fbpx

Don’t California My Texas

According to the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, approximately 1,800 Jews have moved into the community every year for the past 20 years. First of all, that’s a nice Jewish number, and second, that averages out to five new community members every day. But, why? 
[additional-authors]
November 9, 2021
Allard Schager/Getty Images

Dallas is the fastest-growing Jewish community in North America. According to the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, approximately 1,800 Jews have moved into the community every year for the past 20 years. First of all, that’s a nice Jewish number, and second, that averages out to five new community members every day. But, why? 

Why Dallas?  

In particular, why are so many Southern Californians pulling up stakes and moving there? 

Not that there’s anything wrong with moving to Dallas. My family did the very same thing 17 years ago when we were looking to upgrade from renting at the Broadcast Center Apartments to home ownership within the Fairfax/LaBrea eruv. We ended up buying within the North Dallas eruv instead. 

At the time, we were a dual-income couple in our early 30s with two kids under the age of two. We had great credit and a healthy budget with which to go house shopping. Or so we thought. On Gardner Street, midway down the block from Beverly Boulevard, we fell in like with a three-bedroom/two-bathroom cottage that offered an antique (read: badly, badly outdated) kitchen and a postage stamp-sized yard. The asking price, in 2004, was $1.3 million. Our realtor advised us to overbid. Hashem Yerachaym. We liked it, we didn’t love it!

My now former husband was born and bred in New York. I had grown up in the only Orthodox Jewish family in Lubbock, Texas. We both ended up in   LA for work and, at 34, we were both working as independent contractors. We loved Los Angeles, but we didn’t have to stay there. We could work from anywhere. So we made a list of everything we wanted in a community. Then we made a list of cities that might offer what we were looking for: a  large enough Jewish community to have infrastructure such as an Orthodox shul, a day school, a mikvah, kosher meat and cheese in the grocery store, and a kosher pizza shop—but a community small enough that we could be of service and make a difference.

I had always subscribed to the Mac Davis philosophy that “Happiness is Lubbock, Texas in my review mirror,” and I never planned to move back. But, to my surprise, upon completing our values clarification exercise, Dallas and Houston scored higher on our list than Seattle, Denver and Atlanta.

Remember that tiny $1.3 million house we liked in LA? In Dallas, we bought a four-bedroom/three-bathroom house on half an acre for the point three. Our house in the North Dallas eruv cost $390,000.

I could tell you what we found in Dallas 17 years ago that had us moving there within two months, but the city, surrounding suburbs and the Jewish community have grown so much since then that I’m going to give you current information. If you come to Dallas today, you’ll find:

  • Five neighborhoods within their own eruvim and many more Jewish neighborhoods without an eruv.
  • Kosher food is widely available in mainstream stores, including Costco. Two grocery stores even have kosher bakeries, sushi, and full delis on premises.
  • A Jewish Community Center so nice it’s known among JCCs of the world as “The Dallas Palace.”
  • More Jewish preschools than I found in LA and the valley combined.
  • Two Jewish day schools.
  • Two Jewish high schools.
  • A boys yeshiva that is a satellite of Chafetz Chaim.
  • Public high schools that rank in the top 10 nationally, according to USA Today.
  • Truly world-class theatre, symphony, ballet, and museums. All the Broadway tours stop in North Texas and besides the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Crow Museum of Asian Art, the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, there’s the Texas Cowboys Hall of Fame in the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District.
  • The Texas State Fair. Scarborough Faire Renaissance Festival. 
  • NO STATE TAX.
  • No. State. Tax. 
  • Public parks with lazy rivers, splash parks, dog parks, ball fields, and beautiful playground equipment, plus day camps and outdoor Shakespeare performances in the summer.

Why do so many Southern Californians relocate to North Texas? The real question is why don’t more of y’all come here?

Why do so many Southern Californians relocate to North Texas? The real question is why don’t more of y’all come here? With everything Dallas has to offer and Governor Greg Abbott heavily recruiting on Twitter, what’s keeping you in the Southland? Follow @GregAbbott_Texas, you’ll be amazed by how ardently he is chasing Californians.

Mindy McLees, a native New Yorker and long-time resident of Sherman Oaks, heeded the call. She requested a transfer to her company’s Dallas office because she and her husband, music producer David McLees, wanted an adventure. They wanted, Mindy says, “to see what life looked like from somewhere else.”

Within weeks, the McLees were in love with their new community. Mindy, who is Property Tax Director at Fandl LLC, says:

“We bought our home for less than 1/3 of what we sold our LA house. Then we customized it to our needs, which did cost a bit. It is close to the same square footage, but it is better suited to what we need for our lives now. We had a pool in California and we have one here, but we have 1/3 of an acre in Dallas where we had 1/4 of an acre in LA”

David’s career hasn’t missed a beat in his move from Hollywood to Dallas. He is grooving.

“No homeless encampments under every highway overpass. No state income tax, a lower cost of living, and a District Attorney who actually prosecutes criminals. What’s not to love about North Texas?”—David McLees

“No homeless encampments under every highway overpass,” he says. “No state income tax, a lower cost of living, and a District Attorney who actually prosecutes criminals. What’s not to love about North Texas?”

“I did not realize how much of my time was spent thinking about my ‘good parking karma,’” Mindy says. “Now, I never have to circle the Trader Joe’s parking lot like a vulture, following people to their cars.”

Influencer and activist Lizzy Savetsky,   host of the IGTV series “Bashert” and an accessories designer whohas appeared in the pages of W, Cosmopolitan, and People StyleWatch magazines, grew up in Fort Worth and sang in the Stockyards Opry. After attending NYU and then living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan while her husband Ira completed his plastic surgery residency, the glamorous couple could easily have been expected to settle near Ira’s brother in Los Angeles. Instead, they chose to establish themselves in Dallas.

“Nothing beats the big hearts of our neighbors. People love you without expectations down here. They just want to visit and bake for you and compliment your kids. It’s so refreshing!” —Lizzy Savetsky

“I love big hair and big earrings,” Lizzy says. “But nothing beats the big hearts of our neighbors. People love you without expectations down here. They just want to visit and bake for you and compliment your kids. It’s so refreshing!”

But Beverly Hills is the plastic surgery capital of the world. Was Dallas a good move for a young doctor? Lizzy says it proved to be more than a savvy career choice. Establishing his practice in Dallas, Dr. Savetsky has the warm Jewish community and the fun, active lifestyle he wants for his family, without compromising professional opportunities.

“Ira’s patients are so genuinely appreciative of his time and talents. They are so kind,” Lizzy says. “They are always sending cards and gifts. Nothing compares to Texas kindness.”

But rest assured, Angelenos! Not everyone finds Dallas to be their Xanadu. Sharon Ginchansky, who relocated from Woodland Hills four years ago, says, “I miss the Jewish Journal!!!” 

She also misses Pico-Robertson. “I miss our synagogue, Temple Aliyah. I also find it hard to not be able to assume most people are Jewish or understand Judaism. In LA, I took it for granted that people knew I was Jewish and got what that meant.”

Suzanne Goldstone Rosenhouse grew up in Huntington Beach. She has a good life in Dallas; she’s active in her shul’s Sisterhood and is happy with her children’s Jewish day school, but says: “I will never recover from leaving California. It’s been 20+ years and I’m still processing.”

Fair enough.

Lorrie Berman Galanter came from West LA 30 years ago and appreciates connecting with other fellow Californians in Dallas. Like me and many others, she misses some of what Los Angeles has to offer, but has discovered new pleasures that make up for her loss: “LA has great restaurants, but nothing competes with Dallas’ Asian food scene. I miss the bike path on the beach, but you can’t beat all the great, uncrowded walking and biking trails here.”

She has a point about food. Dallas has four times more restaurants per person than NYC. LA can’t boast that. And while I miss Jeff’s Gourmet Sausage Factory on Pico, there are several really good kosher restaurants in Big D.

Judy Winegard, a Jewish women’s performer and teacher, lived in Pico/Robertson and North Hollywood. She never thought she would leave LA But when she felt the California political climate was so bad it overshadowed the beautiful coastal climate, she began a five-year campaign of begging her husband to get out of California.

Politics have destroyed normal life in a beautiful state. I know that it will not get back to anything close to what it was in our lifetime. I thought I would miss the ocean, the mountains, but it is so clean and nice here. People are so open and friendly. The trees are magnificent and I feel like I can breathe again. All I can say is, if you feel unsafe and want a beautiful change of life, GET OUT of LA Unless you voted for all this insanity. Then you stay right where you are and sit in what you created.”

My son Jonah seems like he’d be a poster child for Los Angeles. He was born at Cedars-Sinai the same day as William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman’s daughter, Georgia. (That poor kid whose SAT drama became famous in the College Admissions scandal.) Felicity and I were both doing laps around the labor and deliver floor all day to hasten the hour of our children’s birth, and then we recognized each other in line a few days later when we went to register our kids’ names for their birth certificates. As if birthday twinning with a celebrity baby did not confer enough California credibility on Jonah, The Grove opened the day after he was born. Jonah spent the first two-and-a-half years of his life in Los Angeles, but he has been heard to say he got to Texas as soon as he could.

It’s rare that people who become enchanted by Dallas move away, but my children and I made aliyah and live in Yerushalayim now. Despite the Mac Davis philosophy by which I formerly lived, the kids and I have come to understand that the longer we are away from Texas, the more Texan we become. Jonah is a well-acclimated Israeli, but he is recognizable around Jerusalem for his Texas flag face mask and his Texas pride T-shirts. One of his favorites elicits chuckles from Israelis who point to the graphic of Texas kicking California and ask “Mah zeh?” To which he responds: “It says, ‘Don’t California my Texas.’” 

Even in Israel, the line gets an appreciative laugh because everyone knows just what that means.

Y’all know I love Dallas. And, obviously, I love Jerusalem. But, to be perfectly honest, I’m with Sharon Ginchansky: I miss the Jewish Journal. And Jeff’s dogs.


Judy Tashbook Safern is a literary and film publicist. Bred in the panhandle of the South Plains of West Texas, Judy lived in New York, Washington D.C., and Israel before moving to Los Angeles. She raised her children in Dallas and now their family lives in Jerusalem. You can reach Judy by email: jsafern@gmail.com.

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

Are We Going to Stop for Lunch?

So far, the American Jewish community has been exceptional in its support for Israel. But there is a long road ahead, and the question remains: will we continue with this support?

EXCLUSIVE: Inside Hollywood’s “Meeting of the Masters” Brunch

Guy Shalem’s Meeting of the Masters is more than just a dinner club; it’s a testament to the power of food, conversation, and community in bringing people together and creating a space where everyone, regardless of background or belief, can find common ground and friendship.

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.