July 10, 2005

AHA! JEWS ARE CAUSING THE HOUSING BUBBLE TOO!:

When faith, real estate converge: In Sharon, an eruv boosts house prices (Sarah Schweitzer, May 29, 2005, Boston Globe)

They are both 1950s-era ranch houses, snug dwellings with three bedrooms, hardwood floors, and each with a fireplace. They are within a block of one another.

But it is a block that in Sharon can mean thousands of dollars difference in price. For these two homes, the difference is $25,000.

In a convergence of real estate and religion, home values in Sharon are determined not only by school quality, waterfront views, and commuter rail proximity. There is the added factor of a home's positioning in or out of the symbolic enclosure known as an eruv, defined in Judaic religious law as an area where observant Jews are freed from the Sabbath prohibition on carrying items -- whether a prayer book or a baby.

The added price of a home in the eruv is considered by many observant Jews in Sharon a built-in cost of faith, akin to paying more for kosher foods or private Jewish day schools. But in a heated real estate market, the eruv is a pocket-buster for some, adding as much as 10 percent to the price of a home, according to realtors, particularly if the home is close to the synagogue.

''I call it the eruv factor," said Seth Stollman, a Sharon realtor who specializes in properties located within the eruv.

For observant Jews, a home within the eruv can greatly improve the quality of life. Because the eruv is considered a communal extension of the home, within it they are allowed to push a baby carriage, carry food to friends' homes, or tote a diaper bag. Outside, observant Jews are not allowed to do these things, which requires them to deposit baby carriages inside the eruv line or deliver food to friends' homes before the Sabbath starts.

The eruv does not release observant Jews from the broader prohibition against work on the Sabbath, meaning they may not drive, turn on lights, or cook.

Observant families say they gladly pay the higher price for a home within the boundaries.

''It is a must for us," said Howard Goldfischer, a pediatric neuropsychologist who lives in Minneapolis and is considering relocating to Sharon with his wife and three children, the youngest of whom is 5 months old. ''If we want to walk to synagogue or to a friend's home, the eruv is crucial."

Economists say that mentality is driving up the prices of real estate within an eruv, in Sharon as well as elsewhere across the country in cities that have erected the demarcation.


One of the benefits of living near an Orthodox temple was the pocket change you could pick up as a shabbas goy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 10, 2005 3:25 PM
Comments

If its Orthodox, it is not a temple, and if it is a Temple it is not Orthodox.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at July 10, 2005 3:53 PM

This has been going on in the NY Metro Area for about 2 decades. In my area of Bergen County, one of the weirder aspects is the animosity people in the Reform temples feel for the Orthodox arrivals. I've heard language to describe the Orthodox that I wouldn't use to describe people I don't like, just to give you some idea. Since the Orthodox don't use the public schools, sending their kids to religious ones, they are in favor of vouchers and against bigger and better school budgets for the public schools. Reform Jews in the NY Metro Area take the necessity of quality public education as essentially an article of religious faith. Local races, State Assembly and Town Council, feature Orthodox candidates running for the GOP.

And I'm sure OJ would like to know that the Orthodox appear to all have large (5+ children) families.

Posted by: bart at July 10, 2005 3:57 PM

They hate the Orthodox because they are a constant rebuke.

Posted by: oj at July 10, 2005 4:02 PM

Ever read 'The Zaddik' bart?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 10, 2005 4:02 PM

I hear one of the most encouraging results of all this is that it is leading to a renewed interest in interfaith dialogue.

Posted by: Peter B at July 10, 2005 4:21 PM

Harry,

No I haven't but it sounds interesting.

OJ,

I would not say it is a rebuke but is instead for us Reform Jews two other things.

First, it appears as a kind of cognitive dissonance. Economic and social advancement in America and elsewhere has always required Jews to abandon much of our distinctive customs and behavior. To keep one's head covered, to wear tzitzis, to wear dresses with sleeves, to wear wigs, to wear a beard, keeping Kashrut, remaining Sabbath observant were all seen as backward habits we needed to drop if we wanted to improve our lot in the Diaspora. And ambitious Jews have more or less done this for about 2 centuries. We always knew about Orthodox Jews. They were our grandparents, they were the people just off the boat, they really didn't understand what it meant to be American or French or German or Canadian or Australian for that matter.

In the last few decades it has been possible to gain all the necessary requirements for professional and financial advancement without compromising one's Jewishness. There are plenty of Orthodox people on medical school faculties, law school faculties, IB firms, etc and in the future that number will increase rather than decrease. Kosher food at Ivy League schools would have been unthinkable in the 50s. This new reality flies in the face of everything we Reform Jews have been taught, at home and in shul, since forever.

Second, there is a definite 'shonda fur die Goyim' factor. "I mean, look at them, they dress funny, they talk with accents, their wives have tons of kids and wear frumpish clothing, they lack basic decorum, they push and shove in line, etc." There is a genuine concern that the non-Jewish community will lump us together with them, and that will not inure to our advantage. My parents worked hard to speak unaccented English, I worked at it, and we've spent much of our lives adapting to the non-Jewish world. We may not get the music but we generally get the notes right. "And here you have these bozos walking around in costumes like this is 19th century Poland, and sounding like Jackie Mason." What up wid dat?

Posted by: bart at July 10, 2005 4:58 PM

Question from a non-Jew, if there is no limit on the size of an eruv, why can't the dispensation be widened to include the whole country. Make everybody feel comfortable no matter where they are.

When my parents first moved to a row house in Queens, New York from the ethnic enclave in Manhattan, our next door neighbors were Orthodox Jews. We were Eastern Orthodox Christians. My mother barely out of her teens didn't speak a word of English and Mrs. Mercer, the matronly woman, next door sounded like Jackie Mason on steroids.

They didn't know any better so they became the best of friends and for at least 30 years until she died and her surviving husband dutifully married her widowed sister as Jewish law proscribes and moved away, my mother took care of the Sabbath duties for her and she had us over and plied us kids with fabulous treats once in a while so my mother could have a day with the girls.

Now that the old neighborhood is full of yuppies and the houses are worth over half a mil, they're called town houses.


Posted by: erp at July 10, 2005 6:13 PM

There is the added factor of a home's positioning in or out of the symbolic enclosure known as an eruv, defined in Judaic religious law as an area where observant Jews are freed from the Sabbath prohibition on carrying items -- whether a prayer book or a baby.

Because the eruv is considered a communal extension of the home, within it they are allowed to push a baby carriage, carry food to friends' homes, or tote a diaper bag. Outside, observant Jews are not allowed to do these things, which requires them to deposit baby carriages inside the eruv line or deliver food to friends' homes before the Sabbath starts.

The eruv does not release observant Jews from the broader prohibition against work on the Sabbath, meaning they may not drive, turn on lights, or cook.

One of the benefits of living near an Orthodox temple was the pocket change you could pick up as a shabbas goy.

This is the kind of stuff that non-religionists think of when contemplating religion - the things that make God appear demented, and religionists hypocrites.

If it's not OK to murder someone, is it OK to hire someone to kill for you, even if it's a bad person who is surely going to Hades anyway ?

How about hiring them to turn on the lights God told you not to turn on ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at July 10, 2005 6:58 PM

Bart:

Thank-you, that was very moving. But they did keep the flame burning, didn't they, and at a cost? Do you regret that they did? One of the most heatening things of late is that, even up here, observant Jews and Evangelical Christians are joining forces and making alliances and friends. That's got to be one of the happiest stories in two thousand years, not to mention fodder for dynamite comedy.

Michael:

This is the kind of stuff non-religionists think of when contemplating religion.

Yes, one of the challenges the modern religious face is to learn not to give a d--n what the non-religious think and to invite them much more quickly to all go outside and play in the traffic.

Posted by: Peter B at July 10, 2005 7:29 PM

to invite them much more quickly to all go outside and play in the traffic."

And that feeling should be mutual. If you are going to believe in a religion (or a non-religion) that has arbitrary and capricious rules, like those described above, don't force the majority non-believers to make accomodations to your behavior, and don't whine about being a victim when they don't.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at July 10, 2005 8:04 PM

Raoul:

Hey, I'm happy to deal. Long live democracy and the equal worth of everyone. But the idea that religious beliefs and precepts should be expressed with a view to impressing the non-religious with their cogency and sophistication is an idea whose time is time to go.

Posted by: Peter B at July 10, 2005 8:43 PM

Peter,

Thanks but I meant to be more explanatory than poignant.

The thing that bothers me is the internecine warfare among the various Jewish communities, especially here and in Israel. When the Orthodox wanted to put an eruv up in Tenafly, the Reform were the ones leading the fight against it. My general take is that all Jews whether Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, Hasidic, Reconstructionist, Sephardic, Ashkenazi, Mizrahi, Falasha, Haredi, or even Messianic and Atheist should understand that what binds us together is far more important than what separates us. If we do not hang together we will all hang separately, and G-d knows we've seen that in the last couple of millenia. The only exception I make is for anti-Zionist Jews whether Satmar or Marxist because they really have set themselves up as traitors to the community and deserve the fate that of any other traitor.

The ability of religious folks to cross denominational lines one would have thought inviolate is one of the great feel-good stories of modern times. It also throws a complete monkey wrench into the notion that if one is religious one must necessarily be intolerant of others.

Raoul,

It all depends. A simple ribbon on utility poles around a geographical zone is hardly an imposition on anyone else. But what about traffic? The world headquarters of the Lubavitch movement is at 770 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Eastern Parkway is a amjor thoroughfare in the area, like Broadway or Fifth Avenue. The Lubavitch wanted the block around their HQ closed to traffic during Shabbos. Others protested. A compromise was reached where the service road of Eastern Parkway in front of the HQ is closed but not the rest of the avenue.

I tend to think that adults can puzzle this stuff out so long as they remember that others have rights too. And if they don't remember that, public officials should not be reticent about reminding them.

Posted by: bart at July 10, 2005 9:23 PM

bart:

I hope you don't mind me inquiring about this, but you described yourself above as a Reform Jew and yet in other posts I believe you've called yourself an unbeliever or perhaps an agnostic. I'm curious as to how you ultimately classify yourself.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at July 11, 2005 12:08 AM

Matt,

Frankly, I'm not sure. I'm comfortable with Reform ritual and, for want of a better term, 'traditional Reform' doctrine, and am extremely unhappy about the trend in the URJ to move towards a Jewish variant of namby-pamby do-whatever-feels-right theology one sees from the National Council of Churches.

I don't believe in an imminent deity though. I find it hard to accept the notion that there is a divine being dispensing justice when one looks at the world as it is and has been for at least 5000 years of recorded history. By the same token, atheism requires a similar leap of faith that one needs to believe in an imminent deity, except in the opposite direction.

The best sense I have is that I accept the notion of 'an uncaused first cause', a notion that many of the Founding Fathers like Jefferson and Franklin certainly believed as well as some of the more relevant thinkers of the time like Locke and Hume.

Posted by: bart at July 11, 2005 9:10 AM

bart:

Ah, I see, so I wasn't misunderstanding things. Thanks.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at July 11, 2005 4:24 PM

erp: The eruv has a physical manifestation (usually some sort of wire strung around the area) so it can't be unlimited and, as Bart suggests, permissions are necessary to set it up.

I have Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox relatives. Basically, they don't consider me Jewish. When it comes up, they're amazed that I can read Hebrew.

Posted by: David Cohen at July 11, 2005 6:50 PM
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