One of our regular guests proposed I post about New York Jews and as fate would have it, I stumbled across this disturbing article.

According to the poll, approximately one million Jews live throughout New York’s five boroughs, 225,000 of them under the poverty line. New York defines a family of four with an annual income of less than USD 26,000 as being poor.

Additionally, the poll showed that 104,000 Jews live near the poverty line – meaning in families of four with an annual income of less than USD 38,000. Most of the poor Jews live in Brooklyn and include ultra-Orthodox, elderly, Russian immigrants, and illegal Israelis living in New York.

Ynet, forgetting some journalistic basics, doesn’t tell us who conducted the poll, why and what questions were asked. They do tell us it came out in a special session, attended by powerful politicians, of the Jewish Council of Urban Affairs. Presumably, they sponsored the “poll.”

The estimates are indicating a worrisome trend of increasing poverty compared to previous assessments of Jewish poverty in New York. For example, in 2003, The Forward reported that a 2002 survey assessed a 21% poverty rate among New York Jews and listed pretty much the same impecunious groups.

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  • What this fails to acknowledge is the tremendous underreporting of income to evade taxes and obtain undeserved entitlements that characterizes NYC’s Hasidic communities.

  • What this fails to acknowledge is the tremendous underreporting of income to evade taxes and obtain undeserved entitlements that characterizes NYC’s Hasidic communities.

    Comment by hotrod — 6/15/2006 @ 6:38 am

    Wow! What slander of tens and 1000s of innocent people, all in 1 sentence!

    Maybe Jewlicious should be nominated as the Jewlicious Hate Site of the Week!

  • Yep, and urban ghettos can not ultimately remain economically self-supporting in a modern economic system.

  • It hasn’t helped that we have a devil of a president who wasted trillions of our money for a folly in Iraq, while he left OBL, alive and kicking. It wouldn’t surprise me if they find out in the future, that he deliberately let OBL off the hook.

    There are not enough jobs for people, in a sick economy.

  • Jesus Shy Guy.We didn’t say that. Some mean spirited commentator did. As faras dollars and cents go though, a handful of crooked Hassidim don’t hold a candle to Michael Milken,Ivan Boesky and the rest of the secular Jewish white collar criminals who operated and continue to operate in Wall Street. So Hot Rod dude? Fuck you very much.

  • You guys are woefully ignorant of the situation in Brooklyn’s Hasidic communities. Believe me, half of my relatives are there and it is common knowledge that almost everyone evades takes and cheats the government. Go into one of these neighborhoods and ask about it. People will admit it openly because there is no stigma against it and people don’t see it as a bad thing.

  • I have to agree with hotrod here. I grew up in this world and there is a lot of cheating and fraud. And it is true that people think there is nothing wrong with it because they see the government as the goyim, and also they feel that it is ok to do whatever is necessary to lead a frum life, which can be very expensive. They are not necessarily getting rich this way, but they do cheat. It’s a fact.

  • I suppose it’s not surprising that ffbguy agrees with hotrod, as he appears to be the same person. Come on, people! Really! Oldest trick in the book!

  • ck said:

    Jesus Shy Guy.

    That sounds catchy. 🙂

    We didn’t say that. Some mean spirited commentator did.

    You’re right. Mea culpa! 🙁

    I suppose it’s not surprising that ffbguy agrees with hotrod, as he appears to be the same person.


  • We are not the same person, but roomates. We both grew up in the chasidishe velt and left, and we were having a big laugh about how ignorant the freir are about what goes on in the gateless ghettos of Willy and BP. It’s nice that you defend them over there while they cheat, but it’s funny.

  • ffbguy: no offense, but i lived in a similar gateless ghetto. i know what goes on. and really, it’s not that much different than what goes on in the secular world. There’s good and bad everywhere. but you haven’t really addressed my point. historically the secular have been responsible for far more fraud, so much so that whatever little rinky dink accounting shenanigans they do down in williamsburg pales in comparison – by any measure. fudging on your taxes is bad but insider trading detrimentally affects the viability of th capital markets and the entire economy that underlies it. But who knows, you may have left the ghetto, but clearly the ghetto hasn’t left you, my little wide eyed yiddle.

  • I have been out long enough to spot frum propaganda when I hear it. Saying that it goes on the secular world is irrelevant, as frum people believe themselves–and teach their children–to be better than the freir and the goyim. If this is your defense then I am afraid it is you who are firmly planted in the ghetto.

  • Ck, when the ultr O’s do stuff, it is more of a Chilull HaShem. THey bring shame upon the religion more so than when a secular Jew does stuff.
    Also, I have never yet met a poor Russian Immigrant. From day 2, the husband and wife are working 3 jobs each, they live together w/ 4 other families in one apartment and in one year they own their own business. please.

  • The Met Council on Jewish Poverty has a lot of stats on this, and are the at the forefront of the efforts to mitigate poverty in New York. I’m a big fan of the Met Council and Willie Rapfogel, the visionary leader of the Met Council, and agree with him that this is one of the least spoken about problems in the Jewish community. As such, PresenTense Magazine ran a feature on Jewish Poverty by Benjamin Small in our pilot issue.

  • Dear Mr. Beery,
    Thanks for posting this. Please understand that I am asking you this from experience: how accurate do you think the poverty stats are on the ultra-Orthodox communities? I do not believe that people there are secretly rich, but I do know from my own experience that people do underreport income in order to make use of federal, state and local aid. I also know that there is a lot of fraud with Section 8. Again, I am not saying that such people do not need help, but I imagine that underreporting income does have an effect on the stats.

  • Whoa ck,

    There is significant under-reporting of income in Hassidic communities.

    Jewlicious founder
    So what, there are plenty of secular Jews who cheat in the marketplace and they’re doing far more harm.


    Have these debates about the Ortho-Secular divide put your back up against a wall that you feel defensive any time somebody says something negative about Orthodox Jews? First of all, these two guys (or one guy) may be Orthodox – they/he claim(s) to be from that world – and second what does A have to do with B?

    Are we a hate site now?

    Let’s see if I can find a parallel. Oh, wait, I’ve got one:
    Unknown Guest
    “Some evangelical Christians oppose abortion by tracking down abortion-providers and sending them hate mail.”

    Christianitylicious Founder
    “Oh yeah?! Well, all kinds of non-evangelical Christians were involved in hunting down Jews, not to mention the Crusades.”

  • Ariel you work for our marketing department or something? Not that we have one.

  • People can bash the ultra orthodox all they want but its a waste of time and not the point of the study- there are plenty of really poor Jews.

    We really should be bashing the Federation and all the people that are funding the research and not giving the money to poor people. American Jewish Organizations are sick with big fancy offices and Gala events without really helping the people who need it.

    There is no Federation sponsored Health Care for the working poor who can’t get aid from the government, they make unemployed people pay for their career center and the JCC is so full of non-Jewish kids that the waiting list is months long- and they don’t offer any scholarships for families that can’t afford it.

    It is so disgusting.

    All that fund raising and what does it really help the people who need it most?

    There would be no Jewish poor if Jewish Organizations did the right things with their money.

  • There is limited truth to what you say, SN. If these numbers are correct – 300,000 – you would need far larger sums to help than the Jewish community can raise. There is definitely waste in the Jewish community, but I don’t think there is all that much relatively speaking. All these public foundations are transparent with their expenditures and most employees are under-paid relative to their peers.

    The groups mentioned are immigrants to the US, the elderly and the Ultra-Orthodox. It makes perfect sense that these would be the most vulnerable groups to income disparities. There isn’t going to be a simple solution to the problem and other than establishing organizations to assist with food, shelter and other basic needs, there isn’t much the community can do. Perhaps it can also offer employment assistance, cultural integration programs and child services to assist as well, but ultimately the community cannot alleviate the poverty.

  • What the… So Russian immigrants save, work hard and then have their own business. What the hell does that have to do with anything?

    Yes. When a visibly “frum” person commits a crime, it’s very bad, a chillul hashem as well as a violation of dina deh malchutei dina. what that has to do with russians, i have no idea.

  • One way to eliminate poverty among the ultra-Orthodox is for them to… gasp…go to work! The alter Satmar rebbe advocated this 50 years ago, and the Belzer rebbe is doing the same now.

  • Self promotion indeed. Hope that tour goes to visit some of the maimed from suicide bombings. Better yet, take the funds and donate them to poor Jews or organizations that care for them.

  • ffbguy–sorry for the delay, I didn’t get to a computer in the past few days. Shocking, I know.

    I am actually quite sure that the high statistics concerning Jewish poverty do not come from Ultra-Orthodox cheating. First of all, the Ultra-Os in this country are doing quite well economically as units for the most part (how do you think Aish has such slick advertising?), and individually they have very strong social welfare infrastructure. Also, from what I know the Met Council’s poor constituency is rather largely made up of elderly and new immigrants who haven’t made it into the system yet–which tend not to be Ultra-Os.

    On a personal note, I grew up on and around the poverty line in New York (depending on the month). I’m Jewish, highly educated thanks so my ability to work my way through College and now through grad-school–as have my younger brother and sister–so theoretically I’m doing great, demographics wise. But my family’s adjusted gross income is still hovering around poverty line. We ourselves don’t avail of the Met Council–we make it through the month–but just think, if we are where we are, how many other families are doing worse than us? I’d say a lot–which was so shocking about the statistic when I first got to know it.

    Finally, I think it is important to say in this forum that it doesn’t matter who the poor person is–whether they’re secular like my family or Ultra-O like some of the families that for sure make up the over 100,000 Jewish poor in NYC–the problem is that poverty exists and that the main Jewish orgs aren’t finding it a priority makes me a bit queasy.

  • Dear Mr. Beery,
    Thanks for your reply. I agree with you that the Jewish community needs to make poverty a priority. Personally, I would rather see the big Jewish charities focus on alleviating and eradicating poverty rather than supporting dubious “cultural” and continuity projects.

  • One thing I might also add is that for those of us who leave the frum world, lack of education (and for many, poor English skills) put us at risk for poverty, too. I was lucky to have parents who spoke a lot of English and encouraged me to read a lot, but many others I know were not so fortunate and are now stuggling just to get GEDs.

  • “Personally, I would rather see the big Jewish charities focus on alleviating and eradicating poverty rather than supporting dubious ‘cultural’ and continuity projects.”

    As people much wiser than me have been saying for decades, without the cultural and continuity projects, there will be no more Jews to care about the Jewish poor — or to feel an obligation to help them.

    To ask the Federation system or Jewish charities or foundations, etc. to solve the problem of poverty is asking too much. The community (and especially the Federations, and FEGS, and the Met Council) do a lot to try to alleviate the problem of poverty, and to try to train people for work, etc. — but they can’t fix an entire economic system. That’s why some Jewish groups — like the Jewish Funds for Justic — are out there trying to work with the entire system (but from a Jewish perspective) — because the problems of Jewish poverty cannot be separated from the problems of poverty more generally.

  • I also kind wonder when “Federations” and “charities” are demonized: are the people criticizing the priorities of these organizations actually contributing to them? Because, you know, they are communal institutions, dependent on communal dollars — not just those of a few rich people up at top (though that helps), but also those of everyone else.

  • ffbguy, are there many people who leave the ultra-orthodox world? Does it tend to happen at a young or adult age? Also, are relationships maintained with family and community once one leaves that world? One last question, if you don’t mind answering these, is whether you remain observant or rather what is your level of observance?

  • I am not sure about the actual numbers who leave because the UO world doesn’t keep statistics on this. (There is a new org. called Footsteps which is helping people who have made this transition with emotional support and educational and vocational training. They might have some stats on this.) As for when people leave–it is much, much easier to leave before you are married and have kids (which is my situation). Unfortunately, because chassidim marry so young, most people are tied down before they even realize that it is not the life they want or believe in, which makes it much, much more difficult. Most people I know try to maintain replationships with family members, but it is very, very hard. Some families are much harsher than others and I do know people who have had no contact with their parents for many years. I even know a few who have not been allowed to see their own kids because they are no longer frum. It’s a constant struggle. As for my own level of observance, I am not shomer shabbos and I don’t keep kosher, but I go to (a non-Orthodox) shul and/or a shabbos meal most friday nights, and celebrate holidays (though not the way I used to). I also still learn with friends, but what’s different is that we feel comfortable syaing whatever we want and women are involved and equal participants. I hope I don’t sound too bitter here, but there are a lot of people in my position who really need help and support with basic life needs, so I just get frustrated sometimes about the $ being given to dubious cultural programs (which is not to say that there are not many meaningful ones out there, but a lot of is shallow, in my view).

  • Thanks for the information, it’s valuable and new to me. I hope you find some peace of mind and a way to balance the conflicts.

    This may sound strange but I’ll say it anyway. I don’t know whether you’ve ever been, but what you’re describing in terms of how you practice and live sounds like a couple of Israelis I know. You may wish to visit Israel or even consider an educational program there for a while – I know some are subsidized.

  • yes, I think Israel would be a good place for me to spend some time. for now however i need to work to save some money. i have a good community of friends here in NYC and finally feel like I am in a place where I feel good about myself. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • You guys should read the book by Hella Winston, called Unchosen: Hasidic Rebels.