Group tries to lure Jews to small southern US town

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DOTHAN, Alabama: Larry Blumberg is looking for a few good Jews to move to his heavily Christian corner of the U.S. South.

Blumberg is chairman of the Blumberg Family Relocation Fund, which is offering Jewish families as much as $50,000 to relocate to Dothan, an overwhelmingly Christian town of 58,000 that calls itself the Peanut Capital of the World. Get involved at Temple Emanu-El and stay at least five years, the group's leaders say, and the money doesn't have to be repaid.

More Jews are living in the southeastern U.S. than ever — about 386,000 at last count in 2001, according to Stuart Rockoff, historian at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Mississippi. But young Jews are leaving small places like Dothan in favor of big southern cities like Atlanta and Birmingham, Rockoff said, and dozens of small-town synagogues have closed in the so-called Bible Belt, an area of predominantly Christian southern states.

"A lot of the older people have died, and not many of the younger ones have stayed," said Thelma Nomberg, a member of the Dothan temple who grew up in nearby Ozark, where she was the only Jewish student in public school in the 1940s."We are dying."

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Randll Reese Besch - 9/17/2008

What T. Roosevelt talked about and what certain Christian Nationalists want here, a homogeneous kind of nation. This sounds like a a small part of their dream.

Frank John Schreiber - 9/11/2008

I'm originally from the Northeast, but moved to Florida (South Florida) in 1977, and spent 20 years there living and working in the Miami area. Everything seemed normal to me living and working in the South Florida area.
I now live in a small North Florida community, and have been here for over 10 years. This part of Florida is best described as "South Georgia". One thing that is so interesting to me is the lack of diversity. It is amazing to me how there is some kind of mutual understanding that everybody should think, and feel the same way....weither it be in their politics, or their religion. The whole mental environment is so stunted! The school system seems to be able to do whatever it wants. My daughter teaches 5th grade at the local school, and comes home with stories about the conduct of other teachers that in my opinion should be against the law. But, nothing is ever said or done...the beat goes on. Everbody is expected to be an active Southern Baptist, and a Conservative Republican. I'm 65 years old, and have never been more mentally active in my thoughts about both religion and politics. One of the thoughts I've had about religion and diversity has been along the lines of....
What if I were a Jewish kid in this school system? How would I feel? Who would me friends be?
There are only two Catholic churches within a 50 mile radius of where I live, and I don't know of any Synagogues. I would love to see some diversity enter into this somewhat single minded corner of the world.