Materialism & Jewish Life

I was just talking to someone looking for a Modern Orthodox Jewish community that wasn’t too materialistic.

As long as I’ve been Jewish — 15 years — I’ve been poor. I’ve never been treated badly because of it. On the contrary, on countless occasions, Jews (and goys) have helped me out.

I’ve had countless occasions to bemoan my poverty. Some years I haven’t been able to afford a lulav and etrog so I’ve had to borrow one at shul. It sucks not being able to go out with your friends, but I’ve never found "materialism" a problem in Jewish or goyish life.

I’ve always driven a horrible car and I’ve always had the opportunity to date a lot of women.

I’ve always lived in a hovel and I’ve always had the privilege of hosting women who made a lot more money than me.

For the past eight years, I’ve had one nice suit and I’ve worn it every Shabbos. Over the past year, it became increasingly threadbare. Nobody ever made fun of me because of it. The worst thing that happened was that during a nice conversation I had with a Persian guy during Friday night services, he told me about the suit store he worked at in downtown LA and how he could get more a good deal if I ever wanted to get a new suit.

So why do so many people bemoan "materialism" in Jewish (or goyish) life? I believe it is entirely for internal reasons. Some people feel bad because they are not as affluent as their peers and this gnaws at them. They want to advance higher up the social ladder. They want to avoid humiliation at all costs.

People who are at peace with their poverty don’t bemoan "materialism" and people who work hard to have nice stuff.

I meet a ton of guys who bemoan that women want to marry a rich guy.

I don’t think they should complain about this aspect of reality. They should just work on themselves.

Yes, women want to marry a man who will provide just like men want to marry an attractive woman who will provide sex.

That’s the way we’re made.

But if you are a great guy — even if you are poor and ugly — you can still date hot chix.

If you are poor, there’s no inherent reason you to have to feel bad about your poverty and to seek out a Jewish community that is not materialistic.

Almost every day for nine months in 2000-2001, I davened at Young Israel of Century City, the richest Orthodox shul in Los Angeles. I loved the place. Nobody made me feel bad about my poverty. It was never an issue. Everybody knew I was poor and everybody knew I went to daf yomi and they still tried to match me up with dates.

Non-Orthodox Jews often complain that Orthodox Jews try make them feel that their non-Orthodox Judaism is not authentic. But most of the time, this isn’t because of what the Orthodox say. This is nagging sense that many non-Orthodox Jews have when they confront Orthodox Judaism. If a non-Orthodox Jew feels secure in his religion, he won’t need Orthodox Jews to validate Reform Judaism as authentic.

I could walk around bemoaning my inferiorities. Instead I try to turn them into assets.

"Go on a date with Your Moral Leader because you never know where we might break down and what might happen."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in Jews, Orthodoxy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.