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.
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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.
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Menzer and Marks don’t know each other. But Menzer said that he doesn’t blame Marks and her friends for their alienation.

“I can understand these kids. I really do,” said Menzer. “The society has changed.” Menzer was offered four different jobs when he graduated from college. “I worry about my grandsons,” he said. “What are they going to be?”


Lake Worth didn’t always bleed away into sprawl. When 68-year-old real estate agent Cory Fishman moved to Florida in 1972, Hagen Ranch Road was lined with gladiola farms. Migrant agricultural workers bunked in pastel-painted concrete block homes beside the road.

Today, Hagen Ranch Road is all retirement communities. Phony stone waterfalls flow next to the closed gates. Inside, identical homes sit end to end, so that it’s hard to tell when you’ve circled back to where you started. Homeowners on the inside rows pay a premium for views of small, kitsch manmade ponds.

The concept here was country club–style living a step up from what was on offer at Century Village, the classic 1970s Jewish condo community a half hour away in West Palm Beach. “When our generation moved down that was no longer satisfying,” Fishman said. They wanted something more, and “they had the means to be able to afford it.”

Or at least they thought they did. These weren’t the lower-income seniors who live in Century Village today. But they also weren’t wealthy enough to afford Boca Raton, never mind Palm Beach, the skinny little town on a barrier island just east of here. Palm Beach has The Breakers Hotel and massive mansions and a condominium development actually called The Patrician.

“This is a blue jeans kind of place,” said Rabbi Anthony Fratello, 41, spiritual leader of Temple Shaarei Shalom, a Reform synagogue outside of Boynton Beach. “It’s a solid middle-class area. Yes, you’ve got doctors and lawyers. But we have an awful lot of teachers.”

Young families followed the retirees to the area, answering ads promising “Boca living at Boynton prices.” Their developments began to fill in 2005 and 2006, teeing them up for extraordinary foreclosure rates when the 2008 financial crash came. Boynton Beach alone added 12,000 Jewish households between 1999 and 2005.


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