What made the Presbys, Carrs, Gertlers, Browns, Landaus and Ziffs, among other longtime Teaneck residents, shlep to Keter Torah on Sunday evening? They are all parents and most importantly “grandparents” of Beit Shemesh residents, and all came out to meet and greet newly elected Mayor Aliza Bloch, Ph.D. Some may even be contemplating joining their families and came to hear more about the amenities available to retirees. Dr. Richard and Ellen Gertler are “on the verge,” with an apartment in Beit Shemesh near two children and their families and a flight set for September 24.
At the presentation, Mayor Bloch was accompanied by Beit Shemesh Councilman Zvi Wolicki, who made aliyah from Montreal to Beit Shemesh 38 years ago. Wolicki’s sister-in-law Wendy Shindler of Keter Torah invited the mayor to address the Teaneck community as the aliyah of young couples from our community to the many neighborhoods of Beit Shemesh increases yearly.
Elected six months ago in a “nail-biting, all-night count” by a majority of only 550 votes, Mayor Bloch hopes to imbue the city of Beit Shemesh with new vitality. Her motto of “Strength not Compromise” points to her desire to see all the religious sectors of the larger Beit Shemesh community, from charedim to chilonim, with many shades of dati leumi in the middle, work together for the purpose of improving the community for all. In the charedi neighborhoods, she hopes to increase schools, shuls, mikvaot and other essentials. In the dati leumi/secular communities, she is looking to provide cultural venues such as concert halls, stadiums and even a movie theater. With everyone in mind, and considering that Beit Shemesh boasts over 4000 births every year, Bloch is working on a plan to bring a satellite of Hadassah Hospital to the area. Not only will this serve the younger population, but the growing population of retirees as well.
The mayor realizes that her victory was a true coup in an area where voters have voted in religious blocs in the past. Perhaps it was her combination of being a religious woman from the dati-leumi community, a doctor of education, the founder of the Branco Weiss High School in Beit Shemesh, the head of the education department’s program for the training of administrators, a product of a religious Morrocan immigrant home and the wife of noted physician Dr. Aharon Bloch, who heads the dialysis department at Hadassah Ein Kerem.
Touted by all is that many charedim broke from their traditional voting patterns to lead her to victory. Bloch sees this as a clear sign that “we all want change.”
Since taking office, she has been approached by at least 100 factories and other commercial establishments asking to be included in Beit Shemesh’s newly expanding industrial park. Bloch foresees that in 2040 Beit Shemesh will be a hi-tech and industrial hub for the center of the country, reachable by a sophisticated system of bus and railways. She has hopes that it will serve as a “model city” for all of Israel.
When the floor was opened for questions, Teaneck attendees were happy to identify themselves as parents of families living in various areas of Beit Shemesh. The questions raised dealt with the services that are provided for retirees and the availability of reasonable housing options.
Bloch outlined the addition of four new neighborhoods being planned for the near future, targeted for different segments of the community, and the re-gentrification of older neighborhoods that will offer more affordable living spaces. When queried about the cleanliness of the neighborhoods, Mayor Bloch assured the audience that since her assuming office, the streets have been cleaner, the cats more contained and the wild dogs under control.
Mayor Bloch was obviously greatly gratified that recently, during the Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations in Beit Shemesh, many charedi families participated in the festivities. In marking Yom HaZikaron, charedi chazanim were invited to participate in the tributes to the fallen soldiers, attracting audiences from all segments of the community.
Mayor Bloch will be visiting SAR academy as well as addressing the AMIT and Yeshivat Reishit Yerushalayim dinners during her visit.
By Pearl Markovitz