I remember with sadness my own experience of racism when I came to Montreal in 1968. My wife and I were renting a small one room apartment on Pierce street. We were looking for a bigger and better place as we were expecting our young children to join us, in a few months. we saw an ad. for an apartment nearby on de Maisoneuve. We called and made an appointment, but as soon as we got there, we were told that the place was no longer available. We explained that we had called a few minutes before and were told to come over and we asked how can the place not be available. The door was closed in our face. There was a friend with us and he told us that some people do not rent to non-whites. We could not believe this. We had never encountered any form of discrimination before and were truly shocked. Call us naive or whatever ( I was a student at Sir George Williams U. and my wife was working at the library at McGill) and there was a school nearby, which my children could attend. It was an ideal place for us.)
We went back to our apartment and told another friend what had happened. His name is Pat Doyle (Irish, of course). He became angry and picked the phone and called to rent the same apartment. He was told to come over. He went and" lo and behold", the apartment was once again available. We had followed him there and waited outside. He called us in and you could see the confusion and anger in the eyes of the same woman who had earlier told us that the apartment was not available. We went away and Pat told us to call the rental board. We chose not to, mainly because we were on student's visa and did not want to make waves.( I have always regretted that decision).
We were able to find an apartment on Crecent street and enjoyed our stay there (that was before Crescent became "the place"
The rabbis went on in their letter to say that the Torah forbid any Jew from selling "a house or a field in the land of Israel to a foreigner"." He who sells or rents them a flat in an area where Jews live causes harm to his neighbors." The letter adds :" After someone sells or rents just one flat, the value of all the neighboring flats drops....He who sells or rents (to non-Jews) causes his neighbor a big loss and his sin is great" So is it a religious dictate or is it an economic one?
These rabbis are mostly state-employed, so are they speaking for the state? The government has an obligation to clarify this in a clear and forthright manner. Jewish settlers can build on Palestinian/Arab land, but Palestinians/Arabs cannot even rent from a Jew or that Jew will be "ostracized".
A group of Orthodox rabbis have also condemned the letter. but more has to be done.