SEASON 2 Episode 21: Can $50,000 Buy a Jewish Community?
Why did a Jewish philanthropist put up a million dollars of his own money to get Jews to move to Alabama? And ten years into his experiment, does he consider it a success? And as synagogue membership declines across the US, how do we define a Jewish community? The Kibitz speaks with Larry Blumberg, the man behind the program offering $50,000 for families to relocate to Dothan, Alabama, as well as some of the families that have made the move. Plus director of the documentary There Are Jews Here, Brad Lichtenstein.
Brad Lichtenstein is an award-winning filmmaker & president of 371 Productions. He’s won two Duponts: one for the recent Al Jazeera America series Hard Earned(produced by Kartemquin Films) and another for his 2001 film Ghosts of Attica (produced with Lumiere Productions). His first virtual reality film, Across the Line (produced with Custom Reality Services and Emblematic Group) about accessing abortion amid hostile protests, premiered at Sundance in 2016 and is playing all major festivals. His 2012 movie As Goes Janesville (PBS/Independent Lens) was nominated for a News & Doc Emmy and landed him on CNN, Fox and other networks. Penelope, his film about a nursing home that performs the Odyssey from Penelope’s point of view, aired on PBS in 2015. 371’s Wisconsin’s Mining Standoff, premiered in June 2014 on Al Jazeera America’s Fault Lines and streams on Al Jazeera English. He’s the executive producer of Precious Lives, a Peabody-nominated radio/podcast and print series about young people & gun violence. He is the director of the forthcoming ITVS film, When Claude Got Shot, a feature doc about race and gun violence in America. Brad has also produced for Lumiere Productions, Frontline and Bill Moyers. His work is supported by Bader Philanthropies, Blue Mountain Center, Creative Capital, the Fetzer Institute, The Forward Fund, ITVS, the Ford, HKH, MacArthur, Nathan Cummings, Retirement Research and Tides Foundations, as well as the IDA and Mary L. Nohl Fellowship. Brad is the founder of docUWM, a documentary program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Larry Blumberg @jcsdothan
Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Larry Blumberg and Associates and JCS, the Jewish Community Services of Dothan. JCS was formed during the fall of 2007 operating under the auspices of Dothan’s Temple Emanu-El. Our initiative to advance Dothan’s Jewish Community is named the Family Relocation Project. The Family Relocation Project is truly distinctive, compared to dozens of similar activities nationwide. Dothan’s project has been carefully designed to answer your questions/concerns, be your community connection, and help you afford your move to join our community. JCS stands ready to be your community resource (Dothan’s “Jewish Welcome Wagon") and provide significant relocation financial assistance up to $50,000.
My family moved to Dothan in December 2009 with the Blumberg Family Jewish Community Services Relocation Project. My husband and I have two boys who are sports fanatics. They play soccer, football, baseball, run track and ride BMX…they keep us very busy! Prior to Dothan, I’ve lived in Birmingham, Boca Raton, and St. Petersburg, and I am a graduate of the University of Alabama (Roll Tide!). I have worked in education and congregational program administration since graduating in 2000. I began my career as a teacher and assistant youth program director at Congregation B’nai Israel in Boca Raton, and then was youth program director at Temple Beth-El in St. Petersburg. Since moving to Dothan, I have taught English at area high schools. In my position as JCS Director, I hope to use my experience in communications, community engagement and programming, and as a participant in the Relocation Project to advance the JCS’s mission of building, sustaining, and assuring the continuity of a vibrant Jewish community in Dothan.
Karen Arensen is a Property Accountant at Larry Blumberg & Associates
He writes about culture and travel for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, California Sunday, Slate, and numerous other publications.
He’s the author of “To Air is Human” and stars in the documentary, Air Guitar Nation.
Jessica Chaffin (@jessicachaffin) is an American actress, comedian, and writer perhaps best known as Ronna of the comedy duo "Ronna & Beverly." Other credits include Veep, Spy, The Heat, the animated show Big Mouth out on Netflix 9/29, and the upcoming season of Search Party.