The Shmooze

For the Orthodox, Blurred Lines Between Private and Business Lives

By Michael Kaminer

  • Print
  • Share Share

Back in March, the Forward asked the Village Voice’s Elizabeth Dwoskin, who penned the weekly’s highly publicized New York’s Ten Worst Landlordsroundup, if there was anything that made Jews particularly bad property owners; Semites like Rabbi Moishe Indig, Vantage Properties’ Neil Rubler, and alleged Orthodox bully Jacob Bernat populated the list. At the time, Dwoskin said “there’s no big picture” around religion.

But Dwoskin herself raised a similar question in a Voice cover story this month. ‘How can a religious person justify being a slumlord?” blared the headline. One of the writers Dwoskin sought out for answers was Rabbi Jill Jacobs, the “rabbi in residence” at progressive activists Jewish Funds for Justice and author of “There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice through Jewish Law and Tradition” (2009). “A lot of [Jews] just bifurcate their lives,” she told Dwoskin in a pointed interview. “There is a difference in their head between their religious lives and their business lives.”

In today’s New York Daily News, Jacobs herself took to the editorial pages to explain the decision to – as she puts it – “air dirty laundry” in a secular newspaper. In an op-ed headlined “Jew or not, a crook’s a crook,” Jacobs notes that “in the Internet age, the boundary between public and private has largely disappeared. Jews no longer have secret conversations in Yiddish in the pages of the Forverts. Now, Jewish newspapers are accessible to anyone with a Web connection.”

And anyway, she writes, the “dirty laundry” of Jewish slumlords “is already public. Every time a man in a black hat and coat refuses to turn on the hot water, allows rats to run through an apartment building or ignores a city violation, his tenants make assumptions about Judaism. By telling a secular newspaper that Jewish law requires landlords to make their rental units habitable, I am simply publicizing a different interpretation of Judaism. I am not revealing secrets about Jewish slumlords - these slumlords have already revealed themselves.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Elizabeth Dwoskin, Jacob Bernat, Village Voice

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.