Monday, June 16, 2008

The Top 10 Jewish Neighborhoods in North America

The Shoppes at Waterways-Aventura

By Lisa Alcalay Klug (JewishLivingMag)

With more Jews per square inch than some parts of Israel, there's no denying that Manhattan's Upper West Side is about as Jewish a neighborhood as you'll find anywhere. But in compiling Jewish Living's list of the top 10 'hoods, it's not merely size or even longevity that counts. Along with quantifiable criteria like the number and variety of synagogues, proximity to kosher restaurants, and options in day schools‚ all of which are included in our descriptions‚ we unearthed the qualifiable, as well.

We have identified neighborhoods across the continent that are growing, rebuilding, reinventing themselves, unifying their disparate parts, and exploring our traditions in unconventional ways. Our hope was to be more than a little surprising and to find dynamic Jews wherever they roam. Within these locales, members of the tribe of any and all stripes are putting down roots and putting up pillars of community.

The key word that defines all 10 neighborhoods is "vibrant." There is energy surging forth in every one. Together they form a mosaic of diverse pieces‚ mixing old and young; singles and families; suburban and metropolitan settings; affordable to pricey housing; Reform to Conservative to Orthodox to Renewal and more. They are the new melting pots, bubbling with all the forms of self-expression that represent the Jewish people today.

Our listing‚ presented alphabetically, not in any order of preference or precedence‚ is multipurpose. It's fascinating to see where we are thriving. And should you be thinking of moving somewhere that you'll feel comfortable and find like-minded brethren, we hope to give you some new places to consider.

1. Aventura, Florida

With no state income tax, Florida has long been a favorite of retirees. But this upscale waterfront community north of Miami—4.5 square miles largely filled with high-rises—is the neighborhood of choice for young Jewish families seeking luxury in a tropical climate. In addition to transplants from the Northeast, Aventura is especially popular with the international set: Latin Americans, of course, but also French, Syrians, Israelis, and Canadian snowbirds. They've come to a scenic enclave filled with dazzling intracoastal views, valet service, and parking for yachts.
More realistically, there also are abundant kosher markets and restaurants, Conservative and Orthodox synagogues, and day schools. Reform temples are a short drive away. Unlike in most American Jewish communities, Sephardim and Ashkenazim are equally represented, which is why you'll find the strikingly beautiful Beit Edmond J. Safra Synagogue, built five years ago by Syrian Jews from New Jersey and Brooklyn, in the shadow of luxury towers. On Saturday nights, the Shoppes at Waterways resemble a little Jerusalem.
If you're looking for history, the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center has the highest percentage of Holocaust survivors of any synagogue in North America. Of course, this being the "Gold Coast," housing is expensive: The average price of a waterfront condo is easily half a million dollars. The adjacent communities of North Miami, Surfside, Bal Harbour, Sunny Isles, and Hallandale are also packed with Jewish residents and services. For more affordable housing, young families move close to Boca Raton Synagogue, about an hour north, which is attracting a growing, diverse Orthodox population.

At-a-Glance Essentials:
Epicenter:The Shoppes at Waterways, a boutique-style shopping center, is one mile east of Biscayne Boulevard on N.E. 207th Street. Built around a deep-water marina, it boasts spectacular views of the harbor and luxury yachts, as well as shuls, kosher eateries, and an extensive kosher market.
Downside: All that glitters isn't gold. A significant number of elderly Jews who moved in decades ago are living on the edges of the safety net. Local Jewish Community Services provide them with social welfare services.
Contacts: Jewish Community Services of South Florida ( Miami Jewish Federation (, Referral and Access Services: (305) 576-6550
Click here (PDF) for further information on this neighborhood.

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