Let My People Go

We must be free–not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.”–William Faulkner


A huge demonstration gathered in front of the Soviet Consulate on Green Street in San Francisco. There were portraits of men and women, who were trapped or imprisoned in the Soviet Union, whom people in the crowd had never met, but the crowd loudly demanded–“Let my people go!” Those events took place over 1969 to 1972, at the same time that our family challenged Soviet authorities to allow us to immigrate to Israel. In my book, “The Mortgage Game”, you can read about how we managed to leave the Soviet Union. After living in Israel for almost 9 years, we moved to San Francisco and met many of those, who protested on our behalf.

The root of the belief that authorities can be challenged and that there is a possibility of achieving a different “reality”, lies in the events described in the Torah.

Next week, Jewish people are going to celebrate the first night of Passover on the evening of Monday, March 25th. During the dinner, called a Seder–which translates to “order”–the story of events, took place according to historians, 3283 years ago will be retold for the benefits of the next generation.

It is the story about an Egyptian Pharaoh, who was afraid that the Hebrews, the people who lived in the land of Egypt for many years, would side with the enemy in a future war. His solution was to weaken and dispirit them through hard labor. Finally after many years of hard work and suffering, the Hebrew slaves remembered that it was the God of their ancestor, Jacob, son of Isaak, and Grandson of Abraham, who actually brought them there. Since Jacob’s name, after he fought with an angel, and prevailed, was changed to Israel, those Bnei Israel–the Children of Israel–complained and prayed to their God asking for salvation from their back breaking labor.

God heard their complaints and chose an 80 year old shepherd by the name Moses to go to Egypt and demand from the all powerful ruler of one of the biggest countries, at that timein the world, to release his workers and let them leave his country after being there for 210 years. At the beginning, Moses refused to take upon himself the impossible task, but God got angry at him, and offered his brother Aaron as a partner to deal with the Pharaoh.

Then God, who called himself “Hashem”–which translates to The Name, instructed the brothers to tell the Pharaoh:

You shall say to him Hashem, the God of Hebrews has sent me to you, saying: Send out my people that they may serve Me in the wilderness.

(Exodus 7:16)

Those powerful words, which were transformed into “Let me people go”, resonated for thousands of years, became the symbols for liberty from any oppression.

But when the Hebrew slaves reached the Red Sea, they soon found out that the Egyptian army was pursuing them, and that only praying (crying) would not save them. “Hashem” said to Moses:

 Why do you cry out to Me? Speak to the Children of Israel and let them journey forth.

(Exodus 14:15)

Praying is not enough–one has to act and move forward. Three months after leaving Egypt, the former slaves arrived at Mount Sinai–where Moses received the 10 commandments from God. However, it took 40 years for the Children of Israel to reach their destination. During those years, the old generation–which had a slave mentality, died.  The young people who grew up in the desert, finally took over the land across the Jordan River, which became known years later as the Land of Israel.


In spite of its significance as a place where Moses received instructions and knowledge from God, which became known as Five Books of Moses or the Torah–which translates to “instruction”– no one knows exactly where Mount Sinai is located. The wise men tell us that the Torah instructions for life belong to everyone, and the place where these were given is just a humble hill in the desert and could look like this one that I photographed on my trip to Israel in 2009.

Years later, its significance as a God presence was transferred to the Temple in Jerusalem. Nowadays, people from all over the world come to the Wailing Wall, a remnant of the Temple, which was destroyed 2000 years ago by the Romans, to connect with God and leave little prayers written on notes that they stick between the cracks in the old Temple wall. But over thousands of years, the memory of the Exodus and the story of the liberation are passed on from one generation to another.




Not everyone can get to Jerusalem. However since God is where we let Him in, I pray for the economy to improve and for more people to find jobs they enjoy. I pray for interest rates to stay low long enough for properties to appreciate and to increase in value, and to enable more borrowers to refinance and improve their cash flow. And I pray for the regulators, who create a lot of unnecessary hardships, to leave the mortgage industry and allow it to flourish again.

Let my people enjoy their lives.

Happy Passover


Best Wishes,


What a Photo Story in Cuba Has in Common with The Mortgage Game

The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.–Dorothea Lange

When I came closer to the small farmhouse, a little dog with a heavy chain ran toward me loudly barking. We were exploring different areas about an hour drive from Havana, and stopped for lunch in an off the road farm area. The “restaurant” was an old building with a large porch in front and a long communal table. While everyone settled down, placed their order, and photographed a chicken with her chicks that came to feast on the scraps from the table, I ventured into the farm. An older man alerted by the dogs barking came out from the house. I greeted him and he showed that there is more to photograph in the backyard. The scenery could have been similar to any farm anywhere in the world. The rotten shed with the chain on the wall, laundry outside with a Nike t-shirt hung over a broken motorcycle. There was a barn with a locked door and its content revealed through the gap by my curious camera lens; a ladder leaning on the small house, and a rooster proudly checking his territory.  When I turned around, I saw the owner in front of a red VW minibus without wheels. When he came closer, I photographed his close-up portrait.

Then, I heard an angry woman’s voice. There, in a small window at the back of the house, was a woman with only two teeth sticking out from her mouth. For me, it was a perfect photo opportunity, but despite my requests she refused to be photographed. Since I can only say a few words in Spanish, it did not help much. So I decided to bribe her. I ran back to our group where I had some give-away goodies in my bag. But when I returned with a bar of soap, she refused to take it. Meanwhile, everyone gathered on the little porch and the dog started to bark again.

There I did something which was natural for me, but probably not expected. I sat down on the ground in front of the dog. One of the rules of photography is to get on the same level when photographing animals and children and to always focus on their eyes. The dog calmed down and went back to his barrel.

But something else happened. I no longer saw an old woman, but a beautiful person. This energy transformed both of us. I turned around and had no problem photographing her. She allowed me to create her portrait, wanted to be photographed with her husband, and then asked him to photograph me and her together.

I had to go to eat my lunch and promised to come back with the interpreter. After we returned, the woman told my friend, who spoke Spanish, about her life and said that she loves me and asked her husband to give me their address requesting that I mail them the photos I took. We continued our journey. After the encounter, I photographed hundreds of other people, but when I reviewed the photos from my trip on my computer and saw the woman, a warm feeling filled my heart and I wanted to share this story with you.

Now I would like to interpret how these photos relate to my book “The Mortgage Game: The 5 C’s and How to Connect Them”, where I share my life and my clients’ stories. To see the connection, just follow my photos:

Clients anxious about their ability to get a loan complain about their circumstances, lenders,  and appraisers–(bark like this little dog).


Borrowers (chicks) rush to get mortgages with low rates brought to us by the Federal Reserve (the chicken), under the watchful gaze of the government regulators (the rooster, ready to step in at any moment).


Mortgages can be a heavy burden or uplifting (the chain), connecting borrowers to the house (the shed).


Borrowers have a lot of “stuff” to deal with (the laundry) and sometimes there are issues that require correction or repairs (the motorcycle).


But first we need to evaluate the Collateral (the house). To check how additions (the ladder) will affect the condition and value. All of this is under the watchful eye of the regulators (the rooster).


We know that there is more than meets the eye (closed barn doors).


Lenders need to look behind the closed door (the stuff in the barn) to reveal what is hidden–the Credit.


After that we will take a look from a distance at the person to evaluate how he/she can handle monthly obligations (environmental portraits)–The Capacity.


We also need to check clients’ ability to save money, which is only possible through the close look (close-up portraits).–The Capital.


After we evaluate all the documents presented to us and see the whole picture (the farm) we know how to help the borrowers, and comply with the regulators (the rooster) —the Character.


As a result, the loan is approved, funded, and everyone is happy (loving embrace with a beautiful human being).


After the mortgage is in place, everyone calms down. (The little frightened dog in us can hide again and go back into his barrel.)




My next e-book, “Mortgage Solutions for Smart People: 5 Easy Ways to Get Your Loan Approved”, is going to be out in about two months. But please read “The Mortgage Game: The 5 C’s and How to Connect Them” to get a better understanding of what it takes to get a loan approval.


Are you joining me, my family, and my friends in Cuba this December?


Best Wishes,


Power to Women


A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture, and transform.”–Diane Mariechild


It is pure coincidence that this email appears on March 8th–the International Day of Women celebrated in the former Soviet Union. When we were in Cuba, we heard that there were going to be elections on the following day. Since we did not watch local TV, or read Cuban newspapers, we had no clue that this was happening. Some tourists we met commented that not much is expected to change. I promptly forgot about this until on February 13th when I was back in San Francisco, and read an interview with retired Cuban President Fidel Castro in the S.F. Chronicle. Castro is 86 and ailing. In the article I read, “…he applauds the Cuban People for electing more women than men in the 612-sect National Assembly”. This really struck me. How much would have changed?

The former Guerilla leader is applauding that women have gotten more power in the government. The change is not only in Cuba. There are 97 women currently serving in the 113th US Congress compared to the 90 that served during the 112th US Congress. I feel that these changes will help shift the overall energy to making the world a less aggressive with a more consolatory female touch. Nevertheless, according to the article in the S.F. Chronicle on March 1st , Carly Fiorinawho was CEO of Hewlett-Packard in 1999 and the first woman to run a Fortune 20 company, sees a double standard.



When it comes to the mortgage business, it seems it is still run and controlled by the rigid standards set by men. Many of my female clients have been challenged to refinance their mortgages primarily because of a lack of verifiable income–despite the fact that they consistently make their mortgage payments. Some, who are self-employed, like beauty professionals or consultants, were able to get stated income loans in the past. Those programs are mostly gone. Some borrowers try to modify their loans to lower the rate. What borrowers do not know is that banks cannot modify existing loans until borrowers stop their mortgage payments. Some loan originators in the banks give borrowers unofficial advice to stop payments to enable a modification.

First of all, there is no guarantee that the modification will take place; meanwhile, there is a risk that the bank will foreclose, (though there is a new rule that forbids banks to start a foreclosure during the application for a modification). In any event, the real problem is that if borrowers will have late mortgage payments, and their credit score will be affected. Since not only mortgage companies, but also many other entities like insurance companies, car loans, home rental agencies, and even employers check consumers credit, a low credit score can be a big liability.

Unfortunately, the only solution is to have a paying salary high enough to qualify for a loan, which is obviously a “Catch 22” with the high unemployment rate in California and the effects it has on women, as was explained in “Job cuts hitting women harder“, which appeared in the S.F. Chronicle on March 1st. Sometimes co-signers can help to get qualified for a loan. However, in some cases it is better to sell a home if it is possible and rent instead for lower monthly payments.

I write more about this situation and the solutions in my forthcoming book,“Mortgage Solutions for Smart People: 5 Easy Way to Get a Loan”. If you need assistance, I know two powerful women who can help you–Ildiko Pali, who is a realtor and a short sale specialist, who can be reached at 415-923-7628 /ildiko@princeton-realestate.com

If you are seeking a good person to help you with your tax issues, I recommend contacting Elizabeth Shwiff. She is the head of the CPA firm, Shwiff, Levy & Polo, LLP and can be reached at (415)291-8600 /elizabeth@yoursrvc.com




I travelled to Cuba with my “power woman”, my wife Elfa. We have been married for over 45 years and are partners in our business as well. She is also a talented artist and primarily paints and draws portraits. While she never expressed a strong interest in practicing the art of photography herself, through the years she has helped me work on my images with my photography software. Before our trip, I gave her a crash course and with my small pocket camera, she bravely followed me on our journey. In our past travels, she did not enjoy my frequent stops to take photos wherever we went.

Now…I had to wait for her.

Not only has she overcome her shyness and started asking people to photograph them, she was taking close-ups! After a few days, she told me that this year I will not have difficulty to find her a birthday present. A new photographer is born. Other than the one below when I caught Elfa in action, the great portraits in this email were taken by her.



Are you coming with us to the Havana Jazz Festival on December 15-23rd of this year? Our group is growing. There is a limited number of participants. Last year, it was sold out. There are many other trips every month you can find on Cubaexplorer.com Those trips require specific legal documents and preparation. Please let me know if you cannot join us in December, but want to go a different month. I can help you with the paperwork. If you want to get great travel photos, I will teach you how–just join us on the trip to Cuba in December.


Best Wishes,

Manny<br />

My Secret Revealed


Seek for seeds of victory in every defeat.”–Chinese Proverb


At the end of my last email, I wrote about our next trip to Cuba and invited you to join us. What has happened is that you received the draft before the final version–thus you discovered the secret of my “Good News” email production.

Usually, I pick up an idea or read about something that I think might interest you. Then I write it by hand on the back of recycled paper (to save trees). Sometimes, I do it after work at home, or in a coffee shop, or even when I get inspired on the napkins in restaurants. Sometimes, I rewrite it with more current ideas, especially related to mortgages.  My assistant, Samantha, types out my scribbles, I check and make corrections, and it is emailed to my daughter Tamar who lives in L.A. She is a good writer and makes stylish grammar recommendations. Then, I choose photos to support the weekly theme. Samantha puts everything together and every Friday morning you are sent my “Good News”.  

Since I wanted to bring your attention to our trip to Cuba, this gives me an opportunity to email you again with the corrected revision:

After browsing through the Smithsonian magazine, my wife Elfa, asked me if I want to go to Cuba again and I immediately said, “Yes!”, but it is pricey.  I also remembered that awhile ago I saw a website talking about jazz trips to Cuba. On the web, I found cubaexplorer.com, an organization located in Vancouver, Canada that offers educational tours to Cuba and has many monthly trips including one for 9 days this year, on December 15-23. You can find more information at jazzcuba.com.

Will you join us? My list is growing. I already have 10 referrals and each has their significant other and friends. Let’s have fun together!


Now let’s talk about mortgages.

Let me share with you how we recently helped Rachel refinance her loan and the screw-ups we had to deal with. Mistakes are often a result of misinformation. Rachel worked for a non-profit organization that helps sick people whom she visits during the day. In 2010 and 2011, she was able to use her job related expenses to lower her taxable income by filing an IRS 2106 form. In 2012, she changed companies and her new employer reimburses her for the expenses, which then increases her take home income.

When we submitted her loan to a lender, it was turned down because of the “losses”–deductions based on the IRS 2103 in the previous two years. Her new paystub showed that she received reimbursements, but we did not yet have her 2012 tax returns. In my book, “The Mortgage Game: The 5 C’s and How to Connect Them”, I write that the mortgage industry lost the 6th C–Common Sense. Knowing the problem, we discussed it with another bank and were assured that it would not be a problem. Guess what? The loan was declined again. We did not despair and since as mortgage brokers, we can work with many different banks, the loan was submitted to a third one–and this time it went through. I describe many stories and solutions like that in my new forthcoming book “Mortgage Solutions for Smart People: 5 Easy Ways to Get Your Loan Approved”.


Someone asked me if there are many bicyclists in Havana. I did see and photographed a few but not as many as in some other countries. But there are many three-wheel, two seater taxis, pedaled by very friendly tricyclists.




I am not sure if you care very much, but I misspelled the name of the Venezuelan president, his name is Hugo Chavez. Since my email, he has returned to Cuba, and still has difficulty to talk; but, it was also reported that he requested his diplomats to seek the ways to improve the relationship with the United States.

Is Cuba next?


Best Wishes,

Manny<br />