By 5TJT Staff
Given the reality of regular turnover, today’s Jewish communities must constantly try to attract new families. One place that has mastered the ability to do so is the Plainview Jewish community. What started as a small gathering of intrepid families several decades ago has today blossomed into a sizable but still close-knit Jewish community. Its tremendous growth shows no sign of slowing, but instead seems to be picking up speed. The enthusiastic momentum is felt both on an individual, resident-by-resident basis, and also on a community-wide level. Plainview’s expansion is a result of several factors.
A major selling point for Plainview has been their New Family Initiative. This novel program offers incoming families a $25,000 interest-free loan, 10 years of discounted synagogue fees, and a three-year discount of $7,500 per year for eligible children at the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County.
The city itself is in the advantageous position of having all the necessary pieces in place to support a sizable Jewish community. The distinguished Hebrew Academy of Nassau County’s elementary school is located right in the heart of Plainview. The area also boasts the ultramodern, strategically situated Mid-Island Y Jewish Community Center. This convenient facility recently underwent extensive upgrades and can claim to be among the most spectacular JCCs that exist. Plainview is also able to offer a renowned kosher dairy restaurant, Hunki’s Kosher Pizza, whose tasty selection has been known to attract diners from other cities. There is also a kosher breakfast eatery, Bagel Boss, and a kosher butcher, the Kosher Food Emporium. All of these have enabled the local Jewish population to thrive.
Plainview’s Jewish community has made immense efforts to flex their altruistic muscles, both in philanthropy and in exercising social responsibility. They recently organized a fundraiser, Making Strides of Jones Beach, to raise awareness and funds to fight breast cancer. The event, which was driven by the youth of the community, was a huge success and has already inspired other charitable undertakings. Young Israel of Plainview will once again join forces with Island Harvest to collect and distribute nonperishable food items for the hungry this Thanksgiving.
Plainview can also separate themselves from other Jewish communities by claiming their own yoetzet halacha. Rebbetzin Avital Weissman officially became a yoetzet halacha in October of this year at a moving ceremony at the Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue in Manhattan. This designation is reserved for women formally recognized to oversee issues pertaining to women’s health, marriage, and family purity. It is worth pointing out that she represents one out of only a handful of individuals in the United States who have attained this prestigious title.
The community has also instituted a formal scholar-in-residence program. Featured scholars-in-residence have recently included famed author Rabbi Hanoch Teller, legendary Philadelphia leaders Rabbi Yehuda and Rebbetzin Orit Seif, and accomplished educator Rabbi Shalom Hammer, among many others. Having distinguished luminaries such as these present stirring sermons to the congregation of the Young Israel of Plainview has served to both enlighten the congregation on important topics and also raise the stature of the community as a whole.
Plainview also has superb educational programming. Of late, they have welcomed Gil Hoffman, the foremost expert on the Israeli political arena; Rabbi Moshe Dovid Tendler, the most well-known proponent of Jewish organ donation; and Rabbi Natan Slifkin, also known as the “Zoo Rabbi,” a world-famous champion of the connection between Judaism and the animal world. They also look forward to welcoming Rabbi Steven Bayme, the prominent scholar at the conceptual forefront of futuristic Jewish life, who is scheduled to present his insights in December. The effect of these programs have been felt community-wide, with engaging conversation and intellectual discourse the norm after every one the many outstanding speakers.
Plainview also features their own nationally recognized kosher barbecue team. Competing under innovative team names that have included Grilled to Meat Jew and Pirates of the Ribs-n-be-ans, this squad has racked up numerous trophies and medals as they have grilled themselves to victory. With proven entries in brisket, ribs, chicken, and baked beans, they have excelled in numerous competitions. Using techniques they have honed and methods they have refined after years of practice, they have shown themselves to be a formidable and intimidating force in the Kosher BBQ circuit.
The incredible growth that the Plainview Jewish community has seen comes from three basic demographic groups. Firstly, Plainview has benefited from the next generation of longtime residents choosing to forgo leaving for other communities and, instead, raising their children in the place that they themselves had grown up. This organic growth—which has occurred even after this second generation has had the opportunity to experience life in other towns while away at institutions of higher education—speaks volumes about the many qualities Plainview has to offer.
David Gross represents one of the number of people born and bred in Plainview who, after leaving to attend university when he reached adulthood, moved back to the area after he got married. “I wouldn’t trade the opportunity I had to grow up in a place like Plainview for anything. As a native of the city, I have so many fond memories of the people, the area, and the synagogue. I wanted so much for my own children to have the same great experiences that I did in Plainview; I am so happy that I have been able to provide that to them.”
There has also been an influx of fresh families from the outside that have independently concluded that Plainview is the best place for them to settle down. This category of families, essentially the “free agents” of the moving world, are those people looking to leave the place they are in without having any firm association or direct connection with other areas. Over the years, Plainview has welcomed a disproportionate number of these families, when compared with other, unconnected cities.
Jennifer Gordon was happy to share her reasons for coming to Plainview, saying, “We were living in Sunnyside, Queens, which, while having some positive attributes, wasn’t the ideal place for my husband and I to raise our family. We heard some great things about the Plainview Jewish community and really liked the fact that they were offering a New Family Initiative program loaded with valuable incentives to move there. When we heard they were hosting a Shabbaton, we thought it would be worth the trip. Little did we know that this one weekend would be so compelling that we immediately made arraignments to move there.”
There has also been a third subset of families that has greatly contributed to Plainview’s remarkable growth. As the closest major Jewish community to Stony Brook University Hospital, Plainview has always had a large number of new residents in its midst. Unlike other Jewish communities that are near hospitals and are a natural home for new hospital residents, the vast majority of new physicians that come to Plainview are not a transient population. Instead, they have elected to obtain permanent positions in the vicinity of Plainview so that they may raise their families in what they consider an optimal Jewish community. Indeed, convenience has given way to commitment. For many families, what began as a marriage of proximity and practicality has evolved into a relationship of adoration and adulation.
Jordana Rothschild—who grew up in El Paso and lived in Israel—originally thought her family’s move to Plainview would be a temporary one, and that they would look elsewhere for a permanent home after she completed her residency program at Stony Brook. “In all honesty, for us it was not that difficult a choice. My husband and I talked about it and we agreed that we wanted our children raised in a relatively inexpensive, energetic Jewish community that offered great opportunities for socializing with other young families and a great synagogue as well. Plainview has all of those qualities as well as many others that we considered a bonus.”
One major beneficiary of the success of the Jewish community has been its central synagogue, the Young Israel of Plainview. Its leader, Rabbi Elie Weissman, describes the community’s progression in terms of the snowball effect. “From the synagogue’s perspective, exponential growth for our community has translated into additional participation in our services. We view every new family that moves in as an extra opportunity to both expand our current programming and also develop new and innovative ways to connect with all of our congregants. Consequently, the more we have had to offer, the greater the number of families that have chosen to join us.”
There is no telling what heights the Plainview Jewish community will reach. With their forward-thinking leadership and vibrant population, they have undoubtedly positioned themselves to continue their upward-trending progression. v