Jewish Achievement in Real Estate

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Excerpts from The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement by Steven L. Pease, and edited and Jewish Real Estate Historyassembled by the Jewish Business Magazine. Four hundred shekels to buy the cave and the adjoining field of Machpelah, that’s how much Abraham paid a Hittite landowner in history’s first recorded real estate purchase by a Jew. When his wife, Sarah, died at the age of 127, Abraham bought the cave near the West Bank town of Hebron for her grave. Today roughly 3,700 years later, and despite restricted Jewish access, it remains one of Judaism’s holiest sites. Revered as the Tomb of the Patriarchs, it is said to be the last resting place not only for Sarah, but also for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rebecca, and Leah. In a sense, restricted Jewish access to the cave purchased by Abraham is a manifestation of the real estate difficulties Jews have faced for much of their history. In 2007, Forbes named the top twenty-five individuals from among the Forbes 400 whose success largely arose from real estate. They included:
            • George Argyros
            • Neil G. Bluhm
            • Donald Bren
            • Eli Broad
            • Matthew Bucksbaum
            • Alan I. Casden
            • Edward DeBartolo Jr.
            • Archie Aldis Emerson
            • Richard LeFrak
            • Theodore Lerner
            • Harry Macklowe
            • Paul Milstein
            • Igor Olenicoff
            • George Perez
            • Edward Roski Jr.
            • Stephen Ross
            • Melvin Simon
            • John A. Sobrato
            • Sheldon Henry Solow
            • Jerry Speyer
            • Leonard Stern
            • Alfred Taubman
            • Donald Trump
            • Sam Zell
            • Mort Zuckerman
More than two-thirds of the twenty-five (as least the eighteen in boldface) are Jews. William J. Levitt – Levitt & Sons:William Levitt - Levittown In 2000 Time magazine named William J. Levitt to its list of the 100 most important people of the twentieth century. In 2004 Business Week chronicled him as one of the greatest innovators of the past seventy-five years. A promoter, flashy dresser, and gambler, Levitt died broke in 1994, well before Time and Business Week made their selections. He was honored despite his problems. Levitt revolutionized housing at precisely the moment it was most needed. A custom home builder before World War II, Levitt, his father Abraham, and brother Alfred contracted to build high-volume, low-cost Navy housing in 1942. They learned how to apply assembly-line production techniques to quickly build inexpensive quality housing within “planned communities,” another notion pioneered by Levitt. The United States had not built significant numbers of middle-class homes since the onset of the Great Depression, but by 1946–47, millions of returning GIs were starting families and wanted their own homes. The houses had to be inexpensive, since most ex-GIs were just entering the workforce and had little cash. To help them, the government offered mortgage guarantees while also guaranteeing loans for builders. Levitt saw a way to break production into twenty-seven steps allowing himto build and sell a typical house for $6,990 ($70,000 in today’s dollars) while making a $1,000 profit. It was a huge opportunity. Levitt saw and acted on it before anyone else. (Today, those $6,990 homes sell for an average of $400,000.) The first Levittown, on New York’s Long Island, was a planned community on 1,200 acres. Today it includes 17,500 homes. After that project, others were built on Long Island, in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Puerto Rico. They all had winding streets, good schools, nice parks, and were considered safer than the crowded apartments of Manhattan, Queens, and similar old-line communities. Many developers followed in Levitt’s footsteps. The suburbs were born. Levitt’s pioneering changed residential real estate development from an industry of builders who completed only a few homes a year into an efficient mass-production business. In this, his contribution was akin to the Jews, conversion of the apparel industry from custom tailoring to “ready-to-wear.” In total Levitt built more than 140,000 homes.

For More information about Jewish Achievements in Real Estate and other Jewish Achievements, Purchase The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement.

Golden of Jewish Achievement by Steven Pease

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