Friday, March 24, 2006

Jews in Vegas, Not So Strange

According to the Forward, Jews are moving to Las Vegas in droves, a trend I observed my first time there in 2003.

First off, yes it's true Vegas is Jewtown. They can't build those pristine strip malls fast enough to accommodate the influx of bagel fiending members of the Tribe. Avery's brother moved out there 4 years ago (he's a doctor, not a croupier) and since then their community has developed into a full-fledged Jewish destination. And yes, the juxtaposition of a large Jewish community developing parallel to the world's debauchery epicenter is odd, but no one said Jews are attracted to wholesome cities - has anyone ever been to Colorado Springs? You can't find decent lox anywhere! In fact, the Vegas development fits neatly into the trends of American Jews since an influx of Eastern European immigrants to Manhattan's Lower East Side in the early 1900's, namely that Jews are drawn to opportunity. Low real estate prices, plenty of entrepreneurial prospects, and the chance to promote cultural continuity are reasons that play into Jewish community development.

But you know you're not in the Borscht Belt anymore when Jewish high schools start mandatory drug testing.
In a city known for vice and excess (to get "free" drinks at any casino, simply play the penny slots until a cocktail waitress takes your order) the Jewish community is making strides to educate its youth about drugs and alcohol. Multibillionaire Sheldon Adelson — principal owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corp, which runs the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino — and his wife, drug-addiction expert Dr. Miriam Adelson, have pledged $25 million for the construction of a Jewish high school and a Jewish community center. The high school, which will be located in Summerlin as part of the already existing pre-kindergarten through eighth grade Hebrew Academy, will test students for drugs and alcohol. While the details are still being sorted out, parents would sign permission slips for high school students to submit to a hair or urine test. All grade levels will learn about the dangers of drugs and alcohol through an integrated curriculum.
That would NEVER have happend at my high school. We got high off the fumes from SAT prep books.

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