Friday, March 05, 2021

I was saddened to read letters last week in which writers suggested that families leave the community if it becomes too expensive (“A Different Perspective,” May 14, 2020; “Be Happy With What You Have,” May 14, 2020). These writers seem to lack empathy for those who might have lived in this area their entire lives, who moved here because of a degree of material modesty that is slowly eroding or for those who have simply fallen on hard times. That these letters were published during the week of Parshat Behar is particularly disappointing, as the mitzvah of Yovel is central to the parsha. The mitzvah of Yovel literally says, “if a family has to sell their home because they have financial stress, they should eventually have their property returned to them.” Do we need clearer proof that Judaism recognizes the spiritual benefits of permanent property ownership? Do we need clearer proof that the Torah demands the community help bear the burden of individuals’ financial hardships?

Of course people should try their hardest to overcome financial problems. Of course families should consider what they can afford when choosing a community. I just have a hard time saying that thriving Jewish communities should only be for those who can currently afford it.

To be fair, I agree there is much up for discussion about to what degree people can demand conformity from others. Perhaps those who wrote letters last week were expressing frustration at the perception that many are demanding the community unilaterally adjust to their standards without compromise. Hopefully we can find a way to work on these matters to satisfy as many parties as realistically possible without making people feel guilty for living here.

Yair Daar