Are you saying that because tenants act badly, landlords shouldn't do their part? The landlords' bad behavior is excusable? The landlord has to be responsible to provide services. But it gets to a point where a landlord is chasing his own tail. I didn't create the phrase "Graffiti creates graffiti, vandalism creates vandalism." Any landlord who doesn't provide services, he should be hit by the book.

Do you feel that way if the landlord happens to be a Hasidic Jew? I will not answer your pinpointed question of defining a landlord based on race. When a tenant calls me to tell me his toilet his clogged, I don't ask him his race, and he doesn't ask mine. I don't look at an owner with respect to race. And I don't look at tenants with respect to race.

Have you ever heard of a slumlord being taken to a beit din, a rabbinical court? No.

273 Lee Avenue in Williamsburg, where non-Orthodox tenants are denied repairs.
Emily Berl
273 Lee Avenue in Williamsburg, where non-Orthodox tenants are denied repairs.
Rabbi Jill Jacobs
Emily Berl
Rabbi Jill Jacobs


Shmarya Rosenberg
A former member of Chabad Lubavitch, writes the muckraking blog, a mix of news and commentary about the dark side of the Orthodox world. The Forward has listed him among the 50 most influential American Jews.

When you see many religious Jewish landlords appearing on slumlord lists, what is your reaction? The first couple of times, I was shocked. Now I'm kind of numb. There's just so much of this stuff, and it's just kind of mind-numbing. And you know, to do this [blog] every day, people say [of me], "He loves to do this stuff. He's out there with glee doing this stuff." Most of the time, I'm nauseated.

You are a former member of an ultra-Orthodox group, Chabad Lubavitch, which you've said gives you some perspective on the mentality of the members of those groups who end up committing crimes. Once you're inside the group, there are few crimes you can commit. There are few crimes that anyone can put against you. If the slumlord was doing it to hipsters or Puerto Ricans or blacks, it would be fine. They aren't going to condemn that person or say he shouldn't have an aliyah in synagogue or say he shouldn't be rewarded.

For them to go past and realize that other people suffer besides Jews is hard for them. "We are doing God's work, so why should we be worried about anything? We're sacrificing and doing what God wants. I mean, we could be out there living like secular people live and making more money and having lots more fun, but instead, we're here doing what God wants."

Part of this comes from Jewish law. You are supposed to first give your charity dollars to your family, then to your neighborhood or town. And then there's an argument whether the next should be your country, or Jews in Jerusalem. And after Jerusalem, the rest of Israel. Helping non-Jewish causes would be the last.

A lot of rabbis believe that if we don't help the non-Jews when they need us, they won't be there when we need them. When times get rough, there could be pogroms. There could be an attacking of Jews. . . . If you talk to kids from Orthodox schools, especially Haredi schools, they are going to say, 'They hate us, so why should we help them . . . ?"

The ultra-Orthodox style and outlook are a reaction to the Reform movement, and a reaction to the attempt to make Judaism conform with the modern world. They are fighting the battle to preserve the "true Judaism." They want to withstand all change.

Of course, it's a reaction to years of actual persecution. You create a society that is not going to look toward the outside with loving eyes. And many of us have transcended that. We live in America. We've been OK.


Joe Levin
A Hasidic Jew and private investigator who works cases in the Orthodox communities.

When we put together our worst-landlords list, we noticed that ultra-religious Jews own many of the worst-kept properties in the city, those with the highest violation counts, where the tenants describe the landlords as having complete disregard for their repeated requests for necessary services. A lot of readers ask us why so many Hasidic Jews end up on lists of slumlords. You are Hasidic. Most of your business is with ultra-Orthodox Jews. We wanted to get your perspective on this. I watch the news, and I see these things about these Orthodox guys. This is the nature of some people, screwing around for a little money and embarrassing the whole community. I say to myself, "If you have to do these things, why call yourself a rabbi? Why put this title on yourself? Why do it?"

I'll be honest with you. It's difficult to be a Hasidic guy and wear a yarmulke. I'm telling you, I see so much. The crime that has happened in the frum [Orthodox Jewish] community is a disaster. Every day I come home, and my wife asks me, "How was your day?" and I have tears in my eyes. When I send my kids to yeshiva, I have a lot of doubts about them growing up to be good Jewish boys. I have a lot of doubts. I pray every day for my children.

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