Judaism and the meltdown

Rabbis are a great resource during this economic crisis, providing both support and networking oppor

In any period of difficulty, it is essential that communities pull together to share their expertise to support those in need. During this period of economic uncertainty, it is certain that there will be no sector, faith, nor community that will be unaffected by redundancy and financial turmoil. It is clear that the leaders of those communities will be looked to for guidance during such a testing period.

I was therefore delighted to speak last week at a seminar, convened by the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, for the communal rabbi’s of the various synagogal bodies across the UK. Featuring industry leaders and communal organisations, the seminar provided the rabbis with an overview of the current economic crisis, the impact it might have on the Jewish community, as well as the resources available to assist those affected.

The common view of those in attendance was that whilst not expected to be business experts, rabbis are, like their counterparts from other religions, often the first point of contact for congregants struggling during testing times. In addition, faith leaders can be a great focal point for networking opportunities within a community. Rabbi’s, with an in-depth knowledge of their congregants skills and expertise, are often able to create positive and beneficent synergies.

By creating positive and mutually supportive relationships it is always possible to develop business contacts, find employment for those made redundant and provide advice in setting up a new business. It can be beneficial in the long-term too – the person you are helping today may have the expertise you need help with tomorrow.

Jewish text tells us that the highest form of charity – as discussed at length by Maimonides, the great twelfth-century philosopher and expert in Jewish law – is to find someone a job, thereby putting him in a situation where he can dispense with other people’s aid.

At TrainE we work within the Jewish community to empower people to make a strong and sustainable income by offering training and business development options. By offering nationally accredited training courses, a pioneering mentoring scheme and a business incubator supporting entrepreneurial business enterprise, we are supporting those in generating long term and sustainable incomes.

During any economic crisis, the job market is demanding and making career choices is all the more challenging. The tools to make an informed choice may give the added edge needed to make the right decision. We aim to do just that and our training courses together with extensive support network are a perfect way to gain the qualification that can help people stand out from the crowd and find a perfect vocation.

The attendance of so many rabbis at this seminar, and their willingness to engage with these issues should serve as an inspiration to others to think, not only about how to survive the economic downturn, but how to support others through it too. We can certainly draw inspiration from the ancient proverb of first-century Jewish scholar and theologian Rabbi Hillel “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I?”

Shraga Zaltzman is the Managing Director of TrainE, a non-profit Jewish community organisation dedicated to empower individuals to make a strong and sustainable income. He studied at Gateshead Talmudic College and at the Mir Talmudic College in Jerusalem. He holds a BA in Technology, Marketing and Management from the Jerusalem College of Technology and an MBA from Bar Ilan.

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In your 30s? You missed out on £26,000 and you're not even protesting

The 1980s kids seem resigned to their fate - for now. 

Imagine you’re in your thirties, and you’re renting in a shared house, on roughly the same pay you earned five years ago. Now imagine you have a friend, also in their thirties. This friend owns their own home, gets pay rises every year and has a more generous pension to beat. In fact, they are twice as rich as you. 

When you try to talk about how worried you are about your financial situation, the friend shrugs and says: “I was in that situation too.”

Un-friend, right? But this is, in fact, reality. A study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that Brits in their early thirties have a median wealth of £27,000. But ten years ago, a thirty something had £53,000. In other words, that unbearable friend is just someone exactly the same as you, who is now in their forties. 

Not only do Brits born in the early 1980s have half the wealth they would have had if they were born in the 1970s, but they are the first generation to be in this position since World War II.  According to the IFS study, each cohort has got progressively richer. But then, just as the 1980s kids were reaching adulthood, a couple of things happened at once.

House prices raced ahead of wages. Employers made pensions less generous. And, at the crucial point that the 1980s kids were finding their feet in the jobs market, the recession struck. The 1980s kids didn’t manage to buy homes in time to take advantage of low mortgage rates. Instead, they are stuck paying increasing amounts of rent. 

If the wealth distribution between someone in their 30s and someone in their 40s is stark, this is only the starting point in intergenerational inequality. The IFS expects pensioners’ incomes to race ahead of workers in the coming decade. 

So why, given this unprecedented reversal in fortunes, are Brits in their early thirties not marching in the streets? Why are they not burning tyres outside the Treasury while shouting: “Give us out £26k back?” 

The obvious fact that no one is going to be protesting their granny’s good fortune aside, it seems one reason for the 1980s kids’ resignation is they are still in denial. One thirty something wrote to The Staggers that the idea of being able to buy a house had become too abstract to worry about. Instead:

“You just try and get through this month and then worry about next month, which is probably self-defeating, but I think it's quite tough to get in the mindset that you're going to put something by so maybe in 10 years you can buy a shoebox a two-hour train ride from where you actually want to be.”

Another reflected that “people keep saying ‘something will turn up’”.

The Staggers turned to our resident thirty something, Yo Zushi, for his thoughts. He agreed with the IFS analysis that the recession mattered:

"We were spoiled by an artificially inflated balloon of cheap credit and growing up was something you did… later. Then the crash came in 2007-2008, and it became something we couldn’t afford to do. 

I would have got round to becoming comfortably off, I tell myself, had I been given another ten years of amoral capitalist boom to do so. Many of those who were born in the early 1970s drifted along, took a nap and woke up in possession of a house, all mod cons and a decent-paying job. But we slightly younger Gen X-ers followed in their slipstream and somehow fell off the edge. Oh well. "

Will the inertia of the1980s kids last? Perhaps – but Zushi sees in the support for Jeremy Corbyn, a swell of feeling at last. “Our lack of access to the life we were promised in our teens has woken many of us up to why things suck. That’s a good thing. 

“And now we have Corbyn to help sort it all out. That’s not meant sarcastically – I really think he’ll do it.”