Jewish History Soundbites

Great American Jewish Cities #23: Houston Part II

October 12, 2021

In this second installment on the Jewish history of Houston and South Texas, the renaissance of Orthodox through the pioneering efforts of Rabbi Joseph Radinsky of the United Orthodox Synagogue, Rabbi Shimon Lazaroff of Chabad and Rabbi Yehoshua Wender of the Young Israel of Houston. The development of air conditioning led to a population explosion in Houston in 1960’s, and the S&L scandal led to its reduction in the late 80’s. Nevertheless, institutions were built, schools grew and a Kollel was founded in recent times as well.

40 miles to the west lies the town of Hempstead. Its rise and decline as a Jewish community is through the story of the Schwartz family and its patriarch Rabbi Chaim Schwartz. The port of Galveston was home to a prestigious community, as well as the oldest established Jewish community in Texas. With Rabbi Henry Cohen’s arrival in 1888, he’d leave his imprint on Texas and American Jewish history through his activities over the ensuing more than six decades. The most prominent role played by Galveston was with the ‘Galveston Plan’, an attempt to reroute Eastern European Jewish immigrants to Galveston due to the overcrowding of New York. With a direct Bremen-Galveston route in place, over 10,000 Jews arrived in the port between the years 1907-1914.


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