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|
|San Francisco, CA|
|Lake View, Chicago, IL|
|Great Neck, NY|
|Beverlywood, LA, CA|
|Ft. Lauderdale, FL|
|San Diego, CA|
|Boca Raton, FL|
|Five Towns, NY|
|White Plains, NY|
|Far Rockaway, NY|
|Staten Island, NY|
|Silver Spring, MD|
|Ann Arbor, MI|
|San Fernado Valley, LA, CA|
|Skokie, Chicago, IL|
|Cherry Hill, NJ|
|West Rogers Park, Chicago, IL|
|St. Louis, MO|
|Kansas City, MO|
*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!