Tax Issue Raised in Chabad Dispute

"Turf wars" going public (Times, June 10) reach more members of the Jewish community than all the weekly Anglo-Jewish papers. It can prove to be an effective means of involving the overwhelming majority who are not affiliated with any Jewish organization or institution. (It's estimated there are 600,000 Jews in greater Los Angeles.) Unless they know what's happening in "private" debates, they will remain passive when passion is needed to secure greater commitments.

As to the Bayit-Chabad housing dispute, the legal question of ownership is secondary to community interests, organization and values.

Bayit was created to serve the needs of college students who wanted to live on campus in an orthodox housing situation. The Jewish community, through private or its organizational instrumentalities, must help fund such programs.

What's disturbing about the Chabad move is that their prime purpose is to secure commitments to their way of practicing and living Jewish life. Meeting the needs of those on drugs or homeless is not a distinctive "Jewish" problem. For those who look to Jewish sources for assistance, there is the Jewish Family Service. It crosses "religious" differences and practices, and does what Chabad and others must do if any public funding is involved, provide services to whomever comes to their door(s) for help.

It's the latter (public funding from taxpayer dollars) that needs greater "public airing."

Social welfare agencies must make their funding programs public; religious institutions do not. The exception is where public funds are given for a specific non-religious, social purpose.

What is disturbing and potentially dangerous in terms of protection of minority interests and rights, is the growth of sectarian, religious agencies seeking taxpayer dollars, often masking their private interests by claiming the service provided is public. These nongovernmental expenses are a good part of our budget deficits and prone to excesses as there is not enough staff to adequately monitor these gifts and grants.

As to the issue revealed in the June 10 story, I would hope Chabad will step aside and leave student housing with the campus authorities and the agencies created to handle the physical and spiritual needs of students.


Pacific Palisades

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World