Have We Forgotten That We're in Galus?

The landmark position handed down by the NY State government jeopardizes not only the livelihoods of real estate owners, but also that of the many service-providers within the industry. Mishpacha’s reporting on the legislation drew significant feedback with varied perspectives.
In response, Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger raised the question about the appropriate attitude of Jews in Galus, and what the panic surrounding this issue tells us about ourselves and our priorities.
 What do you think? Join the conversation below. 


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Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger |
July 28, 2019
LAST UPDATED 5 years ago

Comments (16)

  1. Avatar

    What a fantastic article, Rabbi Neuberger. You put so well into words a lot of how I feel about these issues.
    This topic deserves an entire section where we self reflect and consider where we’re going as a society – how self centered, narcissistic and spoiled we’ve become. I don’t mean this to G-d forbid say bad about us or who we are – but it would seem that we have lost our priorities.
    It seems clear to me that on a macro scale, we are leveraging our religion as a means to what we want – a true corruption of the intent. Its very nuanced – for example I had a very privileged upbringing, but I think I clearly understood the difference between what was “frumkeit” and what was “privileged life”.
    Our community faces so much pain and challenges, from income to cost of living. Our pursuit of silliness wrapped in religious overtones (or in the case of this article, undertones), causes real damage. And our lack of presence, means we’re distracted from solving these issues – and from what really matters.

    1. Avatar
      Avrohom Neuberger

      To Dovid and Shmilfke,
      Your points are so valid. It seems to me that the very traits that have contributed to our collective success – savvy, smarts, creativity and ambition – when not tempered with the three hallmarks of yiras shamayim: rachmanim bayshanim and gomlei chasadim, are themselves generators of chillul hashem.

      Exhibit A: Note how many of those accused by the #metoo movement, were Jews. Without Torah, and without working on developing the characteristics of yiras shamayim, our talents can themselves generate a chillul hashem.

      Noblesse oblige.

  2. Avatar

    I never understood the problem with the new real estate laws, and certainly not the “anti Jewish” angle of them.
    In most of the civilized world, similar rules have existed for years. It’s insane that landlords can jack up prices on pretty much a whim, and force people who’ve set up their lives in an area to pack up (which is costly itself) and restart their lives elsewhere. How is trying to change that “anti Jewish”?

    Even worse, by claiming it’s anti-Jewish, you are making Jews look really bad. Jews should not be publicly announcing that they want the rights to jack up rents. By the way, many renters are Jews too. There are probably 20 times as many Jewish renters as there are Jewish landlords.

  3. Avatar

    Come on…have a heart. Peoples parnassa is affected, and this is no time to preach. Feel for them. Many many people are in real trouble now.

    1. Avatar

      Umm…. and maybe have a heart for families whose rent could get jacked up at any minute, forcing them to move out and completely restart their lives in a new place?

  4. Avatar

    I believe this sense of too much comfort in galus is something that has been creeping into our society slowly. We have come to think that the streets, wherever we live, belong to us. We are allowed to walk four or five abreast and expect whoever (Jew or non-Jew) walks in the opposite direction to be the ones to move aside, even if there is no more space. How can we expect our children to know that if they are playing in the street and a person wants to walk by, they need to make space — if a few mothers are standing in the street with their strollers and don’t move aside either?
    If we feel that we can double park, pass a red light, or transgress other laws, and if we get a ticket we can say “it’s anti-Semitism,” something is very wrong.What happened to “dina d’malchusa dina”? We really need to educate our children how we need to be “machniah” ourselves to the umos haolam and how to interact with them.
    Rabbi Neuberger has brought many points out really well, and I would like to see this subject discussed at much greater length.

    1. Avatar
      Avrohom Neuberger

      I once personally witnessed a most grievous example of your point regarding charges of “anti-semitsim” – when we, in fact, act unlawfully.
      A “chareidi” fellow had illegally parked in a handicap spot, leaving no other spot available. An elderly, handicapped, non-Jew was thus forced to wait until the unlawful parker finished shopping and came out of the store to vacate the spot. The elderly non-Jew chastised the fellow, and the latter, instead of apologizing, went on the offensive, accusing the elderly man of being an anti-Semite. This set the old man off. Trembling with anger he hobbled over to the Jew and pointed a gnarled finger in his face.
      “How dare you accuse me of being an anti-Semite? I fought in WWII, risking my life, and personally liberated your people from the concentration camps! How dare you!”
      Indeed. How dare we.

  5. Avatar
    R. P.

    Well said, Rabbi Neuberger!
    Sixteen years ago we lived in an out-of-town community, and I was the only visibly frum Jew working in an organization of 12,000 employees. (There were a couple of other frum Jews working there who did not wear yarmulkes to work.) I was constantly being put on the defensive by non-Jews relating incidents where they felt slighted by Jews. These incidents almost always involved flashy displays of wealth.
    B’kitzur, we moved to Eretz Yisrael. That Kli Yakar you cited should be printed up and laminated and posted in every shul in chutz l’Aretz. Yasher koyach!

  6. Avatar

    I have rented three chassan-kallah apartments for three of my children in the last few years in a neighborhood where apartments were very hard to come by. After begging and finally being the lucky recipient of the much coveted apartment, the deal went as follows. In addition to one month’s rent and one month’s security deposit, there was a one month’s finder’s fee for the management. What for, I wondered. Their answer: “The privilege of renting the apartment from us.”
    When it came to repairs, we, the parents of the future kollel couple, replaced the dilapidated kitchen. We also replaced the leaky, moldy bathroom. “Where’s the paint job apartment buildings generally provide?” we asked. “You don’t want our paint job,” we were told, “it’s really shoddy. Hire your own painter and we’ll provide a credit of $300.00.” For the record, it costs about $2,500 to paint a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.
    When it comes to maintenance, the hallways are not swept, forget about the floors being washed. Light bulbs in the hallway are not replaced, and the garbage disposal room permanently reeks. How often is the elevator out of order? How often is the boiler broken? What about the marijuana-smoking supers… or the “I’ll look into it” response from the management office when a complaint is lodged… I can go on. No need.
    Others may say the rent control laws are terrible, but there will be no crocodile tears from me.

  7. Avatar
    Noah Klein, Detroit

    Reading about the draconian rent control laws recently applied in New York is infuriating and their consequences (both intended and unintended) for tenants, landlords, brokers, and tradesman is heartbreaking.
    However, as a Master Plumber working in Metro Detroit, I can at least offer some advice to the tradesman: move to Detroit! Michigan’s licensing and trade laws are sensible and easy to understand. Furthermore, the demand for skilled workers far exceeds what the current population can currently provide. Add this to a warm kehillah, wonderful yeshivos and affordable housing, and it’s a win/win.

  8. Avatar

    Mr. Donn gives the somewhat misleading impression that virtually no frum Jews will benefit from the more tenant-friendly laws, given that “just one building in Boro Park” is rent stabilized. He seems to have overlooked — inadvertently, I assume — the hundreds of apartments in neighborhoods such as Washington Heights that are subject to rent stabilization laws. Thousands of frum Jews, many of them kollel families or graduate students operating on tight budgets, call these apartments home.
    The last thing one of us wants to hear is that management is undertaking an MCI (Major Capital Improvement) that allows for a 6% rent increase after the lease already is signed, especially given that they often do not lead to any material increase in our quality of life. These rent hikes basically cannot be planned for and can upset all of our careful budget planning.
    How can a family know if the husband needs to give up night seder to take a side job or if his wife can afford to work only part-time if they may face significant rent increases without much notice? We know of one kollel family that saw a rent increase of over 300 dollars per month in just three years of living in their two-bedroom apartment, mostly due to MCIs undertaken by their frum landlord.
    It may be that the net effect of the new legislation on Klal Yisrael is negative. But the issue is not as black-and-white as Mr. Donn’s piece makes it seem. A more balanced approach would be appreciated.

  9. Avatar
    A Rebbe's Wife

    I found the article on the recent NY Landlord laws to be completely unbalanced. For those of us in chinuch, without wealthy families to support us, our small precious incomes are disproportionally spent on rent.
    These new laws appear to help offset that imbalance. We live in a free market capitalist country that we value; however these landlords are the ones who set the tone for what’s in style, what we all are pushing to “keep up with,” and they are making their money on these high rents that drain our resources. We can’t afford all these fancy camp extras and matching outfits for our large families, inconsequential luxuries that are socially enforced as necessities by these hyper-wealthy landlords, because the rent is so high.
    It doesn’t seem unreasonable that we should be protected — and that the super-rich might just need to settle for being “rich.”

    1. Avatar
      A Landlord's Wife

      Dear Kollel Family and Rebbi’s wife,
      I read your comments with much interest. Why, might you ask. Well, let me introduce myself. Hi, I’m Landlord’s Wife. Please let me share with you a few perspectives that you may have missed.
      1. You reference “hyper-wealthy,” “super-rich” landlords. What comes to mind is those who yacht across the world, dripping in diamonds and designer clothing from head to toe. Do such people exist? Probably. However, I haven’t met any of them. And they certainly aren’t the norm.
      The norm are those who rise before the crack of dawn to daven and be on the road to their properties before getting snarled in New York City traffic. They work in sometimes dangerous, high-crime neighborhoods. They deal with hostile tenants, and sometimes even more hostile NYC violations officers. They’re in airless boiler rooms in the summer, and ice-cold slippery rooftops in the winter.
      Why do they do this? Because they share the same goals as everyone else: to provide a decent, respectable parnassah for their families, and have the zechus to support their yeshivos and mosdos. They do it so they can help a friend who’s fallen on hard times, discreetly support a neighbor going through a medical crisis, and help a rebbi make a simchah. They do it so that they can pay full school and camp tuition and make dinner donations, enabling those institutions to grant scholarships to those less fortunate or who have dedicated their lives to harbatzas haTorah.
      I think it goes without saying that the Yiddishe response is genuine acknowledgment, and certainly not labeling and animosity.
      2. I am no expert, but we all have a general understanding of how money works: People work in order to make a living. Some people earn more, others less. Until two weeks ago, landlords made a living despite already strict regulations. That has officially stopped. NY City is now demanding that landlords operate and continue to improve their buildings without making any money. Now you’re lucky if you can just break even. Many landlords fear that they can’t.
      When you can’t make money, you can’t improve 100 year-old-buildings. You can’t sell properties and certainly wouldn’t think of buying any. You can’t pay your mortgages. Foreclosures become widespread chas v’shalom.
      The basic parnassah of thousands of frum Yidden is threatened by this: landlords, contractors, plumbers, real estate brokers, mortgage brokers, attorneys, accountants, banks. The list is much longer.
      And it trickles down to everyone. If thousands of Yidden can’t pay their bills, NY City suffers, banks that extend mortgages suffer, and most importantly, mosdos suffer.
      That’s right, dear kollel family and rebbi’s wife: your mosdos have probably already felt the hit of this new crisis in just two short weeks. While you’re celebrating that your housing costs are not going up, understand that your salaries are now threatened.
      3. The tone that permeates your response seems to be one of animosity, an “us vs. them” or “poor vs. rich.” May I ask why? You’ve chosen a beautiful, meaningful life both in Olam Hazeh and in Olam Haba. Embrace it. Be proud of it. Empower your children by teaching them that we yearn to live a life of keeping up with what brings nachas ruach to the Ribbono shel Olam.
      As in all generations past, the anti-Semitic, socialist legislators who passed these regulations don’t distinguish between you and me. They don’t even have your best interests at heart. They have signed and sealed a gezeirah that affects Klal Yisrael as a whole. If they can generalize us all together, maybe it’s time we learn from them and do the same.
      I end with prayers for abundant parnassah for all.

    2. Avatar

      It is very sad and unfortunate that you do not appreciate the absolutely devastating impact of these laws and that they will seriously harm everyone, including people in chinuch and kollel, to a degree far greater than whatever rent increases they may now have avoided.
      The actual fact is that the value of almost all the affected (rent-stabilized) buildings has declined overnight to such a degree that many are worth less than the mortgages on those buildings. So we are not talking “rich” but rather foreclosure or bankruptcy or both. It is not a stretch to predict that, unfortunately, a surprising number of those who were previously so generous with their charitable giving may themselves now need assistance.
      In addition, there will now be a drastic decline in the number and value of sale transactions because no owner will sell — unless they are forced to sell by the mortgage-holder, or unless they decide to sell in a desperate effort to get rid of NY real estate at any cost. In addition, the new laws remove virtually any financial incentive for building-owners to improve and renovate their buildings. All this will negatively impact a variety of trades and professions dependent on real estate activity, including real estate brokers, mortgage brokers, bankers, attorneys, contractors, and architects, resulting in great financial pain to so many, including frum people.
      And even that is not the end of the story. As a result of the predicted drastic decline in the volume and value of sale transactions, State, and local governments will lose many billions of dollars in transfer tax and other revenues. The letter writers can be certain that these governments will replace their lost revenues by higher taxes, which will affect everyone.
      The socialists in our local and state governments made sure that Amazon would not expand into NY and, in doing so, sent a clear signal to every other large corporation contemplating a major move into NY that they are not welcome here. The new rent laws will now have the effect of chasing the real estate community out of NY, severely impacting the economy.
      If there are any tenants who think the new rent laws are tenant-friendly, they will not have to wait too long to learn the bitter truth. Good luck to all of us.

    3. Avatar

      “A Rebbi’s Wife” bemoans the disproportionate amount of income spent by kollel and chinuch families on their rent.
      I am not a landlord, but I make my parnassah by servicing the real estate industry. Due to the new laws, landlords have stopped all future improvements to their properties, and made a simple calculation: if they can’t make a return on their investment, they will not spend money on improvements. Did you stop to think about the hundreds, if not thousands, of families who service the real estate industry that are now left with no parnassah at all — not even a rebbi’s salary?!
      Now, all of the plumbers, electricians, contractors, kitchen, window, flooring companies, etc. who’ve been told by the landlords that they have no more business for them are letting go of their employees. How are all these families supposed to pay any rent — or tuition to pay the rebbi’s salary, for that matter?
      Furthermore, these families — unlike those in chinuch — have to pay medical insurance, which often is more than rent. They’re mostly middle-class, large families and, unlike people in chinuch, aren’t entitled to medical insurance subsidies.
      To the claim that “these landlords are the ones who set the tone for what’s in style,” and set a certain social pressure for matching outfits and camp extras: Whether or not the “hyper-wealthy” are responsible for the these feelings or need to “keep up with” these social standards is a discussion in and of itself. But let’s say that this analysis is correct, and that it’s all the “fault” of the hyper-wealthy. Are the “hyper-wealthy” limited to NY landlords? Are there no “hyper-wealthy” people in the nursing home industry, stock market, commercial real estate, retail market — or landlords outside of NY? Is a change in New York rent laws going to change the tone for what’s in style, and what we all are pushing to “keep up with”?
      Let’s face it, hyper-wealthy landlord has enough money to maintain his lifestyle for many generations to come. However, that very same landlord will stop investing money in his building, and his units will continue to deteriorate, and the tenants will be the ones who suffer.
      It is this narrow-minded way of thinking that caused this sea-change in the rent laws. The people fought for these changes are thinking only of themselves and the here-and-now, without realizing the long-term effect this will have on their lives. The reality is that the real losers here are the tenants — not the hyper-wealthy landlords.

      1. Avatar
        Yaakov H.

        I feel terrible for all the families whose parnassah is being affected by the new laws. Having gone through ups, downs, and serious financial losses, my heart goes out to them. Nonetheless, this doesn’t excuse the patronizing tone of the responses and the mistaken assumptions they’re based upon.
        Both of you seemed to assert that since they somehow help support the families of the rebbeim and yungeleit in kollel and their institutions, the tenants shouldn’t be complaining about the high rent. Either way you look at it, this is wrong.
        From a spiritual perspective, these families are giving up their financial security to help pass on our mesorah. We owe them much more than we can ever give them. Chazal teach that the Aron, the vessel that held the Torah, carried its bearers. These people are our aron today; they are supporting us. If we can’t afford to support them respectably, at least we should give them the credit and honor they deserve.
        From a financial perspective, as well, you’re being completely unfair. Rebbeim are completely underpaid, and they work very hard. A rebbi has to go through years of yeshivah plus more training to qualify for a job at one of our schools. They definitely don’t owe us anything, even if you pay full tuition. And even assuming that these landlords donate money to their children’s schools, it’s just a fraction of the money they make by raising the rent.
        Had you complained that the amount of frum landlords and contractors far outnumber the families losing out from the new laws, that would have been a fair point (if this is true). However, there are definitely two sides to this coin. Even if overall this law is bad for our community, at least these struggling families — to whom we owe so much — can now breathe easier.

Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger is the rav of Congregation Shaarei Tefillah of New Hempstead and the author of Positive Vision, a Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation project (Artscroll\Mesorah)

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