Scottsdale, Ariz. — Jean and Arnold Palestine are glad to be back home — an attached condo unit overlooking the craggy red mountains of the Arizona desert.
Having just returned from a winter visit to Florida, the octogenarian New Yorkers are pleased that they chose to retire to the arid Western desert in 1992 rather than move down south.
It’s 8:30 on a Saturday night and 29-year-old “Ilana,” dressed in a sweater set and skirt that falls just below the knees, is in the hallway of a Brooklyn synagogue, its faded cappuccino-colored walls decorated with black-and-white photos from the 1950s and ’60s.
Chanukah starts this weekend, but for some American Judaica merchants and artists the holiday season was over weeks ago.
In fact, they say the Chanukah gift-buying season, traditionally a major source of their annual sales, never began.
Besides the U.S. economic recession affecting many businesses, they are blaming another culprit: the proliferation of Israel expos and fairs promoting Israeli retailers and craftspeople being sponsored around the country by synagogues and Jewish community centers, with millions of dollars at stake.
Even as Modern Orthodox Jews see themselves as embattled and on the decline within Orthodoxy, eclipsed by the ascendancy of the haredim to the right, new demographic data offer quite a different picture.
After 10 years of helping volunteers who made calls during UJA-Federation's annual Super Sunday event, Avery Goro, 15, of Oceanside, L.I., took to the phones himself last Sunday.
"I made about 50 calls and raised about $2,000," he said with obvious pride. "In one call, I got a $500 pledge. I was surprised and said, 'Thank you very much.'"