Boynton Beach, once a sleepy and Christian town halfway between Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, has emerged as “ground zero” of a Jewish population explosion in South Florida.Since 1999, the quiet suburb of 52,000 has seen its Jewish population jump by 63 percent, while nearby Lake Worth has experienced a 12 percent increase and Jewish households in the county’s northern suburbs — such as Palm Beach Gardens, North Palm Beach and Jupiter — have grown by 45 percent.He now commutes south every day to Pembroke Pines, where he works as a copy editor at the Miami Herald, but has kept his house in Boca because it’s affordable, and because he likes being surrounded by Jewish culture.
There’s been a northern migration of elderly people into this area for a while, mainly Dade and some Broward residents.” Yet Palm Beach County isn’t attracting only retirees.
Bob Levitz, 55, moved to Boca Raton in 1989 because it was close to his former job at a newspaper in Lantana.
These include Reform, Conservative and Orthodox shuls as well as a dozen or so Chabad congregations.
About 77 percent of the county’s Jewish population lives in Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach or the Western unincorporated areas of these three cities.
Paul, Minn., who isn’t religious but attends High Holiday services each year at the Boca Raton Synagogue with his 15-year-old daughter Ashley.
As the area’s Jewish population keeps growing, local Jewish institutions will need to expand their donor bases dramatically, warns Rabbi Alan Sherman, executive director of the Palm Beach County Board of Rabbis.
“When I came here five and a half years ago, we had seven classrooms but they were building an additional six.
We now have 211 pre-schoolers, and more on waiting lists because we can’t accommodate the growing number of children,” Kuritz said.
The county’s first synagogue, Temple Israel, was established in 1923, but it wasn’t until the late 1960s and early 1970s that the influx really began, fueled by middle-class New Yorkers in their early 60s coming down to Florida to live out their golden years.
A case in point is Jules Grossberg, a retired insurance broker from the Bronx.
The survey was conducted by University of Miami researcher Ira Sheskin, who prepared a similar study for the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.