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JewishJournal.com

September 9, 2008

Group offers $50,000 to lure Jews to rural ‘Bama.

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/group_offers_50000_to_lure_jews_to_rural_bama_20080908/

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Not that they would want me anyway, but the Jews of Dothan couldn’t pay me enough to make aliyah to the tiny Alabama town. And $50,000 certainly wouldn’t cut it.

This plot, hatched by the Blumberg Family Jewish Community Services of Dothan, to absorb moving expenses and provide an added monetary incentive was motivated by an aging Jewish community that has lost many of its members to urban migration and death. This offer was made in New Orleans last year, but the organizers of the Dothan program say their effort is unique because they are trying to recruit Jews to rural America. Very rural America. I mean, Peanut Elvis—you guessed it: Pelvis—rural.

The story from the AP:

Trying to lure Jewish families to a quiet Southern town in a state with a reputation for hard-right politics and racial intolerance might be difficult. About 20 Jewish families have sought information about Dothan, though none has made the move.

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Dothan lies at the heart of the South’s peanut region, in Alabama’s southeastern corner just minutes from Florida and Georgia. It’s dotted with big fiberglass peanuts painted to resemble characters and people — there’s even an Elvis peanut.

Little things are big here: The city boasts what it calls the world’s smallest city block, a triangular traffic island near the civic center.

But Blumberg’s group is selling prospective Jewish residents on Dothan’s quality of life — its low cost of living, the heritage of its synagogue and its proximity to Florida beaches, about 80 miles away.

The city is the site of the down-home National Peanut Festival each fall, and it has a full schedule of community cultural events. It has two hospitals, a branch of Troy University and is just a short drive from Fort Rucker, the Army’s main helicopter training base.

Downtown is filled with quaint red-brick buildings and colorful murals, and traffic never gets too bad on Ross Clark Circle, the perimeter road.

“We have Friday afternoon rush minute, and that’s about it,” said manufacturing executive Ed Marblestone, 69, who grew up Jewish in Texas but married a Dothan girl and has lived in the town since 1961.

Valerie Barnes grew up in Panama and moved several times before settling 20 years ago in Dothan and becoming active at the synagogue. She’s never experienced any anti-Semitism and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

“The biggest thing Dothan has to offer is that it’s just a very family-oriented community,” said Barnes, who directs a hospital foundation. “Our congregation is very vibrant, and we have a lot of things that we get involved in.”

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