2017-04-26 / Voice at the Shore

JCC’s Neumann predicts influx of Jews to Jersey Shore

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore editor


MARC NEUMANN MARC NEUMANN Absecon Island is poised for a new influx of Jews. This new Jewish population will consist largely of people from the South Jersey and Philly area aged 55+, who will move out of the homes where they raised their kids and into their shore homes after their children have houses and families of their own.

That was the assessment of JCC president and Voorhees resident Marc Neumann, who is also a financial planner with Lighthouse Planning Consultants. Neumann, who launched his financial planning career while working at the Tropicana and retains many Atlantic City casino clients, shared his optimistic projections about the growth of the shore’s Jewish community at the March meeting of the Federation’s Jewish Business Network (JBN) at the Knife and Fork.

“I’m extremely optimistic about the future of the island, especially Atlantic City and Margate,” said Neumann. “There are financial reasons for people to move to the shore.”

Atlantic City hit bottom in January of 2016 and is now on its way up, he said. Developers and other business people now see Atlantic City as the land of opportunity: Real estate prices are at a low, which means possibilities for new development that will breathe new life into Atlantic City are at a high.

“You’re seeing all kinds of investment in the area,” said Neumann. “I think we’re looking at growth. I don’t think this is a depressed area.”

There are many hopeful signs that Atlantic City is on its way up, he noted. Among them is Stockton University’s creation of an Atlantic City Campus, spearheaded by Stockton board member Leo Schoffer, a local businessman and active member of the Jewish community. Scheduled to open in 2018, the campus, which will have two oceanfront dorms, should bring new life to Atlantic City during the off-season and year-round, said Neumann.

Philadelphia real estate developer Bart Blatstein’s continuing interest in Atlantic City is another positive sign. Twenty years ago, Blatstein took a similar interest in Philly’s depressed Fishtown area, which is now thriving, noted Neumann. “He’s looking at Atlantic City as the area’s next Fishtown, the next Northern Liberties.” Blatstein has already created an entertainment complex in the Pier, and is now looking to do the same at the former Showboat, where he is reportedly planning to create an eSports center that will attract millennials.

More good news for Atlantic City, said Neumann, is the Hard Rock’s purchase of the former Showboat, and its plans to spend $375 million to turn it into an entertainment destination.

All this development, combined with the economic incentives for Jewish empty nesters in Philadelphia and South Jersey to move to the shore, spells good news for the growth of the Jersey shore Jewish community.

“People are now buying second homes that they plan to retire to,” said Neumann. “People want to move away from their big high-tax homes.”

Neumann’s message to Jewish organizations here: Get ready. This older demographic will be looking to feel welcome, for the latest and greatest facilities, and for fun and rewarding ways to spend their leisure time. “It’s important for Jewish organizations here to change with the times and to keep things up to date,” he noted, because this demographic demands that.

For the JCC, he said, this means planning for “a whole lot less kids here” and for figuring out “how to capture the next wave of adults.” The JCC recognizes this means maintaining state-of-the-art fitness facilities and exploring new ideas, such as offering cooking classes with famous local chefs and looking at other ways to partner with local businesses.

Jewish organizations also need to explore how they can collaborate to effectively and economically meet the needs of this new population. He praised last summer’s merger of Emeth Shalom and Beth Judah to form Shirat Hayam, citing it as an example of the kind of forward thinking needed to ensure the future success of the shore Jewish community.

“Usually, synagogues just run out of money and close one day, and then people look back and say they should have merged,” noted Neumann.

The Jewish Business Network holds monthly one-hour lunch meetings that are open to the entire community, members and nonmembers, of all religions and backgrounds. According to JBN co-chair Stephanie Koch, the organizations hopes to coordinate several joint meetings with the Cherry Hill-area Jewish Business Network this summer. For more information on the local JBN, contact the Jewish Federation at (609) 822-4404. 

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