Downtown Newark's Strange Anomaly

by Nat Bodian


The once-flourishing Newark Jewish Community is now dead, and, for the most, part, forgotten. This having been said, downtown Newark today is the setting for a strange anomaly:

It is able to boast an oasis where Judaism is alive and vibrant.

Where It is Happening

It hosts the world headquarters, in a downtown skyscraper, of an international telecommunications business that is unquestionably the most religiously-observant Orthodox Jewish workplace on the planet, outside possibly of Israel.

The name of the company is IDT.

Its headquarters is in the IDT Building at 520 Broad Street, a building that once housed the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company.

The IDT stands for: International Discount Telecommunications.

What makes IDT so Jewish? -- For starters, listen to this:

1. 40% to 50% of its 5,000 employee workforce is Orthodox Jewish, many of them of the Yarmulka and Black Hat type.

2. Multiple religious prayer services take place in the building throughout the day.

3. The company kosher cafeteria is the largest kosher facility outside of Israel.

4. The company hosts two yeshivas:

A. The IDT Center for Torah and Business, with 39 students, ages 18 to 23.

B. The Mesivta of North Jersey, a Yeshiva High School with 70 male students.

The 50 year old company founder, who bears the title Chairman and Treasurer, himself is an anomaly:

He was reared in a non-observant Bronx Jewish home. As a youth, he had been a hot dog vendor, selling from a home-made cart. His name is Howard Jonas.

He is also a Harvard University graduate with a major in Economics, and an author.

The title of his first book was:"On A Roll: From Hot Dog Buns to High-Tech Billions."

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