Rabbi Hillel Goldberg

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg is executive editor of the Intermountain Jewish News.

“It is not a religious ideal to struggle to put bread on the table. Any religious person should be concerned about poverty, whether it’s grown or whether it hasn’t grown.”

Is the real story that the income for whites went up so much, rather than the bottom fell out for blacks and Hispanics?
To me there is also another issue and that is, taken as a whole, if the gaps between blacks and whites are much greater than the ‘60s, then another pertinent question is, “Is there a gap within the blacks?” There is no question that since the ‘60s there is a rise of a black middle class, an educated class. You see blacks in positions of academia, the medical profession and other places in society. So, I would need to see a more sophisticated picture.

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg

I think you could say that whatever the gap may or may not be, poverty is the enemy of religion. It is not a religious ideal to live in poverty. It is not a religious ideal to struggle to put bread on the table. Any religious person should be concerned about poverty whether it’s grown or whether it hasn’t grown. Wealth is not a moral deficiency, not a religious deficiency, but neither is it a necessity. If there is a greater gap between the races on the scale of poverty and wealth, the religious imperative is to eliminate the poverty which is not necessarily the same thing as the acquisition of great wealth. Israel Salanter, a famous, well-known Jewish ethicist of the 19th century, said spiritual matters are more important than physical matters, but another person’s physical needs are my spiritual obligations.

The focus is the eradication of poverty. Above that, let it go wherever it goes. There are always going to be some more wealthy, and some less. You’re introducing some other considerations and that is, even if I’m right about that, there shouldn’t be discrepancy based on race.

My subjective, unscientific, unmeasured perception is poverty is not as widespread and astronomical wealth is greater. I see that as to say more of an overall rise. This does not contradict the view that there may be a greater gap.

I think people are generally doing better. That does not eliminate poverty, homelessness. It does not decrease in any way religious obligation to ameliorate poverty and homelessness.

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