It’s the Birthplace of the Blues, but for Orthodox Jews Memphis is an Exuberant Jewish Community

hero image
29 Oct 2014


Memphis, Tennessee is not usually at the top of the list when Orthodox Jewish families research ideal locations to settle; but perhaps it should be! The Memphis Jewish community is an ideal destination for Orthodox families seeking an affordable, vibrant, and family-friendly place to live.

In an effort to prove this assertion and recruit new families to the city, the Memphis Orthodox community will showcase itself during its “A Taste of Jewish Memphis” Shabbaton on the weekend of November 1st. Visitors will enjoy a fantastic Shabbat featuring Southern home hospitality, a communal Shabbat dinner and Shabbat lunch with host families. They will have multiple opportunities to interact with local Orthodox families and speak with employment and real estate experts. On Friday and Sunday, visitors can tour the Margolin Hebrew Academy/Feinstone Yeshiva of the South (Pre K3 – 12th and visit the city’s historic sights.

Memphis is well known as a tourist attraction – 600,000 people come yearly to visit Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley. Sun Studio, The Gibson Guitar Factory and Beale Street are also popular for music fans, as is the National Civil Rights Museum for history buffs. It is not as well known, however, that Memphis boasts an extremely vibrant Jewish community, including four Orthodox synagogues with dynamic rabbis, an Orthodox day school, and a bustling JCC. Additionally, Memphis is atypical in that all of Grade), explore the newly renovated Memphis Jewish Community Center, the city’s Jewish organizations collaborate with each other. “There is a unity among all the Jews in Memphis that is truly unique and can be largely attributed to the JCC, which is central in the lives of many Jews, observant and non-observant, especially those with young children,” said Chana Nelson, who moved to Memphis with her family in 2007.


Not only does the community in Memphis present a cohesive and welcoming atmosphere for any Jew, the city lends itself to a relaxed, stress-free lifestyle. Drs. Ari and Lindi VanderWalde moved to Memphis one year ago from Los Angeles, CA. When asked what they like best about Memphis, they responded:

It is the rare city where one can experience both small-town perks and an exceptional Jewish community, complete with choices of schools, synagogues and activities. The pace of life is slow and easy and very family friendly. There is an abundance of outdoor space and the kids are able to both explore and play safely. Protecting family time is a cultural value in the city—the workday ends comparatively early for even the busiest professionals. People are friendly, accommodating and genuinely care about each other. And traffic is now a thing of the past!

Memphis offers an abundance of diverse opportunities in educational, cultural, and social activities while also extending the warm southern hospitality for which it has become famous. Visitors and new Memphians are immediately embraced by the community. Rachel and Steven Schwartzberg moved to Memphis from New York in 2011. They recalled that “People were clamoring to meet us when we moved in and we didn’t eat Shabbos lunch at home for the first 6 months we lived here! This is certainly not the experience most of our friends had when they moved to other communities in larger cities.”

New families to Memphis find that not only is there a plethora of wonderful activities and attractions for children, they are also all very accessible. Rachel and Dr. Joel Siegel moved to Memphis ten years ago from Manhattan and now have four children. They stated, “We love all of the kid friendly places to go in Memphis. The JCC is our favorite destination and our home away from home with our kids. There, our children play on numerous sports teams, spend hours at the amazing water park, hang out with friends, paint in the art room, watch performances in the theater and attend numerous other programs. Besides the JCC, we also enjoy the Memphis Zoo, the new biking trail, the Shelby Farms playground and the FedEx Forum for events such as Monster Jam, Disney on Ice and Grizzlies basketball games.”

Memphis is the ideal destination for an Orthodox Jewish family looking for a place to live with a fantastic quality of life and all of the Jewish amenities. We hope that you will visit the community for our recruitment Shabbaton on the weekend of November 1st and see for yourself. Please visit or contact us at or 901-219-9794 for more information. Generous subsidies are available for flights to Memphis for the recruitment weekend as well as for relocation costs.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.