Why Come to Des Moines?
By Rabbi David Kaufman

Increasingly, I am seeing articles written about Jewish young adults going to the coasts. They flock to New York, where they pay $3,000-5,000 per month for a small apartment or pay $1,000-1,500 a month for a share of a small apartment. Often, they have to commute for an hour or more each way to and from work. Do you realize that that is 520 hours of commuting time or more during the course of a year. 260 work days times 2 hours a day equals 520 hours. That comes out to almost 22 full days and if you subtract eight hours of sleep per night and look at 16 hour functional days, it comes out to over 32. If I were to simply say that this was true in New York, I would be mistaken. Hour plus commutes are the norm for many young adults in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, and many of those other “highly desirable” coastal cities.

My commute is six minutes, none of it on the highway. For quite a bit less than $1,000 a month mortgage payment you could get a $150,000 house , 3000 plus square feet with a two car garage and in an excellent neighborhood with great public schools, some of the best in the nation, which can save you $10,000-20,000 a year per child in tuition. See Next Generation Realty , Iowa Realty, Realtor.com among other sites for examples of housing prices. Your yard, yes you can have one here, may even have a multitude of trees! For you New Yorkers, trees are those green things that you see in Central Park. Even young couples starting out their careers can afford a nice house here! $40,000-60,000 salary in Des Moines will get you a nice place to live, some spending money, and pay off your student loans quicker than $80,000-100,000 in New York. For those of you who are working 80-100 hours a week to get that $80,000-100,000 salary, not including your 10 hours per week of commuting time, what good is it living in a place when you can do so much in your free time. What free time?

Here you can go to business breakfasts and lunches with friends and associates. Why? Because it takes less than ten minutes to get just about anywhere and while we do not have thousands of restaurants for you to choose from, those we do have are quite good. We have Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Mexican, Tex-Mex and numerous other ethnic food restaurants. Here you can get a superb meal for less than $10, even for dinner.

Of course, our meals are better because we have the best meat, Iowa raised, and extremely fresh farm produce. There are also wonderful vegetarian restaurants and menus in town. Plus, we have some coffee houses that would easily rival the best on the coasts. Check out Zanzibars and Java Joes among others. There is even a vibrant gay and lesbian community in Des Moines. Our annual Art Fair on the river walk downtown is ranked in the top ten nationally. The Des Moines Opera is renown for its excellence, , and we have a great Civic Center housing our symphony orchestra and hosting numerous Broadway Plays as well as concerts.

With Drake, Des Moines University, Simpson College, American Institute of Business and Grand View College in metro Des Moines, and Grinnell College and Iowa State fairly close, those of you who like a collegiate atmosphere can get it here.

We have some of the best air quality in the nation, many long and beautiful bicycle trails , a top notch art museum, a great zoo, an excellent botanical garden , a fun science center and a real downtown that you can actually walk around in and not feel afraid on a skywalk connecting most of the buildings. Of course, we also have a fantastic new mall that rivals the best in the nation, Jordan Creek Town Center. But who needs to shop in a mall when you have fantastic farmer’s markets and Valley Junction’s shops! Then again, you have not seen anything until you’ve been to the Iowa State Fair.

For Jews, Des Moines also has a lot to offer. We have vibrant Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox congregations with a substantial population of 20s and 30s, particularly at Temple B’nai Jeshurun (see our RUACH Group), the Reform congregation, where outreach to young adults and interfaith families is of prime importance. We pride ourselves on making you feel welcome. The Jewish community just constructed a beautiful new community center and our Jewish Federation is wonderful.

You’re right though, if you want to live in a hovel, walk to the subway and ride or sit in traffic for an hour to get to your social life, you’re not going to like living here. Here your life is only a few minutes away. Play there, Live Here. Come to Des Moines.

-Rabbi David Jay Kaufman