The Jewish Concept of “Chai,” by Rhona Kirsner

For many years, Rhona Kirsner has played an active role in the B’Nai Torah Congregation of Boca Raton, Florida. She has been a Golden Chai member of the congregation, a status named after the Jewish concept of “Chai.”

In Hebrew, “Chai” translates to “life.” Some claim that it refers to the Living God, though many others claim it simply emphasizes the importance of life in the Jewish culture. The Chai symbol can frequently be found on jewelry items and, when worn, serves as testament to a person’s Jewish identity. These charms have, as a result, become popular gifts to babies and young children.

The word Chai is made up of two Hebrew letters, Chet and Yud. Chet also signifies the number eight and Yud means 10; therefore, Chai also translates to the number 18. For this reason, many Jews make charitable donations in multiples of 18 in deference to the concept of life.

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Rhona Kirsner Describes the B’nai Torah Congregation of Boca Raton

Rhona Kirsner Describes the B’nai Torah Congregation of Boca Raton

Located in Florida, the B’nai Torah Congregation of Boca Raton offers numerous ways to learn about and celebrate Judaism. It conducts Shabbat services every Friday evening and Saturday morning, as well as a generational and family-friendly Havurat Shabbat Saturdays at 10:00 a.m. B’nai Torah’s Hebrew School conducts programs for Kindergarteners and children up through 5th grade. Adults can enhance their knowledge with education programs ranging from an introduction to Judaism and Jewish-American history to classes in Hebrew and an in-depth lecture series on Israel and its meaning to Jewish identity.

B’nai Torah’s programs include a concert series, its over-50 Hazak Chapter, and celebrations and observances of all Jewish holidays. For information on the B’nai Mitzvah program, Board of Trustees, Men’s Club, and Women’s League, and to donate to the nonprofit and tax-deductible B’nai Torah Foundation, go to http://www.bnai-torah.org. The B’nai Torah Foundation supports the B’nai Torah Congregation of Boca Raton to enhance its endowments, fund scholarship opportunities, and support the B’Nai Torah community.

Rhona Kirsner is a real estate agent with Lang Realty and belongs to the B’nai Torah Congregation of Boca Raton. Ms. Kirsner has served on the High Holy Day Committee and Congregation College Outreach Committee, and she is a Golden Chai within the Congregation.

The History of Mahjong, by Rhona Kirsner

Part of the appeal of the Chinese game of mahjong involves the mystery of its creation. Although the oldest known mahjong tile dates back to the 1880s, some argue that the pastime was born more than 2,500 years ago. However, the Chinese people showed an interest in tile-based activities such as dominoes in the 12th century, and mahjong might have its origins in ancient card games.

During the early 20th century, mahjong spread beyond China. It picked up significant attention when British nationals in the Asian nation brought mahjong sets to expatriate cafes in Shanghai. Japan started forming mahjong clubs around 1907, and the United States and Britain began importing sets during the 1920s. Many credit Standard Oil Company’s Joseph P. Babcock for being the primary force behind mahjong’s popularity in America; in 1923, it was deemed the nation’s favorite game.

Rhona Kirsner has been a Certified Public Accountant and Realtor throughout her career. Currently a real estate agent with Lang Realty in Boca Raton, Florida, Kirsner is the mother of two daughters and plays mahjong at the Boca Raton Resort and Club.

Potential Impact of Tax Reform on the Vacation Home Market in South Florida

From Rhona Kirsner

 

The ongoing debate in Congress over tax reform could end up with changes to the tax code that will impact the real estate market. There has been much discussion about limiting the personal income tax deduction for home mortgage interest, and possibly real estate taxes paid by higher income taxpayers. On one hand, the need for increased tax revenue might lead some in Congress to limit home mortgage interest and real property tax deductions. On the other hand, there is a vast constituency in favor of keeping these tax incentives to encourage home ownership, and many commentators feel that the home mortgage interest deduction for a principal residence is safe for the time being.

 

However, the mortgage interest deduction for a second home might be a more likely target for Congress to attack. It is easy for a member of Congress to defend the deduction for a principal residence, but it is a very different thing politically in these difficult financial times to defend the mortgage interest deduction for second homes.

 

Under the current tax rules, a homeowner can deduct the interest on up to $1 million in mortgage debt used to acquire up to two homes. For example, if a homeowner takes out a $700,000 to purchase her primary home, she can still deduct interest paid on a mortgage of up to $300,000 taken out to purchase a vacation home. Assuming a 6% mortgage interest rate, she would pay about $18,000 in mortgage interest on her vacation home the first year. If she is in the top 35% marginal income tax rate, her tax savings on the mortgage payments would be $6,300 (the savings would be even greater when state income taxes are taken into account). So, a prospective purchaser of a vacation home would likely consider this tax savings when projecting the total after tax cost of buying a second home. Let’s also assume that the real property taxes on the vacation home would be $6,000 a year. Under the current tax code, the deduction for real estate taxes paid would result in an additional $2,100 in income tax savings to our hypothetical vacation home purchaser. The combined tax savings from the mortgage interest and the real property tax deduction would be $8,400 a year, or $700 a month. So if Congress decides to limit both tax benefits only to a primary hone, this might take quite a bite out of the vacation home market all over the country. 

 

That being said, there is reason to believe that the impact might not be as severe in South Florida as in other parts of the country. This is because many vacation homes in South Florida are purchased by foreign individuals, from South America and Europe. Since many of the these foreign homebuyers do not pay U.S. income taxes (they have to live here for a minimum period each year in order to become subject to our taxes), they are not motivated by federal income tax savings when purchasing their second homes.

 

But, for the prospective vacation home purchaser from the Northeast, the potential  new tax math of second home ownership resulting from possible future tax legislation needs to be taken into consideration when deciding on how much they should spend on an acquisition. Prospective purchasers should consult with their tax advisor for assistance in calculating the potential tax benefits of the purchase of a second home, because everyone’s situation is unique, and other factors might limit their particular tax situation, such as the alternative minimum tax, and the reduction of itemized deductions for higher income individuals.

 

Rhona Kirsner is a realtor in Boca Raton Florida

Potential Impact of Tax Reform on the Vacation Home Market in South Florida

From Rhona Kirsner

 

The ongoing debate in Congress over tax reform could end up with changes to the tax code that will impact the real estate market. There has been much discussion about limiting the personal income tax deduction for home mortgage interest, and possibly real estate taxes paid by higher income taxpayers. On one hand, the need for increased tax revenue might lead some in Congress to limit home mortgage interest and real property tax deductions. On the other hand, there is a vast constituency in favor of keeping these tax incentives to encourage home ownership, and many commentators feel that the home mortgage interest deduction for a principal residence is safe for the time being.

 

However, the mortgage interest deduction for a second home might be a more likely target for Congress to attack. It is easy for a member of Congress to defend the deduction for a principal residence, but it is a very different thing politically in these difficult financial times to defend the mortgage interest deduction for second homes.

 

Under the current tax rules, a homeowner can deduct the interest on up to $1 million in mortgage debt used to acquire up to two homes. For example, if a homeowner takes out a $700,000 to purchase her primary home, she can still deduct interest paid on a mortgage of up to $300,000 taken out to purchase a vacation home. Assuming a 6% mortgage interest rate, she would pay about $18,000 in mortgage interest on her vacation home the first year. If she is in the top 35% marginal income tax rate, her tax savings on the mortgage payments would be $6,300 (the savings would be even greater when state income taxes are taken into account). So, a prospective purchaser of a vacation home would likely consider this tax savings when projecting the total after tax cost of buying a second home. Let’s also assume that the real property taxes on the vacation home would be $6,000 a year. Under the current tax code, the deduction for real estate taxes paid would result in an additional $2,100 in income tax savings to our hypothetical vacation home purchaser. The combined tax savings from the mortgage interest and the real property tax deduction would be $8,400 a year, or $700 a month. So if Congress decides to limit both tax benefits only to a primary hone, this might take quite a bite out of the vacation home market all over the country. 

 

That being said, there is reason to believe that the impact might not be as severe in South Florida as in other parts of the country. This is because many vacation homes in South Florida are purchased by foreign individuals, from South America and Europe. Since many of the these foreign homebuyers do not pay U.S. income taxes (they have to live here for a minimum period each year in order to become subject to our taxes), they are not motivated by federal income tax savings when purchasing their second homes.

 

But, for the prospective vacation home purchaser from the Northeast, the potential  new tax math of second home ownership resulting from possible future tax legislation needs to be taken into consideration when deciding on how much they should spend on an acquisition. Prospective purchasers should consult with their tax advisor for assistance in calculating the potential tax benefits of the purchase of a second home, because everyone’s situation is unique, and other factors might limit their particular tax situation, such as the alternative minimum tax, and the reduction of itemized deductions for higher income individuals.

 

Rhona Kirsner is a realtor in Boca Raton Florida