The Working Poor Crisis

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    HSS, I agree with some of our points about living out of town but keep in mind that small communities have disadvantages too. I lived in a small Jewish community in the central US for several years. This town has one kosher bakery, a kosher deli, & had a kosher pizza shop during some of the time I lived there. A significant portion of the frum community was klai kodesh, which meant increased tuition for the working poor/ middle-class/ rich to subsidize them (since klai kodesh paid almost no tuition). Kosher food was very expensive, & selection was limited–many people bought kosher food in other cities.

    I worked outside the home during this time to support my family, & some people criticized me for this, because I was not a teacher. Also, some people thought we were odd because we did not give our little boys an upsherin, since that was not our minhag. We did not run a business, so we weren’t concerned about frum people patronizing our business (although my husband did provide free professional services to members of the community). Some frum businesses, including a deli & pizza shop, failed while we lived there because they didn’t get enough business.

    When my husband finished his training he looked for a job in the area, but there were only 2 big employers hiring in his area of training, & neither paid very well.

    Now we live in the NY/ NJ area, in a wonderful, frum, accepting neighborhood. Our house here cost twice as much as our house in the central US, & taxes are definitely higher. However, kosher foods costs less here, & other foods are the same price or cheaper. Peer pressure & competition are not a problem here either.

    Of course small communities can be great places to live. My brother lives in one (different region) & is very happy there. But it’s important to make sure it’s the right fit.


    Chicago is a large city with a fairly expensive cost of living and has been hard hit by the economic downturn. It is heartbreaking to see families struggle despite their education. The working poor here are people who’s mazel is simply not shining and are caught in jobs not paying enough for expenses.

    They are not coming over out of shame and fragility. It is apparently a very hard pill to swallow to accept that you can’t support a family on your own.

    How do we help these families out, without feeling like beggars?

    How do we let them maintain their pride?

    I am personally agonizing over this and still have no solution. Again, I am ALL EARS.

    Think and discuss this issue over Shabbos!


    Artchill, the Rambam says the best tzedakah is to get someone a job. Make sure they dont’ give up, and they keep looking for parnassah.

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