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By Rabbi Rachel Kort
Temple Beth Or 

Is Affordable Housing a Jewish Issue? | Worship


Last updated 7/22/2020 at 11:50am

I'm proud to serve as rabbi at Temple Beth Or in Everett. We support the Jewish community in Snohomish County and beyond and have many members who call Mukilteo their home.

As we look out the windows of our synagogue, one of the major issues we recognize in our community is the lack of affordable housing.

One of my favorite teachings from our Jewish tradition instructs, "A person should always pray in a house where there are windows." (Talmud Bavli, Berachot 34a)

Like many contemporary Jews, I interpret this ancient text to mean that our prayers are to be informed by the world in which we live.

Our prayers, Torah, and core values we express in the synagogue are meant to be translated into action in the communities in which we live.

The Jewish commitment to affordable housing is rooted in a commitment to provide housing for those in need.

Our biblical patriarch and matriarch, Abraham and Sarah, exemplify providing housing as a core value. Sages teach that they "built spacious mansions along the highways, and stocked them with food and drink, so that whoever entered ate, drank and blessed Heaven." (Pirkei Avot 1:5)

All Jewish people are called upon to provide housing.

Isaiah declares, "This is the fast I desire: to loosen the fetters of wickedness to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free ... and that you break every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry and bring the poor that are cast out to your house; when you see the naked, that you cover them, and that you do not ignore your fellows." (58:6-7)

Too many households in our community are cost-burdened, paying over 30 percent of income on housing costs.

Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson highlighted the lack of affordable housing in her January State of the City address saying, "The most affordable place to buy in Mukilteo requires a household income of $127,000 a year, higher than our average ... but you have to earn $60,000 a year to afford a one-bedroom apartment to rent in Mukilteo, and even if you have a roommate or a partner there's not a lot of options that are available."

How do we translate our ancient core value of providing housing into action today?

Our Temple Beth Or community engages in social action through education, involvement, and advocacy. I'm proud of our members who are leaders at organizations that work to break the cycle of homelessness like Housing Hope and the Interfaith Family Shelter.

I invite you to consider supporting these organizations and others.

As a religious leader in our community, I support the efforts of the Mukilteo City Council to address the need for affordable housing in our area. Housing costs in our area are an oppressive yoke and we are called upon to break the burden of that yoke for our neighbors.


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