Why I Love My Houston Community

We just moved back to Houston from our sojourn at Penn State (technically, I moved back; my husband has a summer internship here but has to return to Penn State for his final year in grad school), and while we do NOT love the intense heat and humidity (weather report last 3 weeks: average of 95 and sunny) we have fallen in love with good ol’ Texas hospitality, Jewish style.

1. There appears to be a resurgence in observance, so there are several kosher eateries, at least 5 bakeries, and a plethora of kosher products in several supermarkets.
2. There is a growing population of young people becoming observant, including couples, which means that we will have friends to invite over. We are looking forward to becoming significantly involved in young people/young family activities (thanks to our strong Hillel background).
3. There are several new Jewish institutions, including one outstanding new shul that fits us to a T. It is small, heimish, and friendly, and filled with BTs. The focus is on learning and growing, with no step too small. It is practically like a giant support group.
4. Everyone I have met so far is willing to help us out in any way, whether it is furniture for our new place, or a Shabbat meal, or recommendations. Truly a representation of Am Echad.

This community excites me. It is not the same hum-drum community I left when I went off to college with its sense of “establishment”. This community is excited to try new initiatives, new learning programs, new family activities – whatever it takes to get more Jews together. I am ready to get started. YEE-HAW!!

39 comments on “Why I Love My Houston Community

  1. Shalom Y’all! Just want to put in my two cents about another WONDERFUL Texas community…Dallas, where I live. The people here are incredible – this is the most Torah-true community I have ever lived in, and I’ve lived in lots of places so that covers a lot of territory. The religious Jews here practice what they preach, our shul is terrific, and our community is growing by leaps and bounds (another kosher restaurant just opened this week!!!). Everyone is always inviting us for Shabbat, even now, 3-1/2 years after we moved here. Big D is the place to be!

  2. Are any of the North of Houston people concentrated in a neigborhood, or are they very spread out? If they are too spread out to walk to Shabbat services and to have at least a minyan there, this is a critical problem to solve.

  3. How does one get an Orthodox outreach to set up in their area? With a decent number of Jews to fill up 3 shuls North of Houston ( Woodlands, Spring ,Humble and Kingwood) I wish someone would start an Orthodox minyan or shul in our area. I have to drive 40 miles to go to Mikvah and to get Kosher food. Not everyone at these shuls are Reform. This is just the only place there is, and most of us don’t care for the Torah is a Metaphor or fairy tales we get preached from these shuls. Houses are numerous and low priced. Older homes are big with giant lots and low price.

  4. Hi
    Welcome to Houston. My friend, Rabbi Grossman, told me about your posting.
    I was born in Houston, raised our family here. We love the community (live in Fondren by Young Israel). Housing in our neighborhood is VERY affordable, and we are small enough that everyone welcomes everyone else. People are very tolerant of the BT learning curve.
    My husband is a daily chevrusa of Rabbi Kessler.
    Houston is unique in many ways, including the nice relaionships beween frum and general Jewish community, the support of the organized Jewish community (like the Federation) for the frum community, and a strong desire for achdus and ahavas yisrael. Lately, Young Israel and Fondren has experienced tremendous growth—-lots of families moving in from L.A., NY. and other places because of the warm community, leadership of Rabbi Wender in setting high priority for Torah learning,and the very reasonable housing prices.

  5. Chava Leah: Please ask the administrators of this blog (email BeyondBT) for my email and PLEASE get in touch with me! I can put you in touch with wonderful families – even kids your kids can play with – for the chag. I would love to meet you! Please get in touch with me!

  6. My husband and I are considering spending Succos in Houston. We are Baal Teshuva 6 years and have two children. The Meyerland Minyan sounds interesting and maybe someone can help us find a place to stay and experience this jewish community as a potential place to live(which is why we are going in the first place) Any help would be great!

  7. BK,

    When Bob and I lived in Houston, our Shul (the
    Young Israel)had a Shabbaton where we invited anyone who wanted to experience Shabbos in our community. No on was judgemental and yes mistakes were probably made (on both sides) but nobody got upset. Everybody learned from the experience and many people asked if there would be more programs like that. We’ve been gone from Houston a while, but I know the same wonderful people are there. So call the Young Israel and ask for hospitality. Or call the Cins at the Meyerland Minyan or call the other Shuls (UOS, Beth Rambam,Chabad). I could go on and on but the point is that the people in the Houston Jewish community are wonderful friendly people. So call and say hi.

  8. In this week’s Jewish Week, there was an excellent article on how the Houston Jewish community reacted to Katrina.

  9. Shalom Bk!

    I understand your fear to make a mistake in someone’s home for Shabbat. Most of us have been there at some time. For that very reason, I assure you that *most* of the people who would be willing to have you won’t freak-out over a Shabbat mistake or mis-statement of the like. Ilanit can certainly tell you who some of the ‘easier’ families are. For my part, I well remember Mark and Helena Kerzner (mentioned by Bob) as very gracious people (I taught their children at Hebrew Academy back when Ilanit was a schoolgirl, when I also used to teach once a week in the Woodlands), also Steve and Karen Rosenblatt, the Friedmans… there’s quite a list, and that’s just on the Young Israel side.

    If you’re hesitant, let one of us help make the match. Ilanit has offered. There are some really nice families in her area. If you like, I can call someone on the Young Israel side (we’re in Santa Fe, NM so I can’t offer our place!).

    A nice Shabbat can do wonders, especially with Rosh Hashana coming too…

  10. Thanks for the offers and advice.I guess what I am getting at is that I wish there were efforts made towards outreach in the suburbs.It is hard to make friends with observant Jews when you don’t know how to find them.Any people I talk to at the refrom shuls think I am a religous freak,so I don’t do that much anymore.I am also scared to accept Shabbat hospitality as we are newbies at true observance and I worry one of us will make a mistake or say something wrong.
    I owe 55K on my giant house with a pool in an area I don’t have to lock my doors. I can see it being paid off soon.So I could never afford a 200k house.So I can’t move. But we work hard at it and I enjoy the classes that Chabad offers.My daughter just returned from Israel and saw the Breslov rabbis and we also just watched Ushpizin so this is why she has an interest in the Breslovs.

  11. BK,

    When we lived in Houston (Young Israel area), Mark Kerzner there was knowledgeable about Breslov, but there was no movement as such.

  12. BK – My parents still live near Fondren near Chabad and actually the crime there is not as bad as it seems (relatively speaking). It’s understandable to be afraid, as I was, but it’s not so bad! (you just have to be smart) Actually, if you are interested in homes on the Chabad side of Fondren, or in the Young Israel neighborhood, updated large homes (>2200 sq ft) can go for only $200,000, if that, which is a bargain. You can also come to the Meyerland Minyan ice cream social for new members this Sunday – if you’re interested ask the administrators for my email and I’ll share the info with you.

    Of course, there is always shabbat hospitality you can do to eliminate fighting the traffic. I can help set you up with that, if you are interested.

  13. I have lived in Houston all my life. A real problem for us, is that there are no shuls, except reform North of I-10. We live between the Woodlands and Spring and it is so hard to try and maintain a kosher environment. We have to leave at 4:30 to get to a 6 PM service.By time I fight the traffic I am in too bad of a mood to enjoy shabbat.

    I wish Chabad would outreach to the subs.

    I can’t move because of my job, and frankly I grew up blocks away from Chbad on the “wrong” side of Fondren when it was very nice. I am terrified of going there now. It seems it is full of crime and I can’t afford a house near any of the shuls anyway.

    So I drive in for some Chabad and Torch classes.

    Is there a Breslov movement in Houston?

  14. I just spent both Tisha B’Ov and Shabbes Nachamu in Houston and was really impressed by the community. I was in the Young Israel community and really enjoyed it.

  15. I can definitely vouch for the “amazingness” of the Cin family. As a representative of the Houston community and a player in the real esatte market here too, I invite anyone who has any questions or is considering moving here to call me at 832 594 5160! Looking forward to extending you some great Southern hospitality!

  16. Ilanit, the Schers send you many blessings for success. Say hi to the Houston crowd for us (Holly Cin is an old friend)!

  17. Rebecca: Ridiculously cheap compared to other parts of the country (as an example, a 2200 sq. ft. home in the Meyerland Minyan neighborhood goes for $220-275K). Cheap real estate translates into lower property taxes. Furthermore, Texas has no state tax and there is no city income tax. There is a sales tax of 8.25% on most things. It’s no NY/NJ area – there are a few restaurants and several excellent bakeries and one shop with sfarim, but the friendliness and vibrancy is really great. If you can stand the heat and humidity.

    David Linn: Will do!

  18. It’s not only that the Jews there take such good care of visitors, which happens in many other places. I’ve never lived in another place where it’s so routine for the locals to come over to eat Shabbat and Yom Tov meals at each other’s homes.

  19. David Linn: I am sure I know people who know him. Anything you would like for me to pass along? I could pass along a hello.

  20. LC: If you want, I can get in touch with your friend. Ask the administrator for my email. Meyerland Minyan is about 3 miles from Chabad in a different neighborhood. If your friend wants to experience a Meyerland Minyan Shabbat, please do not hesitate to contact me and I can arrange it. Such “exchanges” are done all the time in Houston! David is right – Young Israel and Beit Rambam (the Sephardic shul in town) are closer to Chabad.

  21. Chabad’s probably too far a walk, especially in a Houston summer, to the Meyerland Minyan. But there’s always the Young Israel and, I think it’s called, Rambam, somewhat nearby.

    I can second & third the Cin comments. I was in town a while back davening at the Meyerland Minyan (when it was still at the JCC) and the Cin’s had me over for lunch. Extraordinary meal, terrific people.

  22. A friend of mine is living in Houston, and just married a local, but I believe they daven at Chabad. I get the impression he wasn’t aware of the meyerland minyan – unless it’s a different neighborhood, and too far to walk?

  23. That sounds like a nice, healthy community and lifestyle. I visited Houston twenty years ago, stayed with a frum family for Shabbos, the Rav of a small shul there at the time, don’t exactly remember all the names, but what I do remember is that when I went to shul with the wife and kids, the Rav actually made an official announcement welcoming me as a guest in their shul and community. I was a young, single girl just in for the weekend. Don’t get that kind of treatment in too many places.

  24. Bob: Thanks for the link! The Cins are legendary people, their boys are a riot, and the meals are terrific. Anytime you want to come back to Houston, Meyerland Minyan will be waiting for you!

    Steve: We met the Segals two Shabbats ago at the Young Israel shul. He is the principal of my old Jewish day school, now called the Beren Academy. So funny to have these connections!

  25. IIRC, one of my daughter’s teachers and her husband-R and Mrs. Segal are mchanchim in the Houston area.

  26. Bob – Meyerland Minyan is our shul! It is a small, 6-year old shul that is both a shul for kiruv and a shul for “old timers”, and perhaps the most interesting thing about it is that it attracts Jews from all walks of life. There are Israelis, sephardim, Persians, Charedei, newly observant, FFBs – everyone comes together and davens and it’s really a beautiful thing.

    And since I wrote this piece, the kosher pizza place in town has opened a sushi bar, so truly Hashem has bestowed goodness to Houston.

  27. Ilanit, that is so cool. I am really happy for you. I hope we will see this kind of positive change in many other communities.

Comments are closed.