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Postcards from Postville

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Lawler Street, Postville, Iowa
Lawler Street in Postville, Iowa
In the past two decades, Iowa has experienced dramatic changes in its population. More than 60 percent of the state's college graduates leave the state for opportunities elsewhere, and the fastest growing segment of the population is people who are more than 100 years old. The demographic shifts are causing problems for Iowa's leaders. Governor Tom Vilsack has launched a controversial plan in three of the state's cities -- Marshalltown, Mason City and Fort Dodge -- to recruit educated immigrants to fill the many available jobs. But critics of the plan say the newcomers are putting a strain on communities.

audio button  Listen as NPR's Jackie Northam reports on how these changes are affecting everyone.

Stephen Bloom
Author Stephen Bloom in Postville, Iowa
In part two on Thursday, March 29, author Stephen Bloom looks at one small Iowa town. Postville, Iowa, has its share of Hispanics and others from outside the nation's borders, but it has a unique community of newcomers: Lubavitcher Hasidic Jews, from Brooklyn, New York and other cities. They've been in Postville for more than a decade, and now one has been appointed to the city council. There will be a special election that will decide if he stays. Bloom is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Iowa, and a former Los Angeles Times reporter. He went back to the town after the publication of his book, Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America, the result of five years of researching the effect on the town of the acquisition of a local meat processing plant by the Hasidic Jews.

audio button  Listen to Bloom's commentary from All Things Considered.

Links & Resources:

Hear Jackie Northam's first story about Postville:

Orthodox Jews in Rural Iowa
Morning Edition, December 7, 1998

From member station WBEZ in Chicago, Jackie Northam reports on how the relocation of more than a hundred Orthodox Jews has affected a rural Iowa community. In 1988, a Jewish entrepreneur bought a defunct meat audio buttonpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, and turned it into a kosher slaughterhouse. The plant employs 300 local workers and more than 30 rabbis.

The Gazette Online - Iowa's newspaper on the Internet

Postville is published by Harcourt Trade Publishers.

Stephen Bloom's Web page at the University of Iowa

The Changing Face of America is an 18-month-long NPR series that tells the stories of regular, everyday Americans and the issues they face at a time of rapid and dramatic change in the U.S. This special series can be heard on NPR's Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered and Morning Edition.

The Changing Face of America series is sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts.