Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud


McMansions and Orthodox Bashing

All too many times the “McMansion” issue is just a socially acceptable form of Orthodox bashing. “Why do these Jews have to destroy our communities?” “The Orthodox have no respect for our aesthetic.” “Don’t they have any shame?” These are only a few of the comments lurking not so deep beneath some Conservative or Reform Jews’ Sunday afternoon observation of “Oh my God–look at that disgusting, gauche brick thing that they put up on what used to be the Cohen’s lawn!”

The bottom line is Orthodox Jews have figured out how to earn a little bit of gelt, and when you have seven kids, anything less than a mansion can get a little bit tight. Granted, I find most Orthodox Jews in the “Five Towns” of Long Island and other locales guilty of overindulging in a nouveau-riche aesthetic that makes even the most polite blush.

Likewise, many Orthodox Jews may have a Mercedes in the driveway and spend Passover in luxury hotels in Florida but can’t afford to pay up their synagogue membership dues. (It took close to 15 years for one Long Island synagogue known for its so-called wealthy congregants with mega-McMansion homes to raise enough funds for a synagogue-rebuilding project).

And yes, I am sorry to say but many Orthodox Jews in the Five Towns, Teaneck, New Jersey, and Brooklyn, New York, have little respect or notion of a public aesthetic that’s tasteful, modest, and respectful of a community’s history. That said, when you have a lot of kids, what is most important is not looks but space. Kids require space, Shabbat company requires space, and hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests) requires space.

Its not Orthodox Jews who have a problem: it’s the rest of the Jewish community that gawk at the mansions of celebrities and take vacations to Newport, Rhode Island, to admire the palaces that were built by wealthy WASPs.

Of course, people who find the need to have mikvahs (ritual baths) built into their homes are pathetic, but let’s be fair and honest: Are they any more pathetic than the rest of America that dreams about having a pool in their backyard?



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Cheryl E.

posted October 26, 2006 at 6:00 pm


Living ‘way west’ of New York and the “five towns of Long Island,” I had a hard time relating to what Rabbi Stern was writing about. Not being an observant Jew, I somehow have the idea that people who declare themselves to be Orthodox are somehow perfect. They are knowledgeable enough about Judaism to be perfect in their observance and to understand the principles behind the observances. Going to Florida for Passover may fit in with that, but not if it leaves your synagogue without a dues payment. I have nothing against people who build large beautiful homes, as long as the style of the home fits in with the neighborhood. And what’s wrong with having a mikvah or a pool in your backyard?? Nothing, as long as it fits in with the style of the neighborhood.



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Mindy

posted October 26, 2006 at 10:08 pm


Where I live, in Northern Virginia, huge gigantic homes over 5,000 sq. ft are quite the norm. If you have 7 children, you should be able to have a huge house if you want. Even if you want to paint your huge house purple, I’m fine with that. What difference does it make? People should mind their own business and not be judging what others have or don’t have. As long as it is not harming anyone, its great.



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Stanley Isaac Nacht

posted October 27, 2006 at 6:59 pm


Living “Way West” of anything (besides the Pacific Ocean) I find living in a way accepable to HaShem AND your fellows very important.



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Stanley Isaac Nacht

posted October 27, 2006 at 6:59 pm


Living “Way West” of anything (besides the Pacific Ocean) I find living in a way accepable to HaShem AND your fellows very important.



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dovid

posted October 27, 2006 at 7:05 pm


In Atlanta, it’s not the Jews who are building McMansions. Why single us out? And who has a mikvah at home? All I saw in the article were institutional, if posh, mikvaot.



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dovid

posted October 27, 2006 at 7:05 pm


In Atlanta, it’s not the Jews who are building McMansions. Why single us out? And who has a mikvah at home? All I saw in the article were institutional, if posh, mikvaot.



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marian neudel

posted October 27, 2006 at 7:08 pm


I guess what worries me is not the floor space, or even the amenities in these huge edifices, but the homogeneity of the neighborhoods. If affluent people (of whatever faith) never see people who live in multi-family dwellings except as service workers, and never ever see Jews who live in such places, they end up with a warped perspective on our community. It’s bad enough for the rest of the world to believe all Jews are rich–it’s really scary when our most influential and powerful members of the Jewish community believe it!



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marian neudel

posted October 27, 2006 at 7:08 pm


I guess what worries me is not the floor space, or even the amenities in these huge edifices, but the homogeneity of the neighborhoods. If affluent people (of whatever faith) never see people who live in multi-family dwellings except as service workers, and never ever see Jews who live in such places, they end up with a warped perspective on our community. It’s bad enough for the rest of the world to believe all Jews are rich–it’s really scary when our most influential and powerful members of the Jewish community believe it!



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