Foreclosures Cost All of Us: Rabbi Emma Kippley-Ogman on the Homeowners' Bill of Rights

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At today's press conference on our state's foreclosure crisis and the proposed Homeowners' Bill of Rights, Rabbi Emma Kippley-Ogman, Assistant Rabbi at Beth Jacob, delivered a rousing speech on the real costs of foreclosure. She reminded us of Rabbi Eliezer's teaching: when our neighbors lose their dignity, we lose our dignity, as well. Because foreclosures cost all of us--in money, humanity, and dignity--the Homeowners' Bill of Rights would help us all. Please read Rabbi Kippley-Ogman's words below, and get involved in our foreclosure prevention campaign today.

 

Foreclosures cost all of us. 

I live and serve as a rabbi in Mendota Heights, in Dakota County. In our county alone, we have lost 2.1 billion dollars in home value to foreclosure. Almost seven hundred million of that comes from foreclosed homes. And almost a billion and a half comes from their neighbors. That’s right-–when our neighbors lose the money in their homes to foreclosure, we all lose money in our homes. 

In the mishna, the third-century codification of Jewish law, Rabbi Yosi teaches: Let your neighbor’s money be as precious to you as your own. If my neighbor’s home is in foreclosure, I lose money too. It’s that simple. Foreclosures cost all of us. But it’s not just in the value of our homes. Foreclosures cost all of us because they cost our cities and they cost our county. Dakota County has paid $160 million for foreclosure-–in legal fees, lost taxes, and increased police and fire protection for empty, foreclosed homes. 

The numbers are big. But that won’t distract us from seeing the real costs of foreclosure. Foreclosures cost all of us in money, and they cost all of us in our humanity. 

I spoke with a congregant this week who fought a foreclosure with ongoing tenacity, some help from the synagogue, and a well-timed call from a Senator. He spent months of his life getting the runaround from a bank. Each person he spoke with gave him a different story, and the required paperwork to modify his mortgage kept multiplying. He described his humiliation and despair, fear for his family and his future. He felt alone to face a faceless, dehumanizing system. 

In the same chapter of mishna, Rabbi Eliezer teaches: Let your neighbor’s dignity be as precious to you as your own. When one of us encounters a dehumanizing system, it is there for all of us. When our neighbors lose their dignity, we all lose dignity.

Foreclosures cost all of us. We are all paying for the banks’ policy with our pocketbooks and with our humanity. It’s time we have a say in bringing this crisis to an end.

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