Rabbi Simsha Smolenksi shops Wednesday at Midwest Kosher & Deli, 560 W. Ireland Road in South Bend. The store is looking for a larger space to serve the city’s growing Orthodox Jewish community. Staff photo by Santiago Flores
Rabbi Simsha Smolenksi shops Wednesday at Midwest Kosher & Deli, 560 W. Ireland Road in South Bend. The store is looking for a larger space to serve the city’s growing Orthodox Jewish community. Staff photo by Santiago Flores
SOUTH BEND — At this time last year, Zev and Tehiya Meyers were raising their two daughters, ages 8 and 13, in a two-bedroom apartment in west Los Angeles’ densely populated Pico-Robertson neighborhood.

Zev, 52, forced to retire early from mortgage banking because of a disability, and Tehiya, a teacher, were spending at least $20,000 annually in school tuition while battling traffic congestion and other “big city” ills that Zev, a lifelong Angelino, said he had always known but doesn’t like.

Their world improved dramatically last fall, Zev said, when they moved to South Bend’s Twyckenham Hills area — Tehiya and the girls flew while Zev drove their belongings in a U-Haul. Here, they’re renting a three-bedroom house with a yard for less than half of their L.A. apartment rent. They soon plan to buy a home, possibly spending around $150,000 instead of the nearly $1 million that many typical Pico-Robertson homes cost. And the girls attend South Bend Hebrew Day School for free, thanks to Indiana’s school choice voucher program.

“Even on a rush hour with one lane closed down there’s still no traffic compared to L.A.,” Zev said. “People in the Midwest are nicer. They’re a lot more calm, they’re open. I can have a conversation with anyone at any time, it doesn’t matter what color, what religion, what their politics are. Although there’s a change of pace, it’s a welcome change of pace. I love it.”

The Meyers family aren’t the only Orthodox Jews moving to South Bend from larger metro areas for these reasons. The Michiana Jewish Business Association’s Community Development Initiative has been recruiting them and helping them settle into the community for a decade, adding about 70 families to South Bend during that time. But the growth has accelerated since new CDI executive director Simon Springer took the job in August 2017.
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