Ed. Interesting article from Rabbi Daniel Lapin that touches on our ongoing discussion of poverty but from a Jewish perspective.
Toward Tradition Rabbi Daniel Lapin
Heading an organization whose entire purpose is to promote friendship and mutual respect between Jews and Christians, egregious assaults on this friendship really bother me. As I reported last week, it gives me little pleasure to admit that most of these assaults come from my side of the fence. Well, here we go again.
In Bellevue, Washington, just a few miles from my home, a Jewish Reform temple has been upsetting its neighbors by insisting on hosting an encampment of homeless people on its property. Fearful neighbors in this upper middle class enclave of young families point to countless offenses, ranging from assault and relieving in public to drug possession, perpetrated by this group of homeless during their earlier sojourn on the grounds of a church in a neighboring city.
Last Thursday, forced to adjudicate between neighbors’ unhappiness and the fervent do-goodism of the temple, the city of Bellevue imposed a time limit of 60 days on the encampment—far less time than the temple requested. The city also imposed a limit on how many homeless the temple grounds could accommodate, based on the number of toilets and showers available.
On Monday the temple filed a lawsuit against the city in King County Superior Court claiming that the city violated the temple’s religious freedom. I have already debated this matter on the radio with senior rabbi, James Mirel, who happens to be a really decent guy and a thoroughly nice person. He claims that the limits imposed by the city are unacceptable because “The whole idea of reaching out to the poor and needy is part of our Jewish tradition.”
On the air I pointed out to Rabbi Mirel that very few of the temple’s leadership and members live within the quarter-mile radius of the temple that experience tells us will be deleteriously impacted by the presence of a crowd of indigent squatters. This meant that others would bear the burden of the temple’s pick-and-choose piety.
I use that phrase because most Reform temples reject much of Jewish tradition. For instance, they usually ignore the obligation to live within walking distance of their temple, as the Sabbath laws dictate.
I felt that a family that had worked hard, scrimping and saving in order to be able to afford a home in that locale shouldn’t have their quality of life destroyed by the local Jewish temple. Especially since the temple was doing something that zoning laws would prohibit any of them from doing—namely allowing campers with a history of anti-social behavior to hang-out on the front lawn.
Needless to say, the neighbors have protested mightily. They have obtained over 60 pages of sheriff’s reports of hundreds of run-ins with the law that these campers have had during their previous stays at houses of worship in King County. I have seen these reports and they make for shocking reading.
During our radio debate, Rabbi Mirel assured listeners that security guards had been engaged to supervise the harmless homeless. Although I regard the rabbi as a friend, I couldn’t resist showing him that one of those very security guards had been arrested at the encampment for distributing illegal narcotics. This is not very reassuring for the young mother living next to the temple who called me, sick with worry about her children’s safety.
One of the most astounding aspects of this entire affair is that almost nobody is speaking up for the rights of the homeowners in the area. Since when in America do the rights of the homeless trump those of the homeowners?
Indeed, is there a right of the homeless to be anywhere other than in homeless shelters? There is an almost insufferable aura of sanctimoniousness and self-righteousness about these so-called tent cities. Politicians race for the television cameras to demonstrate their compassion. Do Americans who have practiced self-discipline and moral restraint in order to be able to purchase a home, forfeit their rights to compassion?
My right to my property’s value is protected from my neighbor’s zealous efforts to help the homeless by housing 50 of them on his lawn next to the newly installed porta-potties. Why should my rights be any more vulnerable if my neighbor happens to be a house of worship? Why is someone, who is often at least partially complicit in his homeless status, more important than a homeowner?
Why do some people feel they owe more compassion to the homeless than to their very own middle class neighbors?
All these questions are really only one question—why does the culture loathe those who have achieved a little financial success?
The answer is because the culture has rejected the Abrahamitic model of Judeo- Christian values which promotes work, achievement, private property, and yes, charity to the deserving. Instead, our left-leaning culture has adopted the socialistic thinking of the Tower of Babel.
In that worldview, scorning the civilized norms of society confers virtue; the homeless vagrant becomes a hero. To the mandarins of modern Marxism, wealth is evidence of malfeasance. Utopian believing bureaucrats hate private property wanting us all out of our cars and into mass transit and regard all property owners as nuisances who buy absolution for the sin of achievement with ever higher taxes.
To my shame, far too many Jews have fallen for the failed promises of socialism instead of for the rapturous embrace of the Torah as a blindingly incandescent source of truth. Not surprisingly they then disappoint and baffle the many Christians who do see the values of the Ten Commandments as central to our society.