Rice University Program in Jewish Studies

Jewish Life in Houston

Houston is one of the most equitably diverse cities in the United States. This diversity includes a venerable Jewish community, with a population of about 45,000. Jews first arrived in Houston in the 1830s and, by 1870, comprised 2.6% of the total population. These Jews were predominately of German origin. The first Jewish institution established in the city was the Hebrew Benevolent Society in 1855. The city’s first congregation was Beth Israel (1859). With the influx of Eastern European Jews at the end of the nineteenth century, Jewish institutional life expanded. With the economic growth of the 1970s and 80s, Houston’s Jewish population nearly doubled and has remained at that level since then. Today, Houston’s Jewish community includes synagogues representing each branch of Judaism, kosher markets and restaurants, a wide array of social service organizations, the Holocaust Museum Houston, Chabad at Rice, and Houston Hillel, which serves campuses in the greater Houston area. The Houston Jewish community exemplifies the distinctive Texas pioneering spirit of innovation, boasting a network of institutions comparable to that of communities twice its size.  

Chabad at Rice
We are committed to connecting Jewish students on campus to each other, their heritage, and their Jewish future. We strive to empower students to take ownership of their Jewish identity - socially, intellectually, spiritually, and culturally. We welcome all people, regardless of affiliation, background, or levels of observance. All are welcome to participate in the many programs and events offered. Chabad provides a vibrant Jewish student life at Rice University and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to serve as the “Home Away From Home” for all students. Among the many programs are weekly Shabbat dinners, ongoing social events, holiday celebrations, and educational classes. To learn more about Chabad, contact Rabbi Shmuli or visit our website. 

Houston Hillel
Houston Hillel enriches the lives of Jewish undergraduate students, graduate students, and young professionals, so that they may enrich the Houston Jewish community, the Jewish people, and the world.  Houston Hillel serves Jewish students and young professionals all over the greater Houston area. We maintain autonomous student boards and a presence on campus at our primary campuses while students from campuses with smaller Jewish populations participate in our city-wide events. Houston Hillel provides Jewish students with an avenue to express and embrace their Jewish identity and heritage. Our primary facility, the Ida and William Zinn Hillel Student Center, acts as both a student center and a community resource.  Our events are always free and everyone is welcome at Houston Hillel including LGBTQ students and those from interfaith backgrounds. For more information, contact Rabbi Kenny Weiss at 713-526-4918 or kweiss@houstonhillel.org and visit the Houston Hillel website at houstonhillel.org.

Jewish Federation of Greater Houston
The mission of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston is to preserve and enrich Jewish communal life through innovative and visionary leadership that is responsive and responsible to Jewish communities locally, nationally, in Israel, and around the world.

Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center
The mission of the Jewish Community Center of Houston is to develop and strengthen Jewish identity, foster Jewish values and enrich the Jewish community and the greater community.

Holocaust Museum Houston
Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.