The Associated Press reports that Temple Emanu-El, the only synagogue in Dothan, Alabama, has found a way to reverse their shrinking attendance and aging membership trends: offer “Jewish families as much as $50,000 to relocate and get involved” in the congregation.
Temple Emanu-El, like many synagogues in Southern towns, has been shrinking for decades as young people leave for big cities like Atlanta. Dothan isn’t exactly a hot spot for Jews: The town is smack in the middle of the Bible Belt and calls itself the “Peanut Capital of the World.”
Worried about what the future might hold, congregation member Larry Blumberg put up money to begin a program to attract as many as 20 new Jewish families. The group, funded primarily by his family, took out ads in Jewish newspapers and got a boost when The Associated Press published a story about the program last fall.
About 400 families have since applied for the relocation project, and 60 of those were qualified after initial screening.
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