Q: As property prices skyrocket, do Jewish landlords and developers have a duty to put ethical principles ahead of profit?
Simon Rothstein says…
One of the best things about attending a Liberal Judaism biennial weekend was the chance to talk to people of all ages from all around the country.
When it came to socialising, however, there was one main topic of conversation – the crazy property market.
Whether it was our youth saving for their first flat, new parents looking to move to a bigger home or worried grandparents using their savings to help their loved ones – everyone was concerned about sky high house prices and rents.
Of course, it’s easy to make the connection that while many young Jews are losing out in the property market other older and richer Jews are doing very nicely.
Put frankly, what’s wrong with that? Property is a legitimate business that does good and making a profit is no crime.
This is especially true when many Jewish developers have used that profit to become leading philanthropists, donating and raising money for good causes.
The other reason I’m proud is that to show shame can feed into the most dangerous stereotype of the Jewish people, and one that has fed European anti-Semitism down the ages – that Jews make money from other people’s misery.
We must fight that libel as vigorously today as we did in the past – and be proud not ashamed of our success stories.
• Simon Rothstein is editor of Liberal Judaism’s bimonthly magazine LJ Today
- Ben Rich says…
For centuries, Jews have kept our assets ‘mobile’, holding what we own in cash, easily tradeable goods and skills and education, which retain their value in all the lands of our dispersion.
More than any other people, we should have learned from two millennia in the wilderness the difference between a house and a home. And it is perhaps this which, in turn, has led to what I regard as a Jewish obsession with bricks and mortar.
Since York Liberal Jewish Community announced its first service less than two months ago, I have been asked on a dozen occasions when we will be getting a building and how we will keep in secure.
It is hard to think of a substantial communal organisation without its own building project, while The Sunday Times Rich List is replete with Jewish developers making a turn on the property boom.
But if our history has taught us anything, it should be that any building of value must first be a safe haven, not a means for making money. We are about friends and mutual support, not steel girders.
And when Jews exploit the misery of others we need to remember we were once strangers in Egypt. Our own security must not be built on others’ insecurity, and I am embarrassed we so rarely recognise our own experiences in those now seeking a home in Britain.
• Ben Rich is founder of York Liberal Jewish Community