Jewish Journal


New York Jews: The surge of the Orthodox

by Shmuel Rosner

June 12, 2012 | 5:11 am

Orthodox Jews in New York (Photo: Reuters)

The long-awaited study of the NY Jewish community is finally out. It ‎is comprehensive, thought-provoking, and much too long for us to ‎write about all in one post. Thus, what you’ll get here is a handful of ‎headlines and comments, to be followed in the coming days by more ‎‎(until you say enough). For those of you wanting to read the original, ‎go here, where you can choose just the Executive Summary, the whole ‎study, or specific chapters. ‎
‎ ‎


‎“Since 2002, population growth has been driven by high birthrates ‎among the Orthodox (especially the Haredim), increased longevity, ‎and an increase in the number of people who consider themselves ‎partially Jewish”. ‎

That’s probably the most loaded sentence in the whole report, and ‎you can find it right at the beginning. Orthodox growth is a ‎phenomenon that will become a huge issue, and the growth related to ‎‎“partial” Jews will be the flip side of the same discussion. ‎

Have something to say about this? Join the debate at Rosner’s Domain on Facebook


‎“Nearly half a million Jewish people (493,000) live in Orthodox ‎households — with significantly higher levels of Jewish engagement ‎than others, much larger households, and somewhat lower ‎incomes.”‎

Some Orthodox leaders would want more resources, they’d want to ‎go back to the discussion of funds allocations, and re-debate the ‎question that the Jewish community keeps struggling with: Is it wise ‎to spend all that money on the periphery, in the hope that some ‎distant Jews might decide to remain within the tent, instead of ‎spending more on the committed and the engaged? Reading this ‎study, I think it gives more ammunition to those preaching an ‎investment in the “core” and relative abandonment of the periphery, ‎but I expect others to have a different reading of the findings. They’ll ‎rightly point to the fact that, “More than half of all Jews with no ‎religion and more than a quarter of those with another religion still ‎engage Jewishly on at least a few measures.”‎


‎“Over the last nine years, Jewish engagement in New York has ‎dropped on a number of measures. In 2011 compared with 2002: ‎Fewer Jews feel that being Jewish is important (from 65% in 2002 ‎to 57% in 2011). Fewer Jews feel that being connected to a Jewish ‎community is very important (from 52% in 2002 to 44% in 2011).”‎

Remember: The overall engagement is down even though a growing ‎number of Jews are highly engaged Orthodox. This can mean only one ‎thing: a much steeper decline in the engagement of most other Jewish ‎sectors, and a reflection of the growing “partially Jewish” sector ‎‎(here’s how the study frames it: “the proportions with the most extreme forms ‎of disengagement have grown substantially since 2002”).‎


‎“Over the past decade, the organized Jewish community has ‎invested heavily in building Jewish connections through synagogue ‎revitalization, Jewish education and Jewish identity-building ‎grants, and Taglit-Birthright Israel. While it is highly likely that the ‎decline in Jewish connections over the decade would have been ‎much greater without these efforts, at the same time the trend of ‎disengagement continues.”‎

Probably the most devastating statement of the study, policy wise.‎


‎“Of all people in Orthodox households in the New York area, 35% ‎are poor. This figure masks significant differences between ‎Orthodox groups… the poverty rate in Modern Orthodox ‎households (15%) is a third of that in Hasidic households (43%).”‎

Namely, it is not just Israel having a problem with under-employment ‎and troubling economic models in the Haredi community.‎


Unlike major religious groups in the United States, major segments ‎of Jews do not necessarily identify being Jewish with Judaism as a ‎religion. Significant numbers of Jews claim their religion as ‎‎“none.”‎

Isn’t such an approach the most “Jewish” one can imagine?


Tracker Pixel for Entry


We welcome your feedback.

Privacy Policy
Your information will not be shared or sold without your consent. Get all the details.

Terms of Service
JewishJournal.com has rules for its commenting community.Get all the details.

JewishJournal.com reserves the right to use your comment in our weekly print publication.


The Israel Factor