Reflections on Being Jewish, Tenant Organizing, and Orthodox Slumlords

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This week, UHAB organizer, Elise Goldin, published an article, “Orthodox Slumlords and Their Tenants” in the Jewish Daily Forward. The article explores her experiences as a Jewish person who often finds herself organizing tenants living in horrible conditions against religious Jewish landlords.  Because the landlords are often the only visibly Jewish people tenants know, it is not uncommon to hear tenants express anti-Semetic statements:

Tenants complain to me that Jews don’t work on Saturdays, so it’s difficult to get in touch with their landlords. One time, when an Orthodox Jew bought a building in the Bronx, the tenants were convinced that he worked for the same company as the previous owner, also an Orthodox Jew. They had a difficult time trusting him.

These comments puts Jewish tenant organizers (and trust us- there are many) in a interesting position.  Organizers must think about how and when it is useful to address anti-Semitism while on the job. Elise reflects: 

So what’s the solution to ending this brewing anti-Semitism in New York City’s worst buildings? The obvious answer is ending bad landlord practices in Orthodox Jewish communities. But of course that’s way beyond my control. What is within my control is when or how I can “out” myself as Jewish to the tenants I work with. Often, I let tenants know as soon as possible, particularly when working in a building that has had many Jewish landlords. The tenants and I end up chatting about holidays, kashrut or other tidbits of Judaism.

To read the full article, click here.

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