In December 2008, the Committee to Advance Modern Orthodoxy in Stamford (CAMOS)—a community-wide effort to strategically target more young and religiously observant couples to move to Stamford, Connecticut—was launched. Eight years later, the community is thriving, with more than two dozen young families moving to the community in the past 12 months alone.
“It was simple, really,” said Michael Feldstein, who has chaired the committee since its inception. “Stamford had been suffering from a bit of an identity crisis in the Orthodox world. In the past, when young, observant couples living in New York City considered moving to the suburbs, they would probably think of Teaneck, New Rochelle, the Five Towns. They usually didn’t think of Stamford, even though we are a relatively short commute into Manhattan and possess the basic features—an eruv, mikvah, day school, shuls, kosher food—that are required for a family to live an observant life. Now we are finally on the map, and on people’s radar when they are considering a move to a new community.”
CAMOS originally targeted several neighborhoods for its effort—the Upper West Side, Washington Heights, Riverdale, Pelham Parkway (Einstein Medical School community), Teaneck, Forest Hills and the Upper East Side. Parlor meetings were held at the homes of one of the residents in each area, where interested couples were invited to hear more about Stamford from committee members and were given a folder filled with information about the synagogues, schools, local attractions and real estate options.
“There are rentals available in Stamford that are less expensive than similar apartments in the city,” said Feldstein. “Plus, there are plenty of condominiums and houses for sale. Also, property taxes are significantly cheaper than Westchester, New Jersey and Long Island, which often makes the total payment cheaper in Stamford than for a similarly priced property in other areas.”
CAMOS has also sponsored three Shabbatons in the last three years, in which families were able to spend an entire Shabbat in Stamford—meeting local residents as well as other prospective couples thinking of moving here…seeing the shuls…and checking out the schools and housing options on Sunday. “This has been a particularly strong method for us to attract new families,” said Feldstein. About a third of the families who came to one of our Shabbatons have already moved here.”
Over the past eight years, CAMOS has also exhibited several times at the Orthodox Union’s Bi-Annual Jewish Fair, and will be attending once again this year. “The OU Fair has by far been our biggest source of leads for new families who are considering a move to Stamford,” said Feldstein.
In addition, CAMOS members have conducted market research with two separate groups—those considering a move to a New York metro suburb as well as those who work in Stamford but who do not live here—to find out more about what they are looking for in a community. “The availability of kosher food and kosher restaurants, and the quality of the local day school, are the two items that consistently seem to rise to the top,” said Feldstein.
There are no fewer than four kosher eateries now open in Stamford: a kosher steakhouse, a kosher vegeterian Indian restaurant, a sushi restaurant and a pizza and dairy restaurant.
Stamford boasts two Orthodox synagogues, Congregation Agudath Sholom and the Young Israel of Stamford, plus the local Chabad conducts Shabbos services as well. Chabad also runs a very successful pre-school program and day camp, which many of the observant families utilize. The Torah Learning Center is also located in Stamford—and recently the organization has successfully reached out to the larger community (both adults and children) to provide learning opportunities for those who are interested.