The Jewish Dilemma

Es iz schwer tzu sein a yidIt is hard to be a Jew.
~Sholem Aleichem

When Britain’s Jews go to the polls next week, they do so at an uncomfortable moment. For the first time in at least a half century, their community—roughly 330,000 citizens—has become a major, if unwelcome, political issue. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is a long-standing ally of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its terrorist proxies Hamas and Hezbollah, and a fierce opponent of Israel’s right to exist, so the prospect of him becoming Prime Minister has made Jews nervous. As the New York Times suggests, British Jews are “Labourites practically by birth,” but many of them are likely to vote Conservative this time around.

The dilemma British Jews face is an increasingly common one across Europe. Britain’s Jews may not much like Boris Johnson, as they opposed Brexit by a factor of two-to-one, but many, in the words of the former Chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks, see the prospect of Corbyn’s election as “an existential crisis.” Polls suggest that just six percent of UK Jews plan to vote Labour.

What is occurring in Britain, and much of Europe, reflects changes in the nature of antisemitism. In the past, this oldest of prejudices was widely linked to the far-Right, where it still resides. But in many countries today, the primary instigators of anti-Jewish conspiracism tend to be found on the Left, and often allied with Muslim activists. Under this pressure, it is increasingly dubious that Europe’s Jewish communities can do anything but decline.

Whether from the Right or the Left, from Muslims, reactionary Christians, or progressive Greens, European Jews are confronted by a threat not seen since the 1930s. Some 90 percent of European Jews, according to recent surveys, have experienced antisemitic incidents, and more than 80 percent of European Jews aged 16 to 34 believe antisemitism is a growing problem in their countries. According to a recent EU survey, half of German and Belgian Jews and well over a third of Jews in France, the United Kingdom, and Sweden report being harassed for their religious affiliation; the rates have grown everywhere over the past five years.

If these trends persist, we can expect Europe’s Jewish populations to erode further. The triumph of Corbyn—a man 87 percent of British Jews polled believe to be an antisemite—could cause nearly half to “seriously consider” emigrating, most likely to more congenial places like Israel, the United States, Australia, and Canada. France’s Jewish population, the largest in Europe, has been sustained largely by the mass migration from North Africa, although that source has pretty much dried up now. Even so, France still has fewer Jews than it did in 1939 and that number seems destined to continue shrinking. Since 2000, nearly 50,000 Jews have left, mostly for Israel, the United States, or Canada

In fact, it’s hard to find a place in Europe—with the odd exception perhaps of Hungary—where Jewish prospects are anything but dismal. Eastern Europe, the center of the Jewish world in 1939 with its eight million Jews, has less than 400,000 today. Germany, home to 500,000 Jews in 1933, now has as little as a third of that, most originally refugees from eastern Europe. Fewer than 15,000 of the Jews living in Germany today can trace their roots to the pre-Nazi era.

Read the rest of the piece at Quillette.

Joel Kotkin is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for the Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His last book was The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us (Agate, 2017). His next book, The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class, will be published early next year. You can follow him on Twitter Twitter @joelkotkin

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Stomping on the Suburbs

Our way of life is a miracle for this kind of world, and … the danger lies in thinking that of it as ‘natural’ and likely to endure without a passionate determination on our part to preserve and defend it.”
— W.V. Aughterson, The Australian Way of Life, 1951

For generations, Australia has enjoyed among the highest living standards in the world. The “Australian dream”, embodied largely by owning a single-family home with a small backyard, included well over 70 per cent of households.

Today that dream is fading.

Those who are aged above 55, notes the Grattan Institute, still enjoy homeownership rates around 80 per cent but property ownership rates among 25-34-year-olds have dropped from more than 60 per cent in 1981 and to 45 per cent in 2016. Equally disturbing, new migrants, the lifeblood of an increasingly diverse country, have experienced a significant fall; skilled immigrants, for example, have seen their homeownership rate plunge just this decade from over 40 per cent to barely 25 per cent.

The obvious villain here is high-housing prices, that have risen twice as fast as incomes over the past four decades, a rate far higher than other high-income countries. Today, notes demographer Wendell Cox, “Sydney’s house prices, even after a recent readjustment, are higher, based on income, than any first world city besides Hong Kong; its housing costs eclipse great global cities like Los Angeles, New York, and London.”

Needlessly Pricey

To an outsider, Australia’s high housing prices are puzzling for a big country with relatively few people. Only 0.3 per cent of the country’s land is already urbanised compared to 6 per cent in the UK and 3 per cent in the US. To be sure, much is desert, as is the case in America as well, but huge swathes near both east and west coasts remain largely uninhabited.

Most Australians should feel free to dream but instead must struggle against regulations designed to force densification and curb “sprawl”.

Read the rest of this piece at The Daily Telegraph.

Joel Kotkin is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. He authored The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, published in 2016 by Agate. He is also author of The New Class Conflict, The City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He is executive director of NewGeography.com and lives in Orange County, CA. His next book, “The Coming Of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class,” will be out this spring.

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The increasingly “woke” values of the educated upper classes reflect, as Alvin Toffler predicted almost half a century ago, the inevitable consequence of mass affluence, corporate concentration, and the shift to a service economy. The new elite, Toffler foresaw, would abandon traditional bourgeois values of hard work and family for “more aesthetic goals, self-fulfillment as well as unbridled hedonism.” Affluence, he observed, “serves as a base from which men begin to strive for post economic goals.” Read more

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After all, with a brute in the White House, maybe the best thing to do was to devolve power to the local level, notably in urban centers where Trump is about as popular as the bubonic plague.

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If there’s anything productive to come from his recent Twitter storm, President Trump’s recent crude attacks on Baltimore Congressman Elijah Cummings have succeeded in bring necessary attention to the increasingly tragic state of our cities. Baltimore’s continued woes, after numerous attempts to position itself as a “comeback city,” illustrates all too poignantly the deep-seated decay in many of our great urban areas.

Baltimore represents an extreme case, but sadly it is not alone. Last year our three largest urban centers — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — lost people while millennial migration accelerated both to the suburbs and smaller, generally less dense cities. These demographic trends, as well as growing blight, poor schools, decaying infrastructure and, worst of all, expanding homelessness are not merely the result of “racism” or Donald Trump, but have all been exacerbated by policy agendas that are turning many great cities into loony towns. Read more

In Defense of Houses

Single-family homes are the backbone of American aspiration—so why do so many people oppose them?

A critical component in the rise of market-oriented democracy in the modern era has been the dispersion of property ownership among middle-income households—not just in the United States but also in countries like Holland, Canada, and Australia, where it was closely linked with greater civil and economic freedom. In its early days, this dispersion was largely rural, but after the Second World War, it took on a largely suburban emphasis in the U.S., including within the extended metro regions of traditional cities like New York and Los Angeles. American homeownership soared between 1940 and 1962, from 44 percent to 63 percent.

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