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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South Florida’s economic meltdown hit Gordon’s landscaping business hard in 2008. But in 2010 the clients came back, and since then he’s been doing all right. He won’t have his citizenship for another two years, but Gordon said he’d vote for President Obama if he could. Obama said on election night that things wouldn’t get better right away, Gordon remembers. “That I keep in my mind,” he said. “He didn’t lie to us.”

Others, too, say they see signs of recovery. Fishman, who will also vote for Obama, said that homes were selling again, and cut an interview short to head to a showing. Calls to Jewish Family & Children’s Service have leveled out. A new Hebrew-language charter school has moved into the space vacated by the shuttered day school, and a new JCC is being planned.

A true rebound will go some way toward opening up more jobs, potentially righting the housing market and helping working people like Gordon, Fishman and Steinberg. The problems facing the area’s growing elderly population, however, will almost certainly get worse.

Despite its reputation as a retirement destination, Florida isn’t set up to care for its rapidly growing, increasingly needy elderly, local experts say. The state is one of a handful with no state income tax, and social services for the elderly and disabled are consequently far less comprehensive than in the Northeast.

“It’s like the Wild West here,” said Jenni Frumer, chief operating officer of the JF&CS.

It’s not just that state governmental services are inadequate; the basic infrastructure of the gated communities themselves makes them particularly bad places to grow old.

“We’ve succeeded in building what will be in years to come ghettoes of people who can’t get in or out,” said Dr. Alan Sadowsky, senior vice president of community-based services at MorseLife, a West Palm Beach Jewish charity serving the elderly. “If you’re a senior and you lose the ability to drive [here] … you’re done.”


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