June 5, 2016 4:16 am at 4:16 am #617805
The following is an unauthorized excerpt from an article titled “Boondoks or Boon? A Perspective on Small-Town Rabbonus” by Rabbi Yisroel Miller, published in the most recent edition of the “Dialogue” journal:
“Because of shipping costs from New York to Western Canada, most frum periodicals are not available in Calagry. But my wife and others bring some back when we visit the States and we share them with others. When ba’aley teshuvah (or those still on the journey) read the magazines and ask me about them, can you guess which question makes me cringe?
(Hint: It is not “Why are there no pictures of Hillary Clinton?”)
The cringe-worthy question is, “Rabbi, it’s obvious that the readers of these magazines are frum, spiritual people. So why are all of the ads for the most expensive luxury items and vacations? And why would somebody who could afford to go to Israel for Sukkot go to China instead?”
You might simply dismiss the question as coming from someone who says “Sukkot” instead of “Sukkos”. But a small part of me is glad that we don’t have all of the big-city amenities in our little shtetl.”
Thoughts?June 5, 2016 5:44 am at 5:44 am #1154413Mashiach AgentMember
shame on klal yisroel on how low we have gotten in this world of pleasures filled with desire for every fancy tech & clothing to every fancy vacation & restaurant etc….
and then everyone wonders why they are broke & can’t afford to pay their childrens tuition & put food on the table R”L. isn,t it common sense that food clothing & tuition comes before 3 cars & 3 vacations a year?June 5, 2016 6:09 am at 6:09 am #1154414akupermaParticipant
Remember that any frum Jew can double or triple his/her disposable income by going off the derekh, whether that means moving from a cramped apartment in the city to a large home in the suburbs, or from a nice home in a frum suburb to a nice mansion, etc. Even the frum Jews who think they are very much into gashmius, are giving up most of their parnasah by being frum.June 5, 2016 6:35 am at 6:35 am #1154415catch yourselfParticipant
At the outset, I must say that I agree with the question. (More on this later.)
The final paragraph of the OP, however, struck me as rather offensive.
Why would I “simply dismiss” a reasonable question about my lifestyle as “simply coming from someone who says ‘Sukkot’ instead of ‘Sukkos’?”
The insinuation seems to be that “big-city” Jews who say “Sukkos” are not sufficiently honest with themselves for even the slightest introspection, that, in their arrogance, they would dismiss the question because they consider the one who posed it to be morally inferior due to some trifle detail in religious culture.
Those who dwell in the “shtetle”, on the other hand, apparently are of a higher caliber, and are spiritual enough to perceive the materialistic character of those “big-city amenities,” as well as to appreciate the perspective of those who say “Sukkot”.
Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but this is how it came across to me, and I resent the implication.
Now, it so happens that I, too, live in a small, “out of town” community, and I agree that the simpler lifestyle in my community is preferable to the materialism which has unfortunately crept into the lives of my brethren in the N.Y. / N.J. region. I do not understand why this has been allowed to happen, and I think that any objective observer would concur that it is unhealthy. This is part of the equation which led me to choose to raise my children in my present community, despite depriving them of the advantages of growing up “in town.”
That said, I must admit that if I would be living in such a community, I don’t know that I would have the moral clarity to recognize the slow trend towards materialism in my own lifestyle, let alone that of my community as a whole.June 5, 2016 6:56 am at 6:56 am #1154416
How are in-town Jews more materialistic than out-of-town Jews? It seems you can more readily find the McMansions in OOT communities than in in-town communities. Brooklyn and Lakewood has a lesser prevelance (%) of frum mansions than other Orthodox neighborhoods.June 5, 2016 9:49 am at 9:49 am #1154417lesschumrasParticipant
Joseph, while I agree with the first part of your comment, what is your source for the second part? I cant speak about Lakewood, but have you been in Brooklyn lately?June 5, 2016 11:18 am at 11:18 am #1154418
It might actually be cheaper to go to China than Israel. Ive seen 7 day trip to China for under $1000 including airfare , hotel and taking you around china
Israel you are lucky if you can get an airfare for less than $1000 unless you are willing to fly via Ukraine or Azerbajan and the hotels are expensive tooJune 5, 2016 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm #1154419
LC: That’s my impression. But if you agree that it isn’t less materialistic out-of-town than in-town (you seem to indicate equivalence), that would still dispute the premise in the OP’s article.June 5, 2016 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm #1154420akupermaParticipant
Out of town Jews appear better off materially than New York City Jews since the cost of housing is radically cheaper. In Baltimore, probably the second largest kehillah on the east coast, a one family house, detached, with a yard, near the largest frum shuls, can be found for under $150K. The joke is a Boro Parker asks a Baltimore realtor about houses for sale in the frum community, hears the prices, and says “I’ll take two.” This is not a “frum” issue but reflects the overall housing market since New York is infamously expensive (due to high population, limited land not to mention laws that discourage building new housing). But it isn’t an issue of New Yorkers or “out of towners” being more into gashmius.June 5, 2016 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm #1154421
Baltimore is not the second largest Kehila, South Florida isJune 5, 2016 1:34 pm at 1:34 pm #1154422yehudayonaParticipant
The quote in the OP isn’t about housing, which is not an “expensive luxury item.” It’s talking about things like multi-thousand dollar watches, expensive jewelry, and over-the-top vacations. I’d add designer clothes for children.June 5, 2016 2:07 pm at 2:07 pm #1154423Mashiach AgentMember
I thought Lakewood was larger than BaltimoreJune 5, 2016 2:12 pm at 2:12 pm #1154424
A showy McMansion is at least as bad as any luxurious getaway or jewelry.June 5, 2016 3:46 pm at 3:46 pm #1154425blubluhParticipant
We each have challenges to improving ourselves and different people are on different levels of achievement.
Whether the topic is homes, furnishings, clothes, jewelry, cars, weddings or vacations, it’s not hard to determine acceptable degrees of gashmius based on our personal life-styles and castigate those who don’t adhere to them. But, it’s not all that meaningful.
Rather than looking disapprovingly at those who, for whatever reasons, feel the need to go on expensive vacations, etc., let’s evaluate our own challenges balancing ruchnuis and gashmius.
That’s where we have the most influence and power to improve.June 5, 2016 4:00 pm at 4:00 pm #1154426Sam2Participant
The question quoted in the OP makes an assumption. Ads don’t show what people do. Ads show what’s worth it for the advertiser. Publications publish ads that they are paid for. Maybe ads are cheap in these publications and the luxury items offer the best deal. It’s worth it for everybody. The advertisers and magazines each make money, and everyone is happy.
Having enough people buy an item to offset the cost of advertising doesn’t mean that it’s a significant percentage of the population that are interested in these things.June 5, 2016 6:29 pm at 6:29 pm #1154427
The quote in the OP isn’t about housing, which is not an “expensive luxury item.” It’s talking about things like multi-thousand dollar watches, expensive jewelry, and over-the-top vacations. I’d add designer clothes for children.
+1. I’d add luxury cars as well.
And while I do not agree with all of the implications of the article I quoted, I do believe that this problem is indeed more widespread in the in-town communities (my own community included).June 5, 2016 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm #1154428
“+1. I’d add luxury cars as well.”
My Oma taught me “cheap is dear” ????? ??? ?????? for those more comfortable in the language of eastern Europe.
Always buy the best quality you can afford, it’s less expensive in the long run than buying lesser quality.
I drive a 12 year old Jaguar XJ8 Vanden Plas. It cost me $70,000 new in 2004. That was an expensive luxury car then (I won’t buy/drive German vehicles). It now has 60,000 miles on it. The only expenses besides insurance, tax, and fuel have been scheduled oil changes and maintenance and I am now buying a new set of tires. I fully expect that I’ll still be driving it another 8 years. $3500 per year to drive in luxury is not expensive. BTW…I didn’t finance or lease it. I buy what I can afford at the time.
Why should any of us have to drive a Chevrolet because someone else thinks there is a better way for us to spend the money I/we earn?
As long as I don’t ask to borrow from you, or scholarship assistance for my children and/or grandchildren and pay all my bills promptly while still giving appropriate tzedaka, then it is none of anyone else’s business.
I have found over the years that most people who make these comments about how the other person lives and spends are actually jealous, but don’t admit it.
BTW>>>we won’t be taking a Sukkos trip this year (not that we usually do), the out of pocket costs (after insurance) for Mrs. CTL’s ongoing hospitalization now exceed $40,000. B”H she is improving, is eating, talking and starting to walk….but even with Hashem’s help it will be a long recovery.
So, in the scheme of things, it’s only money. It can’t buy you health or happiness or a place in Olam Habah.June 5, 2016 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm #1154429
Listen, if you want to waste (or spend if you prefer) your money on a Jaguar, that’s between you and the Ribiono Shel Olam. I promise you, I’m not jealous in the least.
But don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s about reliability and value. For that, you could have bought a Honda or a Toyota. In fact, if you put 5k miles on it per year, you could have bought a Chevy for the best value.
Sure, for a luxury car, $3500 per is cheap. But that’s not at all the lesson that your Oma was trying to teach you.June 5, 2016 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm #1154430
“So, in the scheme of things, it’s only money. It can’t buy you health or happiness or a place in Olam Habah.”
Sure it could buy you a place in Olam Habah. Say you gave $70,000 to tzedaka.
And does money really not bring happiness?June 5, 2016 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm #1154431MammeleParticipant
Joseph: studies show that after basic living expenses are covered, additional money does not make one happier. In other words, poverty can reduce happiness more than excessive wealth buys happiness.
Our Chachamim were right when they said one always desires double of what they already have.June 5, 2016 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm #1154432
The definition of “Basic living expenses” is flawed. You cannot define that
Some people are happy with a 20 year old chevy with more dents than miles and others need a newer reliable car not subject to break down
Some people might be happy living with 6 kids in a 2 bedroom apartment and others need more spaceJune 5, 2016 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm #1154433
ZD, so is someone who lives in a $3 million dollar house, drives a $150,000 car, wears $5000 suits and watches, and goes on two $50,000 vacations a year at the same level of materialism of someone who lives in three bedroom apartment, drives a Toyota, wears a Seiko watch and Hat Box suits?June 5, 2016 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm #1154434MammeleParticipant
ZD: you’re sort of right, and I guess it’s based on averages. The “magic number” they came up with for NY for household income is about 100k. As frum Jews we’d probably need more. So we’re not really talking about beat up cars, etc. but living comfortably without stress.June 5, 2016 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm #1154435
Is someone who lives in a 4 Bedroom house in Brooklyn. Drives a 2016 Honda Pilot, Eats Beef 2 or 3 times a week and has imported Italitan Furnitre and goes to Florida in the winter and Israel in the Summer materialist?June 6, 2016 12:09 am at 12:09 am #1154436
Having an in-ground pool in the house? (Calling Los Angeles.)June 6, 2016 1:56 am at 1:56 am #1154437
Is someone who lives in a 4 Bedroom house in Brooklyn. Drives a 2016 Honda Pilot, Eats Beef 2 or 3 times a week and has imported Italitan Furnitre and goes to Florida in the winter and Israel in the Summer materialist?
On a scale of 1-10, 7.June 7, 2016 3:46 am at 3:46 am #1154438
Congrats; you have convincingly, if unintentionally, supported Joseph’s theory that being OOT by no means guarantees immunity from materialism.June 7, 2016 9:45 am at 9:45 am #1154439
I don’t agree with you at all. Buying the best you can afford and keeping it for a very long time does not make you materialistic. No one has the right to say I should do with less if I pay for it all myself, don’t go in debt to do so, give more than a tithe in Tzedaka and don’t flaunt what I have in the faces of those less able to afford it.
I laugh at DY comments about a 3 million dollar home, a 150K car, 5K watches and the winters in Florida and summers in Israel.
My home is worth 1/3 of that…granted I purchased it in 1991 for 100K and have made the expansions/improvements over time. True, if it were in Brooklyn it would be worth the 3 million. I drive a 12 year old car, my last single child living at home drives a 10 year old luxury car that used to belong to my wife. My wife got a new car this year just before taking ill and it was under 50K. As for the watch…I wear a Rolex day in day out. It cost me $1600 back in 1984…that’s $50 per year for its use and it will outlive me and go to my eldest son decades from now.
I do have a home in Florida, BUT I travel there to see my clients who are either snow birds or permanent residents…I am a member of the Florida Bar and it makes sense to have this home which also serves as my office..I’ve owned it since 1980. I don’t take $50,000 vacations or even $10,000 vacations.We make Peasch at home and cook from scratch, no takeout prepared meals as many in town Yidden often serve. In addition to Jewish education costs for my five, this poppa has paid for college and law school for many of them.
I don’t need to apologize for having what I’ve accumulated in life. I worked hard to get it. I’m not showy or in your face with these things. I don’t have an iPhone 6S..I have a simple flip phone. I don’t live beyond my means. I don’t have the largest most expensive house in town. I shovel snow, I cut my lawn, I’m the one who vacuums the swimming pool and drags the garbage cans to the curb on Sunday nights.June 7, 2016 10:44 am at 10:44 am #1154440
Many of us dont have any of those things.June 7, 2016 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm #1154442
You are right. Many people don’t have these things, but many people have much more.
B”H this is America, land of opportunity. It is possible to have landed at Castle Garden or Ellis Island, or Idlewild and within a generation or two moved to a standard of living not possible for Jews in the alte Heim unless they were Rothchilds.
A great deal of this is about making choices. I prefer to live OOT, but close enough to avail myself of shopping, cultural events and schooling. Small town or suburban living is not for all Frum Jews, tho Chabad seems to expand to these areas and thrive.
The other thing, as I don’t know your approximate age, is something my parents Z”L told me and I told my children:
You cannot expect to begin you adult married life at a standard of living it took your parents 30-40 years to achieve.June 7, 2016 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm #1154443from Long IslandParticipant
I live on Long Island. Years ago, when my husband and I wanted to leave Brooklyn, I spoke to my Uncle, a Rav on Long Island. He gave me a list of communities which had an eruv, a mikvah & a pizza store. (my minimum criteria at that time)
First I looked in the 5 towns. When the broker drove me past HAFTR HS, I commented that they must pay their teachers well, since the parking lot was filled with luxury cars. She said, no, the cars belong to the students.
When my husband and I discussed this, we decided that whether or not we could afford this community, we did not want to live in a community where such overt materialism was present. We did not want our children growing up in a community where “things” were so important.
I believe, that however much you have, or do not have, it is up to the parents to teach/show their children that things/trips/jewelry are not entitlements, nor part of normal life, again, whether or not you can afford them. I am puzzled by the overt materialism I see in every segment of our communities. What happened to Tznius? It is not only covering your body, it is calling attention to yourself. That includes cars, vacations & jewelry.
What has happened to our values? What are we teaching our children?June 7, 2016 1:34 pm at 1:34 pm #1154444
I thought Lakewood was larger than Baltimore
Lakewood is part of the NYC area, just like Teaneck, Passaic, Monsey or White Plains.June 7, 2016 1:37 pm at 1:37 pm #1154445
The “magic number” they came up with for NY for household income is about 100k.
IIRC, Rabbi Bender has said in the Yated Chinuch forum that anyone making less than $150K in town is under large stresses to make ends meet. Especially with more than two children and a pet.June 7, 2016 1:45 pm at 1:45 pm #1154446
I’ll agree with CT on this one. Having what you have worked for, and buying top quality so that it lasts is not “materialistic”. It seems to me that someone owning a Bugaboo stroller (because it is “pas nisht” not to have one) and being on food stamps, is more “materialistic” than someone who owns a decade old luxury car.
In addition, since CT does live out of town, his costs are way lower than “in town”, allowing him for additional disposable income. In many aspects, living in the Hipster neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Washington Heights and the Lower East Side is also a “materialistic” action.June 7, 2016 1:49 pm at 1:49 pm #1154447
from Long Island – HAFTR is a prep school, like Ramaz, and the tuition ($24K+ back in 2009) reflects that. I don’t think (and I could be wrong) you would see the same issues by Rabbi Bender’s school Darchei Torah (which is also in the Five Towns), or any other “Yeshivish” type school.June 7, 2016 3:07 pm at 3:07 pm #1154448–Participant
Always buy the best quality you can afford, it’s less expensive in the long run than buying lesser quality.
I don’t thing anyone is buying a Patek Philippe watch because they think in the long run it’s cheaper than a Tag Hauer (or Rolex) watch.
Even if my Mondaine breaks today, I’m still better off than if I had purchased a Rolex (which I couldn’t have afforded at the time).
Back to the topic at hand, I expect that the typical reader of these magazines doesn’t have your watch budget. The existence of these ads leaves me to come to one of the following conclusions:
June 7, 2016 3:50 pm at 3:50 pm #1154449
- The advertisers are wasting their money on these ads.
- The financial state is not as bad is I perceive it.
- People are spending more than reasonable amount for watches.
- I’m wrong about what is reasonable.
If the advertiser gets three people to purchase from the luxurious ad, the ad more than paid itself over already. So when you see an ad for that Caribbean Cruise with Kosher L’Pesach food, the sponsor needs only a tiny number of buyers for the ad to be worthwhile, while thousands of other readers might assume there is widespread luxurious wealth when in reality only a tiny number of people actually buy these luxurious advertised stuff (cruise, hotel, watch, etc.)
So this idea there is widespread luxurious consumption within the frum community is baloney. It’s all just a bunch of advertising for a tiny number of buyers.
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