Welcome to Memphis: Charlie Belenky

by JCPConnect-

When Jewish families and individuals move to Memphis, we want them to feel welcomed and embraced by their new neighbors and friends. Part of our work involves finding new Jewish Memphians and helping them plug into congregations, communities, and causes that fit their lifestyle. If you know of any new Jewish Memphians, drop a line to Gila Golder, Jewish Community Partners’ community impact associate: or 654-2151. 


Where did you grow up?

I “grew up” in Great Neck, NY, spent my young adult life in San Francisco and raised my family in the Los Angeles area. I retired from “gainful employment” in 2012.


Where did you live before Memphis?

Since I retired I’ve lived in San Francisco; Bali, Indonesia; Lakewood, NJ; and spent two years being itinerant, without a fixed residence.charles-in-the-tropics


Why did you leave that community?

In retirement there are so many options- endless travel, isolated island paradises, urban capitals- but after a while I realized that being part of a community was an essential part of my happiness.


What attracted you to Memphis?

I considered a lot of sources:,,  

My initial assessment was that the most important factors were available quality medical care, cost of living, climate, culture, a Jewish community (not just a number of Jewish people), and academic institutions.


What clinched your decision to move here?

For me retirement is not about unlimited leisure. In Memphis I am part of the Jewish community, which the anonymity of both big city living and endless travel hinder. Everyone knows of everyone and there is a sense of belonging both within your chosen shul and as part of the larger community whatever your level of observance (or non-observance).

But more important, Memphis is a place with many challenges and there is important work to be done here to heal the world (Tikun Olam). Whether you see it as poverty, race, crime, segregation, environmental or economic justice there are good people engaged in the work who are overjoyed to have you lend an oar help move the boat.


What do you do professionally?

I was a lawyer. Now I see myself as a transit advocate, trying to increase ridership on the “train to freedom.”


How old are your children and where do they go to school?


My older daughter lives in Bali. She was active in Hillel at the University of San Francisco when she was an undergraduate. My younger daughter is at City College in San Francisco, pursuing credentials to become a teacher.


What do you like best about Memphis and/or what makes it different or better than other places that you have lived?


Memphis has all the resources of a large city but is small enough to get anywhere in under half an hour. It is different because of the history of segregation and the fact that this history is still alive. The Jewish community is where it is, and what it is, for historical reasons.


How do you manage being far away from family?


My family has always been spread out. While airfare is higher here, I am hoping to attract a lower cost carrier (like Jet Blue or Virgin America) to bring prices down.


Where are your favorite places to go in Memphis with and without your kids? 


The new downtown is a very pedestrian friendly environment as are the Rhodes College and University of Memphis campuses. Overton Park, the Memphis Botanic Garden, Shelby Farms and the museums are also great environments. Entertainment venues, such as the Levitt Shell, Lafayette’s, Minglewood Hall and the Orpheum Theatre, are great for shows.



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