Photo Credit: Jewish Press
Rivka Press Schwartz

I have joked in the past that the one place that unites all of Klal Yisrael, from Modern Orthodox to chassidish, is Saks Fifth Avenue on December 26th, 70 percent off.

When we talk about problematic influences from the world around us, we are likely to think about matters of ideology, entertainment and mass culture, or dress. We’re less likely to think about how we’ve assimilated prevailing cultural values around money and material consumption, even in parts of the Orthodox community that are very careful to keep out influences of the broader world in other areas.

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Our community holds great wealth, even if many members of our community are not wealthy, and we partake in many forms of consumption, from luxury salad purveyors to designer housewares emporia. This culture of consumption resets our barometer of what’s reasonable and expected. It has broad impact on our professional and life choices, on our children, and on our communities.

When we consider where we’ve been affected by the world around us, not always for the better, thinking about how we relate to having and spending money might be a good place to start.

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Dr. Rivka Press Schwartz is associate principal at SAR High School and a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America.