It was great to read Rabbi Borovitz’s column (“American/Israeli relations need a definite warming trend,” February 13), because he presided over my bar mitzvah, decades ago. His concern over the economic conditions of Israelis is commendable, but his piece neglected economic details that are important in Israel and here.
The poverty line in Israel is defined as half the median disposable income. Because this number rises as the average income rises, it is not the best measure of the economy. Israel’s per capita income has risen steadily since 1990. The average income of the bottom quintile is a better measure of how a nation’s poor are living. The shortage of affordable housing in Israel has been a chronic problem, because of restriction on home construction. The law of supply and demand explains how homes become unaffordable when policies prevent home construction.
The Shulchan Aruch teaches that priority for charity goes to the neediest, Jews, Israelis, and one’s neighbors. Therefore, it is appropriate to look at the lack of affordable housing in Bergen County. Establishing a household here is so expensive that the OU is urging members to move to Houston, where life is more affordable. Young adults of all strips delay marriage and home ownership because homes in Bergen County are out of their reach. Here, as in Israel, restrictions on home construction artificially raise the cost of homes. I implore Rabbi Borovitz and my fellow readers to loosen these restrictions so that our children and our neighbors can achieve the American dream of home ownership.