what is the cause of income inequality in the jewish commnuity?

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    On one hand we have these dynastic families with tons of cash and on the other hand we have people who have a dynasty of being poor.

    are larger demographic forces at play or is this just a bad hunch?

    Shimon Nodel

    It’s not a bad hunch. Although it’s more likely not to be as polarizing as you described, it may also be that a lot of wealthy families fail to encourage and include other Jews in their business connections. I think it all basically hinges on connections. It’s been that way for centuries, but the Torah says ומך אחיך עמך

    Yabia Omer

    Whatever forces are causing income inequality in general are causing it for Jews also


    DYNASTIC??? How many of today’s “rich” were affluent 75 tears ago?


    Very simple. We all live in the same communities regardless of financial situations as opposed to non Jews the live in areas based on socioeconomic status.


    The world always had income inequality. There’s nothing wrong with it. And it will always exist.


    There’s no such thing as “dynasties” of rich Jews.


    No matter what the conditions, all of existence can be divided into have and have not. I prefer to make the distinction between those who focus on what one has and those who focus on what one does.


    In the early 1900s, during the first wave of European immigration to the U.S., fewer than 10 percent of Yidden living in America could be characterized as even marginally “affluent”. Among those 10 percent were an even smaller percentage (including many with Yekkishe backgrounds) who were among the most affluent individuals in America who had amassed their wealth in merchant banks and other financial institutions, retails and even a few manufacturing firms. As the numbers of low wage immigrants increased, the median incomes declined going up through WWII. In the post-war period, many of the “baby boomers” became the first in their families to go on to college and got high-paying jobs in a wide range of sectors, including science and technology. This all occurred in an economy where a college degree and graduate degree were in most cases prerequisites to economic advancement.
    In those segments of the tzibur that spurned higher education and professional opportunities there were still some whose entrepreneurial skills allowed them to succeed and earn a good paranassah. Overall, however, a lack of advanced academic and job skills resulted in those segments of the tzibur having lower average incomes than MO and secular yidden and a higher dependency on government transfer payments and welfare programs. There is some indication these trends could gradually change as more Chareidi families find opportunities to pursue educaiton and professional careers consistent with their hashkafah but for now, the income gap is fairly significant.


    By Yidden riches are measured in Torah, not money.


    How many of your families had college educations and worked as professionals three generations ago?
    How many of your families owned homes three generations ago?
    How many of your families owned businesses three generations ago?
    How many of your families left Europe more than three generations ago?
    How many of your families moved out of NYC or first city in the New World three generations ago?

    How many of you make sure your children and grandchildren have full college/professional school/secular education/skills to make substantial incomes?

    How many of your families have 3 or less children?

    I find these to be determinant factors in growing familiar wealth in America…………..

    I am the third generation of my family to go to college/professional school in America and my grandchildren are the 5th. % generations of college educated professionals earn and accumulate dynastic wealth described in the OP.

    My grandparents owned their homes in Brooklyn and the Bronx before WWII, My parents aunts and uncles bought in the post war boom. I bought my first house while still in college. All my children are homeowners. Dynastic wealth in America is made/accumulated through rising real estate values. I make good money collecting rents. My tenants would be better off buying than renting long term, albeit not buying i this hyper inflated Pandemic market.

    Those of us in the USA pre 1924 are more likely to own homes over the three generations. We do not have the fear of survivors of needing portable wealth to bribe guards and cross boarders to save our lives. It is a different mindset. I’m a 5th generation Jewish American, who has family members in their 9th American generation. That in of itself allows for dynastic wealth that wasn’t possible for most Jews elsewhere in the world.

    My parents and their siblings left NYC soon after WWII…the opportunities in the suburbs, nearby states for making money were fat higher than in the city, so was the cost of living much lower. The downside was that for many chances the assimilation rate was higher than remaining in the apartment buildings of the self imposed ghettos.

    All of my generation, the next two generations have both Yeshiva and college/professional educations. The CTL Law firm is now multigenerational. So is my brother-in-law’s medical practice. My great grandfather started a clothing factory that is now run by the 5th generation of the family. All of whom have degrees in management, engineering, human relations and accounting.

    To build dynastic wealth you must constantly reinvest in the family. Can a family member be hired trained to do the job? Better to employ a family member than an outsider.

    How do you build a family conglomerate?
    My great grandfather was a Necktie maker who had daughters and no sons. He put his eldest daughter’s husband into the shirt business, the next daughter’s husband was set up as a suit and pants manufacturer. A cousin made hosiery, a nephew made ladies nightwear and underwear. My grandfather and his brothers went on road as salesmen calling on stores throughout America. Unlike most salesman who represented one or two non-competing manufacturers, they could provide a full line of family clothing (all made in family factories) to small town dry goods stores. This saved on commission expense to the family and huge travel expenses. By my father’s generation, many of his cousins as well as he were retail clothing or department store owners (Dad had 15 stores). They set up an owned a buying office in NYC. This way not only did they pool their resources and share the expense of resident buyers, but the retailers they represented throughout the country covered the entire cost of the office and buyers salaries and they were receiving lower prices based on aggregate income, My generation provided the legal, accounting, insurance services for the assorted family businesses.
    This is dynastic wealth as work. My grandchildren will not start life in huge debt for their education. They don’t have to worry about finding employment, somewhere in the family network will be a position suitable for their skills (should they choose to join), but they don’t get a free ride. Everyone is expected to work hard and help the rest of the family grow.

    Lastly, family size; my grandparents all were from families with 4 or 5 surviving children. My parents generation was smaller 2 or at most three children, affected and truncated by the Great Depression. My parents generation married later, delayed by WWII in most cases and my generation is 3 children average. BUT in our family which has grown in USA prosperity, the next generation is about 5 children average and I expect my grandchildren’s generation to exceed that. BUT, it we had remained cliff dwellers in 2 bedroom NYC apartments, I doubt family size would be so large. 5 or 6 bedroom homes an 60-90 minutes form NYC can be had for the price of a 2 bedroom co-op in Brooklyn or Queens.

    ……………..NO we do NOT all live in the same communities

    The little I know

    I suggest the cause of inequality is the attention paid to the numbers and the yetzer horah to compare and contrast them. I look around, at my family both immediate and extended, the neighbors, the others davening in the shul where I go, and I could bet with certainty that there is a wide variety of incomes represented. Except that no one really cares, and it doesn’t really matter. The latter for multiple reasons.

    Someone who is happy with his lot is far better off than someone with greater wealth but who is not happy with his. The tzuris that Klal Yisroel suffers, while sometimes a public or political issue, include many troubles that are experienced by individuals, not always known to others. So if someone has monetary wealth, but a family member who is seriously ill, does their income suggest they are happier?

    Granted, someone on a meager salary might not be able to distribute tzedokoh in a manner that resembles the gvir. Is that all there is to our lives? The meager earner that gives according to his ability is doing his mitzvah royally, perhaps more or al least not less than the gvir who doles out the larger sums.

    Lastly, מה ה’ שואל מעמך? I thought our existence as Am Yisroel is about what we are, not about what we have. Why are we paying attention to these differences as “inequality”?


    Dear Gadol,

    The Washington Baltimore area has a large amount of second and third generation Observant Jews with college degrees. Yet, it does not appear to be wealthier than the less educated communities. But I admit that it may not be a true reflection of reality.


    While inequality is a universal human condition (even in socialist countries where most are equally poor, but some “are more equal”), there is no doubt that many Jewish poor are there for self-imposed reasons. As ujm says, many are happy this way, but many are not – for example, parents selected this way and kids are less interested.


    According to the Torah, there are 2 ways for a person to improve their finances – Hishtadlus and davening. The concept of income inequality assumes there is a 3rd factor: blaming other people who are at fault for my situation. Is that a valid stance according to the Torah, or is the whole concept of income inequality misguided?


    Inequality coefficient GINO for Israel 39 is indeed higher among peer developed countries: a little lower than USA (41) and above UK, Australia, Spain,Italy (35-36) and more socialist OECD countries (France, Germany 32 Canada 33 Poland Sweden 30 Norway 26). US and Israel are the only two decent countries with Gino that high, the rest are communists and other dictatorships.


    “How many of your families have 3 or less children?”

    By that token, if you have no children r’l, you’ll be “wealthier”.


    A lot to be said for “being happy by his lot” – but it is made easier by having a bigger lot!

    If you are spending time working – why not both make your work more productive to the community and world at large and why not get compensated for it?

    for example – in theory – someone earning $200/hour could work for 10 hours a week and live at the level of someone earning $40/hour working 50 hours a week, and have time for family, learning, volunteering, vacations. It is rarely happening: the $200/hour guy works 50 to 80 hours anyway, but at least he has a choice.

    in practice, I see more often people in teaching being concerned about money than people in professions who focus on learning in those hours they have for it. Not a universal rule, of course.

    Also, an overlooked part: “parnasa” is often associated with “wasting” time earning a living to have a satisfying life after that. We live in a place where we are lucky to be able to choose what you do. Why not choose something that you enjoy doing and what is good for the community/world. Torah teaching is an obvious one, but medical, research, police, army, plumbing all qualify, especially combined with study and execution of all halakhic issues involved in each of these.

    Amil Zola

    First generation American here and the first of my generation to graduate from uni. Our third generation all have professional degrees. Those degrees and income allowed their sources of revenue to expand to real estate and business investment. FWIW my mother worked in the sweatshops all of her working life and my father was a factory worker. By and large all that went off to higher ed paid their own way. In my family (just plain frum) most all owned homes they purchased from wages before they married. (Far different real estate market than 2021.) Avg size family is 3 kids. Kids worked in family (or friends of family) businesses as soon as legally permitted.

    As I write this, I can see how we’ve been accruing ‘dynastic’ wealth. But with that wealth came a responsibility to assist Jewish institutions financially. Most of moved out of the tri state area, to more affordable parts of the country as well. I can see how gap year seminaries, keeping up with the Cohens lifestyle, large simchas and the incumbent expenses limit savings and strain family finances, esp. in larger families.


    This is why the situation in Baltimore is different. This is from an interview with Rav Ruderman ztl.
    RR: College gives a person parnoseh. We find that our boys stay with learning longer this way. They don’t have to kill
    themselves for a job. In Lakewood, the boys didn’t go to college. But if they don’t do well in business, than all is
    lost, for they have nothing else and often don’t have enough time. Anyway, in business, you have less time to learn
    than if you’re a professional. Many baal habatim didn’t go to college and they feel frustrated. If you have a
    profession you have more time for learning. In rabbonus…well there are less good positions in rabbonus and for
    rebbes in schools. We also find that the parents want college…sometimes more than the bochurim. Rav Moshe told
    me — no job, no sholom bayis (peace in the household)

    the square

    This is a horrible question completely unsuitable for this forum, as if other factors besides Hashem decide a person’s wealth. Ki lo yechdal evyon mikerev haaretz, the sorrow of the poor is not caused by the millionaires, it’s alleviated by them.


    The standard of livelihood required is bare minimum. “Kach hi darkah shel torah – pas b’melach tochal etc.” — Bread salt and water – if you have that, you have parnasah. The Rambam writes that a typical Baal Habayis works 3 hours a day and learns 8.

    This is what a “working person” is. Three hours a day. 8 hours learning.

    What in the world does that have to do with today’s working man’s lifestyle where he works 8 hours a day and almost never even learns 3? It proves nothing that Chazal endorsed working, since working in those days meant learning 8 hours a day.

    Or perhaps some folks here know better than Chazal. Bread salt and water isn’t enough you say? One must reach the “American Dream” of home ownership, a decent car, kids in college, fancy clothing and technological gadgets. Otherwise, say the American psychologists, the person can’t be happy.


    > Rambam writes that a typical Baal Habayis works 3 hours a day and learns 8.

    Drisha defines a working person as someone who only learns 3 hours, and thus should not learn Gemora, just halocha. I guess things were harder for Ashkenazim than for Sephardim during Rambam’s times…


    > Bread salt and water isn’t enough you say?

    al pi same Rambam, a Talmid Chacham has to be dressed decently by the standards of the time. This would presume at least dry cleaning, washing machine, a working car, maybe a home with wooden floor. You also supposed to teach a kid a profession so that he will not be a bandit, so either he needs to work with his hands, and if can’t, with his head, thus college.


    > We also find that the parents want college…sometimes more than the bochurim.

    I heard a YU Rebbe pushing (gently) against parents – would it hurt if he’ll become a lawyer a couple of years later? How about we have a Masters program where you can learn, but so that law/med school does not question what you were doing for these two years … This attitude towards parents might have made sense early on – but by now those parents are graduates of the same institutions, so they know well what the options for kids are.


    n0meshorah: You make a very good point. The Baltimore Washington metro area has a very highly educated Jewish population, with a higher percentage of advanced degrees than just about any other area of the country. However, many of those individuals, especially in D.C. are scientists working at the NIH, FDA, etc. or lawyers and other professionals working at various federal agencies. While some of those agencies have some exemptions from civil service salary caps (just increased to $172,500 for high level GS-15s) most are subject to that cap and earn considerably less than they might earn in comparable jobs in the private sector. However, they are willing to take the salary cuts in return for opportunities for public service, predictable work hours and flexibility to be shomer shabbos/yom tov. I’m sure this includes some yidden who commute to D.C. and its suburbs from Baltimore.


    Gadol, not to disparage some of those yidden, and not to deny some brilliant people in the government, but, as a group, people around DC are not sacrificing much. Unfortunately, several richest zip codes are now around DC and not in productive industries. Many people who work for the government would earn considerably less in private sector.


    “In the early 1900s, during the first wave of European immigration to the U.S….”
    Sorry, you’ve got that wrong.
    Many Jews came to the USA following Pogroms in the Russian Empire in the 1800s. Odessa 1859 and 1871 come to mind and many in 1880, 81, 82.
    I was born and raised in New Haven. Although y family had immigrated from Germany and Russia in 1868 and 1872, the 2 shuls we belonged to were founded by Russian Jewish immigrants before 1883. We did not belong to the German Jewish synagogue founded in 1840 because by 1900 it had become a Reform institution


    You miss the point about the question asking how many of your families have 3 or less children.
    We are discussing dynastic or inherited wealth, not the wealth of the current generation. the more parts into which your estate must be divided, the less money for each who inherits.

    Someone leaving $1,000,000 (not unusual with the value of housing) to 3 children leaves them with a measure of wealth that is far greater than if there are 12 children sharing that amount.


    AAQ: Congress established the Federal Salary Council (FSC), an advisory body made up of academics, private employers and public employee leaders to study the question of comparative compensation of federal versus private sector employees to provide input into annual federal salary changes for budgetary purposes. Their most recent study showed that federal employees are underpaid by as much as 22-35 percent compared to their private-sector peers although most of the differential is skewed at the higher compensation levels.
    However, federal employees shouldn’t expect a big spike in comparability pay since virtually all presidents of both parties ignore their recommendations and link any increases to the lower of inflation and/or the increase separately decided for military personnel. The rationale is that federal employees willingly accept lower salaries for job security as well as many benefits NOT factored into the FSC criteria.

    However, as an example, the top federal government lawyer in the SG’s office with 25+ years of arguing cases before SCOTUS is paid LESS than the starting salary of a FIRST YEAR associate at one of the top D.C. litigation firms. Indeed, if that first year associate goes into private practice having clerked for one of the Justices, there is a separate $200K to $300K signing bonus separate from their annual salary. I’m sure there are other cases where government employees leave for private sector work at lower salaries, but that is generally NOT the norm in the D.C. area. It could be more likely in more rural areas or outside major cities where CoL is lower and mean private sector salaries are lower than those in D.C.


    CTLawyer: I’m sure you’ve done the research but my understanding is that the largest wave of Jewish immigration was in the first several decades of the 19th century and in general, was less affluent than those who came over in the 1870s-1890s. Again, I’ve not done any research. Your point regarding some of the early German-Jewish assimilation is fairly important in looking back at yidden in America. We often focus narrowly on a few merchant and investment banks with Yekkishe ties but it goes much deeper than that.


    Gadol > Their most recent study showed that federal employees are underpaid by as much as 22-35 percent

    I may sound like a virus denier here, but I am layering personal experience over the statistics. A lot of those employees are dead weight. They request you to send some nonsense paperwork and then have multiple meetings going over that. They have no insight of the cost that their work to the government directly or to the private sector they are supervising. It is a logical market consequence of lack of accountability. Just compare Amazon prime with proverbial DMV or IRS.

    You look at it philosophically, as part of the federal process that is intended to be inefficient but rule-based non-partisan harmless process. Except that it became too powerful and possibly captured partisan from the time of FDR. Simple reason – progressive-minded people are motivated to go work for the powerful government, often with the zeal of Trotsky.


    Gadol, you may be right re: visible litigating positions. These people got to be sharp. There are millions of others, including decision-makers, who are not. I rarely see any of them going to work for private businesses in a significant capacity, except when their connections are valued, which is bodering on corruption. There were actually several corruption cases with government guys starting negotiating for a position at private company while still in service, instead of just winking.


    Your comment I object to said first wave, not largest wave. Two different things


    Government employees are overpaid, once you include their crazy amount of benefits (retirement, pension, paid time off, saved vacation and countless other highly valuable perks) AND are underworked.

    They can almost never be fired, thanks to the union thugs, even if all they do is clock-in and clock-out on time, but otherwise sit and do virtually nothing other than slack.


    “They [government employees] can almost never be fired, thanks to the union thugs, even if all they do is clock-in and clock-out on time, but otherwise sit and do virtually nothing other than slack….”

    UJM: I was not referring to the jerks hired in the prior administration, who were forced to resign for flying home on weekends first class or using government aircraft for personal vacation travel, padding their payrolls with 20 yo Schedule C appointees who worked on the campaign and hung-out at the Trump hotel bar etc. I’m talking about career government employees working at NIH, staffing FEMA emergency centers, getting disability payments andsocial security checks mailed and treating veterans at VA hospitals. Yes, there is deadwood in the federal government but you could go into a large number of Fortune 500 companies where non-performing employees and poor service is the norm. The wait-time for a service call to your bank or cable provider can be as long as that to the IRS.
    As to benefits, government employees don’t get stock options, paid-“team building” retreats at luxury resorts, free meals at company cafeterias and a lot of the other “free stuff” you hear about at tech companies anxious to attract and retain talent.

    TS Baum

    The only dynastic rich family I know of is the Rothchild Family – but they received a special bracha from a tzaddik that for all generations they’re family will be rich.


    TS Baum: You didn’t hear of the Rothchilds?


    Ujm, “kach hee darka shel Torah: pas ba’melach…” refers to someone who learns to become a Talmid Chocham — that, if that what it takes, he should do it. It does not refer to ba’alei batim.
    3 hours of working a day? That is if you can make enough money to support your family that way.


    Dear mod-29 are you the only mod

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