In September of 2012 I got what I thought was the worst news ever. My husband’s job was transferring him to a city I had barely heard of in "The South!" Yes, they were going to pack us up and drag me, and our then toddler, kicking and screaming (me louder than her) down to, of all places. Houston, TX! As a self-proclaimed city snob, I didn't even know there were big cities in the South, much less Jewish people. Everything I knew about Houston was based on stereotypes. I half expected to find cowboys riding horseback down Main Street. In a matter of months we packed up our comfy Chicago life, where we were surrounded by family and friends and headed to the wild, wild west where we knew no one.
We arrived on a Thursday, and my husband went straight to work the next morning. I found myself in a box-filled rental house with a confused and fussy one year old. Luckily, we had internet! On a whim I googled “Jewish Houston” and found that there was a “Tot Shabbat” at the J. I wanted to go, but walking into a room full of strangers, alone, is not easy. It took all my courage to drag myself and my daughter to Tot Shabbat that morning. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship... actually, many of them.
Houston is one of America’s fastest growing cities according to Forbes (and also according to the traffic jams.) Every day new families arrive, and just like us, they don’t have the support system of family or friends waiting for them. That’s where the J comes in. In a very cool twist of fate, I now work here. The very place that first welcomed me and my family. My job as the Director of Outreach Services is to help build, grow and nurture a Jewish community for families with young children.
Once upon a time all of the Jews of Houston lived in the Meyerland area. At least that’s what folks who grew up here tell me. Nowadays, young families have priorities other than proximity to the J and synagogues when choosing where to live. For them there's the J’s Mishpacha & Me Program (M&M). As part of M&M, we have regular gatherings for Jewish families all over the city. Whether it’s a Shabbat dinner for families who live in The Heights, a Hannukah Party for families in West U, a play date for Jewish Spanish Speakers or a cooking group for Stay at Home Moms, big family events or small intimate ones, there's something for everyone and all are welcome. Early parenthood is a challenging time and can often be isolating. Our goal is to connect young families to one another and to help them find and build their community and support system, in their own way.
Whether you are new to Houston, new to parenthood, new to the Jewish community and looking to meet families with common interests or are just looking to make new friends, I'd love to hear from you! I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also connect with the Mishpacha & Me community on Facebook.
My husband, daughter and I just welcomed a new addition to our family: our very own native born Texan! There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. It’s true that Houston is not as beautiful as Chicago, as glamorous as New York, or as hip as San Francisco. But now that we have been here for nearly 3 years, I can confidently say that I would exchange the appeal of any of those cities for the warmth, diversity, and kindness of the amazing community we have found here in Houston.