The Most Affordable Places in the US to Raise Your Committed Jewish Family

Being a committed Jew is expensive. There’s real estate in upper-middle to upper class neighborhoods (50%), and there’s tuition of one kind or another (50%). While it’s tough to beat the energy of New York City or the style of Los Angeles, I got to thinking about where the most affordable places to be a committed Jew might actually be. Those percentages are weights and here’s my criteria for a city to qualify:

1. A Mikvah

2. An Eruv

3. A Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Synagogue

4. K-12 Jewish Day School Options

5. At least one kosher restaurant or kosher friendly super market

Using that criteria I narrowed the list to fifty cities (some are towns, some are cities, this is a rough back of the napkin calculation, hopefully I’ll have time to do this more in depth at some point). I then found the average real estate data by neighborhood using trulia.com and looked up the tuition by day schools in the area, formulated them together, and… voila!

(For a more updated, detailed, and transparent version, click here. Research is an iterative process and I’ve valued all of the feedback, so keep it coming!).  

THE TOP TEN MOST AFFORDABLE PLACES TO RAISE YOUR COMMITTED JEWISH FAMILY

10. Pittsburgh, PA. “Black and Yellow” ya’all. Pittsburg, the diamond in the rough, is kicking off the list. And yes, the Jewish community is really in a neighborhood named Squirrel Hill…

9. Baltimore, MD. You knew it was going to be on the list. Yes, it’s affordable. Yes, I would never move there. Sorry about the Baltimore-hate but it’s the only place I’ve been mugged… twice… in the inner harbor… which is the ‘nice’ area…

8. St. Louis, MO. Gorgeous parks, museums, and campuses (WashU!) – not too bad…

7. Memphis, TN. With one of the most forward-thinking day schools in the country (worth googling, it has like five names though: Cooper, Magdolin, etc.) and ridiculously low housing prices (average house goes for 185,924!), it’s a hard one to miss.

6. Kansas City, MO. My prayers are with the community, but not even a crazy person would keep me from considering this vibrant and warm community who’s day school basketball team use to rock YU’s Saracheck Tournament when I was in high school.

5. Columbus, OH. Not only does the city have an amazing, burgeoning Jewish community. It’s also home to the Wexner Foundation that more or less sponsors this blog…

4. Milwaukee, WI. Not a pretty city, but boy is it in a pretty part of the country. There’s also plenty of kosher cheese…

3. Buffalo, NY. It’s chilly but ignore the lake effect, this city has tons of Jewish amenities and is just a short drive from the Marjorie Morningstar camp… seriously…

2. Cleveland, OH. A rockin’ Jewish community, replete with options and poised to contend.

1. Detroit, MI. Not only was it the most affordable on the list, it was by nearly 100% less than the second place. Is the motor city ripe for a Jewish revival or is it on its way out?

And, of course:

THE LEAST AFFORDABLE PLACES 

10. Washington, D.C. You pay the price for rubbing shoulders with the aristocracy. In more ways than one…

9. Englewood, N.J. Breathtaking views are almost worth every penny.

8. Boston, MA. On the bright side, living there doesn’t put you in as much debt as going to school there…

7. Beverlywood, LA, CA. This one is where we fall off the cliff… Housing prices now average over a million. Day schools cost more than 25,000 per year. And folks in the great recession generation will never be able to raise a family in a house there (historically speaking, at least). But, it’s hard to beat sunny Los Angeles.

6. Great Neck, NY. I just have to say, I love how a predominantly Sephardic community made this list. Go first/second gen immigrants!

5. Lake View, Chicago, IL. Growing up, I thought Chicago was all steel and smoke. Lincoln Park, though, home to amazing synagogues, hilariously named kosher establishments, and the Cubs is freaking gorgeous!

4. Teaneck, NJ. “Little boxes on the hill side, little boxes made of ticky tacky…”

3. San Francisco, CA. Now with it’s own private transportation system!

2. Manhattan, NY. The energy. The gleam. The glamour. The smell. I love New York City. I really do. But every time I think about living there I remember the pet mice I had in college…

1. Palo Alto, CA. Like Detroit, this one was almost 100% away (more) from #2 on the list. The average home costs 3.3 million (2-3 bedrooms tops for that price, unless you wanna try to outbid an Asian investor with a suitcase of cash…). And don’t get me started on rent, which, if New York is too damn high, than Palo Alto is too damn higher. Man, I need to move…

 

Do you guys have any better ideas or other options to add? Send’em in!

 

 

 

 

Here’s the full list.

Palo Alto, CA
Manhattan, NY
Teaneck, NJ
San Francisco, CA
Lake View, Chicago, IL
Great Neck, NY
Beverlywood, LA, CA
Boston, MA
Englewood, NJ
Washington, D.C.
Brooklyn, NY
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
San Diego, CA
Boca Raton, FL
Seattle, WA
Five Towns, NY
Dallas, TX
Potomic, MD
Riverdale, NY
White Plains, NY
Far Rockaway, NY
Atlanta, GA
Staten Island, NY
Miami, FL
Denver, CO
Springfield/Orange, NJ
Queens, NY
Silver Spring, MD
Houston, TX
Edison, NJ
Ann Arbor, MI
San Fernado Valley, LA, CA
Philadelphia, PA
Portland, ME
Skokie, Chicago, IL
Charlotte, NC
Cherry Hill, NJ
West Rogers Park, Chicago, IL
Passaic, NJ
Elizabeth, NJ
Pittsburgh, PA
Baltimore, MD
St. Louis, MO
Memphis, TN
Kansas City, MO
Columbus, OH
Milwaukee, WI
Buffalo, NY
Cleveland, OH
Detroit, MI

*A theoretical note at the end. I realize that being a “committed” Jew is a remarkably varied thing. No judgement, with my criteria, is intended. That said, would love to see alternative formulas if you have them!

149 Comments

  1. Beer Sheva. Afula. Beit Shemesh. Ariel. Modiin. Maaleh Adumim. The geula’s happening under your nose, you’re missing out!

  2. The future, and pretty much the present, is in Israel. It keeps getting better, and the decline and fall of the US continues, even though it may take a long time. The cost of school is so high in the US is ridiculous and dwarfs just about every other consideration. If you don’t like the schools or whatever else in Israel, get over here, organize, innovate, change. All that startup nation genius ought to go into education, but it won’t unless people do it.

  3. Recently I moved to Cleveland, Ohio after living in Columbus, Ohio for 20+ years. One of the top reasons we moved was to provide our family with a large Jewish community and many Jewish resources which we feel Columbus did not provide.
    Columbus no longer has a Kosher restaurant or supermarket and the community is not that big. I was blown away once we moved to Cleveland to see all of the resources available. Everywhere I go there are Jewish people. Holidays bring a warm feeling where I know that I’m part of a large Jewish community where we all have something in common. When I go to shul on Saturday, the sidewalks are full of Jews walking. The regular stores have endless products that are kosher and then there are also Kosher restaurants, bakeries, and a supermarket.
    Although I did enjoy living in Columbus, I am suprised they made the top 10 list. I am looking forward to raising my children in a strong Jewish community and am very glad we moved to Cleveland.

    • In the Town and Country Kroger in Columbus, there is a large kosher section with deli and bakery. Years ago, community rabbis worked very hard when Bexley Kosher closed to get Kroger to fill the gaps.

      True that the community is small, but it is super warm – good midwestern middos :) Plus the Columbus Community Kollel is one of (if not THE) the top community kollels in the country! If someone is looking to grow Jewishly, the resources are there. We became frum in Columbus, so I feel a lot a gratitude to the community, even though we had to move for parnassa.

      There are more day school options in Cleveland, including farther to the right than Columbus Torah Academy (modern Orthodox), but you can get vouchers for CTA if you live in Columbus proper.

      You have to deal with obnoxious OSU football fans, but Columbus winters aren’t nearly as brutal. Win some, lose some…

      Shani, I might know you, but having trouble figuring out who you might be…

    • I have lived in C-town (specifically Beachwood) for over 30 years. On the whole it has excellent resources, not the least of which is the very friendly people.

      The only nit-pick I have is the shortage of kosher restaurants. Don’t get me wrong–the ones that we have are very good. There just isn’t enough variety.

  4. I’m surprised that South Bend, IN didn’t make the cut. It’s certainly cheaper than many of the other cities on the list!

  5. Also try Manalapan, NJ & Marlboro NJ. We’re in central NJ, 30 min north of Lakewood. Perfect for young families. Also near Twin Rivers or Monroe Township (has 2 chabads). A large active senior community.

  6. Seattle is another city with multiple awesome Jewish communites. It’s not a cheap city, by any means, but definitely better than SF, Boston, D.C., or NYC. The neighborhood NE of the university meets all your criteria, but there’s a great community south of downtown as well. And delicious kosher Indian food.

  7. Any community in Israel blows away all the communities on this list. Day School is practically free, synagogue membership is next to nothing. Housing costs are lower, kosher food is EVERYWHERE. . . . . and it’s Israel!!!

  8. To respond to Jill Crollick about Buffalo, I think Buffalo does deserve to be on the “good” list.

    First of all, there are two good K-8 schools (one community school, with students ranging from Reform to Orthodox, and one Chabad school, with a decent amount of non-Chabad kids.) Although there is no high school, there is talk of starting one, as the number of children in both schools continues to grow.

    Second, even if the eruv is very large, most of the observant families with kids are in the same neighborhood and not too far apart from one another.

    Third, housing is extremely affordable, both within the eruv, which is in the suburbs near the university’s North campus, and outside the eruv in North Buffalo, where housing prices are much lower. (There are three Orthodox shuls in the eruv and two or three outside the eruv.)

    Finally, although the community is on the small side, it is very friendly and easy-going. Jews of all stripes seem to get along and often attend the same events.

    • Sorry ANON…and BTW, I had the guts to identify myself…and a huge bunch of people from the Buff know exactly who I am. You appear to be living in Buffalo and are one of the following: 1) a Buffalo booster because you live there and you need to see it that way, or 2) or you have a vested interest in having more Jews move to Buffalo.

      I’ll start with your last paragraph: What you wrote in this last paragraph is absolutely correct. I was sad to leave Buffalo after living there for 17 years exactly because of the easy-going nature of the community. In fact, it is a wonderful place to live if you are there before kids, until the oldest is 10 or so, or after the kids fly the coop.

      Two good K-8 schools? No, not really, but I’m sure you think they are. Talk of starting a high school? We were talking about that for all the 17 years I was there.

      “Eiruv is large but most of the observant kids are in the same neighborhood and not too far from one another.” Correct. But how many kids are there for your kids to play with? What if you have a girl and the only other girl is 2 years older or 2 years younger? Or some other issue where you want you child to have a wider choice of friends. There is just not enough choice to guarantee that your child can find the right match(es). And when there’s not a lot of choice, that’s really tough for the kid.

      Yes, the housing is exceptionally affordable. Then again, evaluate why that is so. The main employers are the University and State/Local government. Other jobs are not as plentiful and pay less. The economy sucks. In general, over the past 30 years, the regional government has made the wrong choice every time something needs to be decided. Shall we start the discussion with the second span for the Peace Bridge or the plans for Rt 219? Yes, I know, the medical corridor is being built. Oh boy! But then, do you want to discuss Jim Kelly’s medical care?

      I ran my original comment past several people who also had lived in Buffalo, also had kids in Buffalo. Agreement all around: go there if you get a job, enjoy the culture and the low housing prices, and then figure out how your kids are going to thrive in this narrow Jewish environment. But if you have a choice, don’t go there for just the housing prices. Remember, you’ll get creamed with the municipal taxes and the heating costs.

      • It sounds like it’s been several years since you’ve lived in Buffalo. So I don’t know if you’re in a very good position to evaluate whether the schools are “good” or not. (For example, the schools have changed quite a bit over time, in terms of enrollment, leadership, mergers, curriculum, etc.) Of course, in a larger community like Cleveland there will be a larger choice of schools, friends, restaurants, etc. But for a smaller (yet growing) community, Buffalo is a nice place.

    • I know! And Monsey. And Kiryas Joel. Those will be on the next list I do (whenever that will be, this post sort of interrupted my series on creativity in the classroom). I’m also tweaking the variables to include things like percent of students on scholarship/avg scholarship and safety. I’m also going to break the real estate down by neighborhood.

      • That is true – although KJ doesn’t have reform and conservative, KJ is just a village in the town of Monroe, which has reform, conservative, and chabad. KJ also has an ashkenaz minyan and a sefardi minyan, in addition to over 60 chassidishe shuls/minyanim. But for more affordable there are communities in Sullivan County. Bloomingburg is a new growing community with very welcoming frum community, but very nasty secular Jewish neighbors who are fighting the frum community – luckily those who fight don’t live there and the non-Jewish community in Bloomingburg is very very happy that the Jewish community is bringing new jobs and prosperity to their small village. fallsburg is strong yeshivishe community, Kiamesha Lake has 80 family Viznitz community etc. problem with both is if u live outside those communities, school is almost not an option if you want to send there. Dayschool in Kiamesha is good if you are Modern Orthodox. Mountaindale and Woodbourne are great options for yeshivish high schools for boys if you are not Fallsburg yeshiva type (and really even if you are they are really great, teach the bachurim good derech eretz especially Mountain Dale is incredible). There are nice shuls around. Probably Woodridge is place most people choose to move to, with several shuls, grocery, etc. There are also shuls in
        and monticello. Of course i am partial to my own community in White Lake, where we have a really really wonderful Rov. The community is growing here in White Lake, with two frum families who moved in this year full time

  9. I can see your top ten lists being accurate, but everything in the middle seems mixed up. Dallas and Seattle are more expensive than Queens, Far Rockaway, White Plains and Riverdale? Having lived in Dallas, Seattle and NYC, I can say that those neighborhoods in the NYC area definitely more expensive than Dallas and Seattle.

    • I think it had to do with the trulia data. I’m tweaking the variables right now and averaging trulia and zillow for what I hope is a more accurate real estate figure

  10. Irvine California meets all these criteria but is not included in the list. I would guess it ranks at the bottom of affordability

  11. Houston and Phoenix are not on the list! These are the 4th and 6th largest cities in the US!
    “Potomic, MD” is actually Potomac, MD, and is part of the DC metro area.

  12. Great work and well done on the list. What this does NOT take into account is income, job opportunities, etc.- it only focuses on the expense side of things. So it’s really only comparable if someone is retired and living on a fixed income. And if they are, why would they want to spend their golden years in Detroit, or Buffalo, no offense.

    Just keep in mind that cheap cities are cheap for a reason….

  13. Half way between Manhattan and Philadelphia (a 55 minute commute by train or bus) and 15 minutes outside of Princeton is an up and coming beautiful, friendly, and safe * Jewish community called East Windsor.
    We boast a large kosher section in Shop Rite, a mikvah, a day school in East Windsor and several a half hour away in either Highland Park or Yardley Pa . We have VERY affordable beautiful housing, two orthodox synagogues, and a large conservative and reform synagogue as well.
    To find out more please contact: livia@rimoncenter.org or call 609 918 9750
    **East Windsor was voted one of the top safest towns to live in**

  14. Have you ever heard of West Hartford, CT? Every year we get ranked nationally as being in the top 10 places to raise kids! Additionally, we have ALL the other requirements to make your list, plus you can drink the tap water! Explore beyond the “usual suspects”. There’s a lot more to our Jewish nation than most people realize.

  15. I invite all the readers who are committed Jews to move to West Palm Beach. Used to be wealthy Jews lived there, kind of like Los Angeles… but now has only senior population. Plus side of being a pioneer to an area where currently the kosher supermarket is Publix ( as another commenter said about a Kroger, they bring in EVERYTHING kosher that you need): housing costs are therefore lower. Wondering why the city of Boca seems to be thriving Jewishly so the spillover should reach Boynton, Lake Worth and West Palm Beach.

  16. Linden, NJ fits all that criteria, has an amazing community AND I just bought a 5 bedroom house for under $200,000. Granted, I got lucky, but houses are pretty reasonable here and there are a bunch of great schools nearby.

  17. Check out South Bend, Indiana. It meets all the requirements for a frum community. It also has school vouchers and cheap housing. 3-4 bedroom houses range from 80k-150k.

  18. Need to add South Bend, In we meet and exceed the criteria for affordable. And what about Cincinnati,Oh? You also need to find out which states have voucher programs for tuition because that makes cities like South Bend, Milwaukee, and others much cheaper than Detroit.

  19. How about Jacksonville- FL
    Eruv
    Several Mikvaot
    Restaurant about to open
    Orthodox (Nusach Ashkenaz, Sefardic Minyan, and Chabad (several)) , Conservative and Reform (x2)
    Two K-8 schools (Orthodox and Conservative)
    Great JCC
    Kosher food
    VERY affordable housing in walking distance of shuls
    Active Federation
    Great airport

  20. Hard to justify putting Detroit on the top 10 list instead of Denver. For sheer beauty, lifestyle, affordability, and year-round activities you really can’t beat living in the Rocky Mountains. Actually, forget I said that. It’s terrible here. Please don’t move here. (The last thing we need is more traffic on I-70 trying to get to the mountains on Sunday!)

  21. Phoenix Arizona is amazing! Been here for 6 years. Amazing school, great community, restaurants, and very affordable housing!

  22. In Memphis it’s MARGOLIN Hebrew Academy.

    Also surprised Atlanta ranked so poorly compared to others. Did you take into effect commuting and other factors?

  23. Rochester, NY has schools (a community day school, a co-ed yeshiva school, a very small girls’ high school, and a boys’ yeshiva high school), a mikva, an eruv, and WEGMANS! I lived there for 14 years (moved to Baltimore – not for the Inner Harbor) and have fond memories of it. I there is a kosher pizzeria run by Chabad and I believe a new Israeli restaurant is opening.

  24. Boynton Beach, FL
    -Affordable housing conducive for Jewish families
    -Two growing orthodox synagogues (one Chabad and one Ashkenaz)
    -Eruv
    -One kosher restaurant (Israeli/Meat)
    -Multiple supermarkets with large kosher fare selections (including meat, poultry and cheese)
    -Busing (30 minutes) to yeshiva day school in Boca Raton
    -Ben Gamla Hebrew Charter School
    -Stones throw away from other kosher restaurants (chinese, asian fusion, dairy, Israeli, bagel….) and full kosher supermarket in Boca Raton, and not too far from the same in Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale
    -No state income tax
    -Beautiful weather

  25. New Rochelle NY (has an eruv, a mikvah, all three types of synagogues, and a new Jewish day school). Greenwich, Connecticut has a terrific day school (Carmel Academy) but I don’t think it has a mikvah.
    I would be curious to know where New Rochelle would fit into your list.
    It’s a great list and a very useful resource. I hope you will update it with the additional areas at meet your qualifications and continue to expand the list past 50. Maybe even add places that meet all but one criteria with a notation which requirement they are missing. It really is a helpful list for those looking to more to more jewish friendly areas.

  26. I’m with Michael Lewis. I was surprised that Jacksonville didn’t make the list. I grew up there and return often to visit family and friends. Although at this time there is no high school, the shuls all have extensive resources for high school aged children so that they can remain involved and learning regularly whether homeschool, attend a virtual charter or attend a public school. As a note, Jacksonville also 2 of the highest ranked public high schools in the nation; Paxon and Stanton. If you’re looking to go south, I strongly suggest considering Jacksonville.

  27. I really appreciate the work that you’ve put into this, and it is clear that many people find this information very valuable. Would you feel comfortable sharing your raw data so that we can get a more complete picture? Are there ways that I (and perhaps others) could volunteer to help you with what has already been a big task?

  28. You forgot to mention my hometown: good old Scranton PA! Warm and close knit community, really cheap housing and they even just opened a medical school a few years back. You may get a little bored but it’s only 2- 2&1/2 hours drive from all major NY/NJ Jewish communities. The place desperately needs a new influx of young families to spice things up a bit and maybe get a restaurant going.

  29. wilkes-barre, pa!!!!! we got everything!! and housing is cheap!!!

  30. How did Buffalo make the list and not its far superior neighbor, Rochester? Buffalo has had tzoris for quite some time now, including the need to close its JCC (although it might be re-opened, now), consolidate several shules, etc… And Buffalo itself is, well, Buffalo. Rochester is far prettier, has some of the largest congregations in New York State, several day schools, a few Kosher ice cream places, a new kosher grill, and is the home of Wegmans, the world’s best supermarket with many Kosher items….

  31. Savannah, ga should be a consideration for the same reasons as Jacksonville.

  32. I don’t live there but White Plains seems like a good deal (but Mikveh is next town over, and kosher restos are close but not in White Plains)

  33. also a key factor weather…seriously, Buffalo….seriously? I went to college up there…..and the city economy is depressing. suburbs are just ok

  34. How can Houston not be #1… Consider the following facts –
    1) Forbes ranks it #4 in overall affordability (no State or Local income tax) http://www.forbes.com/pictures/mhj45hkhe/4-houston-tx/
    2) Where can you live within walking distance to multiple shuls and A) rent a house or apartment for under $.80 per square foot or B) buy a home for $65 per square foot
    3) There are 4 Orthodox Day Schools with a VERY generous scholarship policy where the average net tuition is about $6,000.
    The only undeniable fact is its hot in the summer, duh! But I would take 3 hot months over 3 cold months any day.

  35. Did you check out Minneapolis? We are a community of nearly 40,000 Jews. We have an eruv, wonderful syngagogues, an academically rigorous, community day school (Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School), an orthodox day school, good housing market, many supermarkets with kosher sections, theaters, museums, and more!!

  36. At least spell “Potomac” properly. While it may be pronounced the way you wrote it, that’s not how it is spelled.it’s not spelled Potomic

  37. A community you think is not affordable but with affordable options is beautiful Belle Harbor, in Queens, bordering Brooklyn. Schools and kosher restaurants a short ride away, multiple shuls, refurbished mikvah. Great deals after the hurricane. And a new young Rav of the MO shul. This place is poised to take off.

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