Homelessness, Affordable Housing & Gentrification

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, There Shall be No Needy

“The relationship between housing security and quality of life is reflected in the way in which the lack of a secure home has, for most of history, defined Jewish self-identity. No sooner has humankind been created, according to the biblical account, than Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden. Abraham begins his relationship with God by leaving home, and his grandson and great-grandchildren find themselves journeying down to Egypt. The central narrative of the Jewish people—the liberation from slavery and journey to the promised land—is a story of displacement and return. Since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, virtually every moment of Jewish life—from prayer services to life cycle events to holiday celebrations—has been punctuated by a reminder of the loss of this physical and theological center. Even after the establishment of the state of Israel, Jews continue to mourn the destruction of the Temple and to pray for a return to a rebuilt Jerusalem. Contemporary political fears about the tenuousness of the very existence of the state of Israel reflect the insecurity of place that has become so central to Jewish belief. Once homeless has become so deeply rooted in our religious and national identity, even the attainment of a home cannot change our self-perception. Recognizing the ways in which the experience of homelessness remains rooted in our religious and national identities can help us to understand the experience of individuals whose own housing is insecure.” (pp.134-135)

הֲכָזֶ֗ה יִֽהְיֶה֙ צ֣וֹם אֶבְחָרֵ֔הוּ י֛וֹם עַנּ֥וֹת אָדָ֖ם נַפְשׁ֑וֹ הֲלָכֹ֨ף כְּאַגְמֹ֜ן רֹאשׁ֗וֹ וְשַׂ֤ק וָאֵ֙פֶר֙ יַצִּ֔יעַ הֲלָזֶה֙ תִּקְרָא־צ֔וֹם וְי֥וֹם רָצ֖וֹן לַיהוה הֲל֣וֹא זֶה֮ צ֣וֹם אֶבְחָרֵהוּ֒ פַּתֵּ֙חַ֙ חַרְצֻבּ֣וֹת רֶ֔שַׁע הַתֵּ֖ר אֲגֻדּ֣וֹת מוֹטָ֑ה וְשַׁלַּ֤ח רְצוּצִים֙ חָפְשִׁ֔ים וְכָל־מוֹטָ֖ה תְּנַתֵּֽקוּ׃ הֲל֨וֹא פָרֹ֤ס לָֽרָעֵב֙ לַחְמֶ֔ךָ וַעֲנִיִּ֥ים מְרוּדִ֖ים תָּ֣בִיא בָ֑יִת כִּֽי־תִרְאֶ֤ה עָרֹם֙ וְכִסִּית֔וֹ וּמִבְּשָׂרְךָ֖ לֹ֥א תִתְעַלָּֽם׃

Is such the fast I desire, A day for people to starve their bodies? Is it bowing the head like a bulrush And lying in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call that a fast, A day when the Eternal is favorable? No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock fetters of wickedness, And untie the cords of the yoke To let the oppressed go free; To break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry, And to take the wretched poor into your home; When you see the naked, to clothe him, And not to ignore your own kin.

Psalms 41:2-4
אַשְׁרֵי, מַשְׂכִּיל אֶל-דָּל; בְּיוֹם רָעָה, יְמַלְּטֵהוּ יְהוָה. יְהוָה, יִשְׁמְרֵהוּ וִיחַיֵּהוּ--יאשר (וְאֻשַּׁר) בָּאָרֶץ; וְאַל-תִּתְּנֵהוּ, בְּנֶפֶשׁ אֹיְבָיו. יְהוָה--יִסְעָדֶנּוּ, עַל-עֶרֶשׂ דְּוָי; כָּל-מִשְׁכָּבוֹ, הָפַכְתָּ בְחָלְיוֹ

Happy is the one who considers the poor; Adonai will deliver such a person in the day of evil. Adonai will preserve such a one, and keep one alive, let one be called happy in the land; and do not deliver such a one unto the greed of one's enemies. Adonai will support such a person upon the bed of illness; turn all one's lying down in the time of one's sickness.

אין בעולם קשה מן העניות שהוא קשה מכל יסורין שבעולם. אמרו רבותינו כל היסורין לצד אחד והעניות לצד אחד.

There is nothing in the world more grievous than poverty; it is the most terrible of all sufferings. Our sages have said: If all troubles were assembled on one side and poverty on the other, [poverty would outweigh them all].

כמה נותנין לעני, די מחסורו אשר יחסר לו. כיצד, אם היה רעב, יאכילוהו. היה צריך לכסות, יכסוהו. אין לו כלי בית, קונה לו כלי בית...וכן לכל אחד ואחד לפי מה שצריך.

How much is it appropriate to give to the poor? ‘Sufficient for one's needs in that which one lacks.’ If one is hungry, one must feed the hungry one. If one needs clothing, one must clothe the naked one. If one lacks housing utensils, one must provide the person with housing utensils… To each person according to what the person needs.

משנה תורה הִלְכּוֹת שְׂכִירוּת ו:ז

המשכיר בית לחבירו סתם אינו יכול להוציאו עד שיודיעו שלשים יום מקודם כדי לבקש מקום ולא יהיה מושלך בדרך ולסוף השלשים יצא, בד"א בימות החמה אבל בימות הגשמים אינו יכול להוציאו מן החג ועד הפסח, קבע לו שלשים לפני החג אם נשאר מן השלשים יום אפילו יום אחד לאחר החג אינו יכול להוציאו עד מוצאי הפסח והוא שיודיעו ל' יום מקודם, בד"א בעיירות אבל בכרכים אחד ימות החמה ואחד ימות הגשמים צריך להודיעו י"ב חדש מקודם, וכן בחנות בין בכרכים בין בעיירות צריך להודיעו י"ב חדש מקודם

Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Landlord-Tenant Law 6:7

A landlord may not evict their tenant without providing 30 days notice in order for them to seek a place so that they should not be cast out on the street, and after 30 days the tenant should leave. This is correct during the summer months, but during the rainy season the landlord cannot evict the tenant from Sukkot until Pesach[Aprox. 6 months, the duration of the rainy season]. [In a case where] the landlord stipulated that the tenant should leave 30 days before Sukkot, [but the tenant] stays longer than 30 days-- even one day after Sukkot-- the landlord cannot evict the tenant until after Pesach, and must inform the tenant 30 days in advance. This is correct for small towns but in big cities the summer months and rainy season follow a uniform principle: the landlord must provide 12 months notice.

(ה) יוֹסֵי בֶן יוֹחָנָן אִישׁ יְרוּשָׁלַיִם אוֹמֵר, יְהִי בֵיתְךָ פָתוּחַ לִרְוָחָה, וְיִהְיוּ עֲנִיִּים בְּנֵי בֵיתֶךָ...

יְהִי בֵיתְךָ פָתוּחַ לִרְוָחָה. כְּבֵיתוֹ שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם שֶׁהָיָה פָּתוּחַ לְאַרְבַּע רוּחוֹת הָעוֹלָם, כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִצְטָרְכוּ הָאוֹרְחִים לְהַקִּיף לִמְצֹא הַפֶּתַח:

(5) Yose ben Yochanan, man of Jerusalem, says, "May your home be open wide, may the poor be members of your household...

Bartenura comments: "May your home be open wide": Like the home of Abraham, our father, may peace be upon him, which was open to the world’s four directions, so that guests would not need to go around to find the entrance.

(ט) כָּל שִׁבְעַת הַיָּמִים אָדָם עוֹשֶׂה סֻכָּתוֹ קֶבַע וּבֵיתוֹ עֲרַאי.

(9) During the whole seven days [of the festival] one makes the sukkah a permanent dwelling, and the house a temporary dwelling.