that resulted in the aliyah of Jews from Egypt to Israel, with a 40-year layover in the Sinai Desert.
What does Dothan have to offer Jews?
It is the peanut capital of Alabama and hosted the National Peanut Festival every year, complete with beauty pageants, agricultural displays, and an arts and crafts show, amusement rides and plenty of non-kosher food stands.
There also is the Press Thornton Future Masters Golf Tournament in Jul and the annual Tri-State Barbecue Festival, pork ribs and all.
Goldsmith told CNN soon after she moved to Dothan “If you need a robust Orthodox community, we don’t have it. But if you want a community where your neighbors are friendly; where people smile at you in the grocery store even if they don’t know you, then Dothan’s for you.
That sounds like Israel.
Maybe Dothan, Alabama is the American Jews “Joseph’s pit,” 400 years before they move to Israel and live in the original Dothan, located in the area of the Jezreel Valley between Beit She’an and Afula
Didn’t Blumberg every think about moving to Israel and offer Jews $50,000 to make aliyah?
About the Author: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.
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