web analytics
October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



What Pew Means For Us


Front-Page-112213

This statistic also sheds light on the awesome toll exacted over the past century or more as a consequence of Judaic abandonment. I believe the number of Americans with Jewish ancestry, including those who acknowledge it and those who do not, in large measure because they are not even aware of their ancestry, is probably at least fifteen million.

The upshot of all this is that if we cast the net broadly, Jewish population has inched up over the years, to an extent because of the arrival of Russian Jews and also Israelis. If we cast the net narrowly, what comes into play is the loss of those who have totally abandoned any sense of Jewish identity.

However we calculate and whatever the numbers, it is certain that much of American Jewry is skating on thin Jewish ice. The cracks are there, they are spreading, and the toll will be evident down the road. Even when we consider those who have intermarried and say they continue to identify as Jews, the prognosis is devastating. According to Professor Steven Cohen, a key figure in the Pew research, about 40 percent of the children of intermarriages identify as Jewish, yet more than 80 percent marry non-Jews. Just 8 percent of the grandchildren of the intermarried will marry Jews.

For all our rejection of intermarriage, when it comes to population studies and key communal matters there is more than a dose of ambivalence about how to treat the intermarried and their offspring. For understandable reasons, Israel urgently prefers a high estimate of the number of American Jews, the notion being that this increases our influence in Washington. Even among the Orthodox, in our communal interactions as well as our discussion of demographic research there is no rush to exclude those who have married out and their children.

* * * * *

Pew focuses heavily on the Orthodox, despite its data showing that we are no more than 10 percent of all American Jews. The justification for this attention is that we are the most committed and that irrespective of what our numbers might be now, they are certain to grow because of high fertility. The fertility rate for the non-Orthodox is 1.7 children per two Jews, significantly below the zero population growth rate of 2.1 children. Because of low fertility alone it is estimated that in the next generation the number of Jews will decline by somewhere between 15 and 20 percent.

Pew divides the Orthodox into three segments – Modern, yeshivish and chassidic – something that it does not do for Reform Jews, although it reports that the Reform are three and a half times more numerous than the Orthodox, a statistic that borders on the nonsensical. All Orthodox who do not self-identify as Modern are in the other two categories which have the additional appellation of “ultra,” a term I regard as scientifically bogus and ethically flawed.

Much of the controversy that has erupted over Pew concerns the high attrition rate for the Orthodox, meaning the number who were raised Orthodox and no longer identify as such. There are also a startling number of self-identifying Orthodox who say they handle money on Shabbos and do much else that would strike any of us as not kosher. This seems absurd, as do the statistics showing that a substantial number of those who say they are Orthodox indicate that occasionally they go to non-Jewish houses of worship. A number of commentators have pointed out that this just cannot be.

The problem is that it could be, at least to an extent, under Pew’s definition of Orthodoxy which is predicated entirely on self-identity. A person is Orthodox if he/she so claims, irrespective of behavior and beliefs.

I have been involved over several decades in population research in Israel where the crucial criterion to determine whether a person is haredi or dati is whether the person fulfills the mitzvos. Pew believes that self-identity is the approach that demographers must take in the U.S. This is perhaps acceptable, provided that it comes with the caveat that many who self-identify as Orthodox are, in practice, not Orthodox. These are individuals who invariably belong to an Orthodox synagogue because they believe there is no other synagogue they should belong to. This phenomenon is apparent in the Sephardic community where those who are not particularly observant have not followed the Ashkenazic route of creating Conservative and Reform denominations.

About the Author: Dr. Marvin Schick is president of the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School. He has been actively engaged in Jewish communal life for more than sixty years.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “What Pew Means For Us”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Chaye Zissel Braun Grave
Funeral for Chaye Zisel Braun [photos]
Latest Indepth Stories
Keeping-Jerusalem

Judea and Samaria (Yesha) have been governed by the IDF and not officially under Israeli sovereignty


n past decades, Oman has struck a diplomatic balance between Saudi Arabia, the West, and Iran.

The Jewish Press endorses the reelection of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His record as governor these past four years offers eloquent testimony to the experience and vision he has to lead the Empire State for the next four years.

I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.

While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.

Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.

Turkey and Iran the 2 regional powers surrounding the ISIS conflict gain from a partial ISIS victory

Emigration from Israel is at an all-time low, far lower than immigration to Israel from Europe.

Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters: “‘Klinghoffer’ is justified as ‘a work of art’…This is an outrage.”

Do you seriously think that as you kidnap our children we should medically treat and help yours?

Sometimes collective action against the heinous acts of the majority is not enough. The world should not only support the blockade of Gaza; it must enforce the dismantling of Hamas.

The Arab Spring has challenged Jordan with the task of gradual reform with regard to its monarchy.

More Articles from Marvin Schick
Front-Page-090514

Although I was not a Zionist, like most others I knew in Agudath Israel in which I was active, I was zionistic.

Front-Page-040414

We now are in the season of advocacy of preschool, referring specifically to the education of children who are four years old.

Two months ago, the Pew Research Center issued a comprehensive study of American Jews and ever since the American Jewish community has been debating the findings. I have contributed my share to this debate, which concerns matters of critical importance.

As the Torah teaches, poverty will never be eradicated, nor will our obligation to assist those in need.

As we commemorate the fiftieth yahrzeit this Friday, the second day of Kislev, of Rav Aaron Kotler – the greatest Jew, in the opinion of even many of his fellow Torah luminaries, ever to set foot on North American soil – we are obligated to reflect on his achievements and the lessons he taught.

A major sociological characteristic and consequence of modernity is the tendency for people to join together in associations that express a common goal or interest or a shared experience. The United States has been a nation of joiners from day one and perhaps even before independence was declared. Alexis de Tocqueville described this tendency in Democracy in America, the epic prophetic work published a century and three-quarters ago.

There is constant talk of a tuition crisis, of the growing number of yeshiva and day school parents – and potential parents – who say that full tuition or anything close to it is beyond their financial reach.

Where children are emotionally and socially when they are not in school is a matter of growing concern for educators, especially in Jewish schools and other religious institutions.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/what-pew-means-for-us/2013/11/24/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: