Election Holds Little Hope for Florida Jews

Punishing Recession Has Many Thinking About Staying Home

Don’t Move Here: The large developments populated by many retirees and transplants are suffering from foreclosures and a stagnant real estate market.
Getty Images
Don’t Move Here: The large developments populated by many retirees and transplants are suffering from foreclosures and a stagnant real estate market.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published October 16, 2012, issue of October 19, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Elderly Jews shouldn’t move to South Florida. That’s the advice of the Jewish welfare agency serving this area, which has more old Jews than anywhere in the country but New York. If your grandmother doesn’t live within half an hour of the Boynton Beach JCC, her sister probably does.

Four years into the recession, things aren’t looking up in the retirement communities here. People who relocated a decade ago are out of cash with nowhere to turn.

“They moved down here thinking they were going to have a life in the sunshine,” said Neil Newstein, executive director and CEO of Alpert Jewish Family & Children’s Service, which struggles to stanch the exploding economic needs of the Jewish community here. “Now it’s disaster time.”

And it’s not just the old: Young families are stuck in developments pockmarked with foreclosed homes. Working people can’t find jobs.

With the presidential election weeks away and the candidates neck and neck in Florida, Republicans and Democrats are fighting for stray votes in key communities like Lake Worth. Jews here generally say they will vote for the same party they supported in 2008, which usually means the Democrats. But few believe that the election will make much of a difference. To residents of this desperate edge of Palm Beach County, the presidential race seems beside the point.

On the map, the gated retirement communities along Hagen Ranch Road just west of Boynton Beach look like a cross section of a human brain, the cul-de-sacs folded in gently curving layers. The names of the developments promise refinement: Venetian Isles, Valencia Shores, Ponte Vecchio.

Arnold Menzer lives near here in a development called Bermuda Isle. He moved to the area in 1992, well before the boom. Now 78, the onetime shoe importer says over a chicken salad sandwich in a bagel shop that he’s certain he’ll run out of money before he dies. His house is worth a fraction of the nearly half a million dollars he’s put into it, and nothing’s selling at Bermuda Isle anyhow. He has no way out, however sick or old he gets.

Galit Marks, 24, lives a few miles away in a house full of young anarchists in downtown Lake Worth. When she moved here earlier this year her house had no water and no electricity. She and three friends lived in the place rent-free while they fixed it up. There’s water now, and a makeshift stove, and fresh paint on the walls.

Marks voted for Obama in 2008, back when she was a liberal. Since then she’s had trouble finding professional work. She pays off her student loans working as a waitress at a vegan restaurant and tending bar at a Chili’s. Her roommates are anarchists, too. Marks is still planning to vote in 2012, but that makes her unusual in her circle.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.