August 17, 2021

Growth of Kosher in Texas Credited to Haifa Born “Shaliach”

Houston, Tx…Nathan Herzog of Royal Wines/Kedem who does a good deal of travel around the country to visit kosher stores was “totally amazed” what he found in the flagship kosher store of H.E.B. “It really felt like I was in Brooklyn,” said Herzog. Much of the kosher success at H.E.B. is due to the hard work of Levy Donin. Born in Haifa, Israel, he married a girl from Crown Heights, the neighborhood of the Chabad/Lubavitch headquarters. His first stint at kosher was with an uncle who opened Kosher Paradise in London. After his marriage, Levy worked as a mashgiach for the Orthodox Union (OU) at Albertson’s in Houston which subsequently folded. Seeing his impressive skills at organizing kosher at Albertson’s, he was approached by the H.E.B. chain which many credit with being one of the best supermarket chains in the US. Trained by H.E.B. as a store manager, Donin remembers the flagship kosher store at Meyerland “when it had only a 4-foot kosher section.” He underplays his humble beginnings at H.E.B. with the fledgling kosher community. “I knew every every Orthodox family in town at that time, and they were either a member of the UOS, Young Israel or Chabad synagogue,” Levi recalls.

After 16 years, the store he worked so hard to build was flooded. In 2020, the store was completely rebuilt and emerged as a showcase kosher store. The 105,000 square foot store features a bakery on premises, offering 17 different types of bread daily. The store has 3 full time mashgichim and is certified by the Houston Kashrus Association and Lubavitch. Kosher customers can enjoy the selection of the extensive meat and takeout sections. To avoid flooding, the store has a second floor, including a kosher cafeteria with an assortment of sandwiches. Most impressively, it has an extensive kosher wine selection. More than 2000 wines are displayed at various price levels, up to $2600 a bottle. When Shabbos comes, there is an extensive floral selection. Levy will preside over building a kosher section that H.E.B.  is planning in a new store and a new Dallas store looms as well for Levi.

Most impressive is the growth of the Jewish and kosher community in Houston. It is estimated that there are 51,000 Jewish persons living in 26,000 Jewish households in Houston. It has become a destination for young couples looking for cheap housing and plenty of job opportunities.