Summer ’99 in the Exponent: The Cost of Jewish Living Often Prohibitive

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A Family of Four Might Spend $35,000 on Jewish Basics

Fans of the late Prince may have been partying like it was in 1999 that summer, but the Jewish Exponent’s June 10 issue led with the first part of an ongoing series called “The Cost of Jewish Living.”

The story cited how a 1990 National Jewish Population Study — which said the intermarriage rate had hit 52 percent — prompted many American Jews into increased Jewish activities.

That included Jewish day school enrollment, Jewish overnight camps and trips to Israel, not to mention synagogue and JCC memberships.


“The only problem is, these things cost money, lots of money. A family of four could easily end up spending $35,000 on the Jewish basics — not including the cost of a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, wedding or funeral,” the Exponent wrote, noting that about half of the area’s Jewish households earned $50,000 or less annually.

The article cited statistics from the “Jewish Population Study of Greater Philadelphia 1996/97” that showed that money talked when it came to Jewish participation.

Of those classified as “have extra money,” 67 percent said their oldest child (ages 6 to 17) was receiving a Jewish education, compared to 29 percent for those who “cannot make ends meet.” Just 17 percent of the latter category belonged to a synagogue, versus 38 percent for the wealthier group.

Then — as it is now — there were no easy solutions.

Rabbi Neulander Makes Headlines Again

Rabbi Fred J. Neulander was in the news often in the 1990s and 2000s — and not for good deeds.

The founder and former religious leader of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, N.J., had been arrested the previous year on charges that he had paid a congregant and a drifter in 1994 to kill his wife Carol.

In 1999, Neulander’s defense team made a motion to dismiss his indictment, alleging that the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office was timing the case to coincide with “religious periods of holiness for the Jewish religion.”

“Things seem to happen around the High Holy Days,” Neulander’s then-attorney, Dennis Wixted, said.

That’s all water under the bridge, as Neulander, now 74, was convicted in 2002 and sentenced to 30 years to life. Several appeals have failed.

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