web analytics
May 6, 2015 / 17 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


What Pew Means For Us


Front-Page-112213

As an illustration of this point, in response to comments on Pew that I posted on a major Jewish website, the retired rabbi of an Orthodox congregation in the South wrote that his “Orthodox congregation has a large and loyal membership. But aside from a handful of old local families, Jewish communal professionals and teachers and kollel members…the overwhelming number of members are not at all observant. Even the lay leadership at the shul are to be found in the best local non-kosher restaurants. Barbeque and seafood are favorites. On the HH [High Holiday] days and a very few Sabbaths of the year, as a non-observant member you can park your car on the surrounding streets, block driveways and then walk a discrete distance to your Orthodox congregation.”

Accordingly, the real attrition rate, meaning people who have been Orthodox in practice but who have abandoned religious life, is far smaller than Pew suggests. This should not be an occasion for smugness within Orthodox ranks. Even if we remove from the Pew data the marginal Orthodox who are not religious in practice, the attrition rate is too high. I believe nearly all of us have had classmates and/or friends and/or relatives raised fully Orthodox who are no longer observant.

Of course, much of this has to do with the openness of American society. The more open or tolerant a society, the greater the capacity for persons to walk away from their roots. The United States is an open and generally tolerant society and it is quite easy for Jews to walk away from any sense of Jewishness and to join the great American melting pot. This is true of other ethnic groups, the single major exception being blacks, for whom race is obviously a powerful barrier against massive assimilation. Every white ethnic group in America has experienced greater assimilation and abandonment than American Jews. But we American Jews are getting there because, as noted, the intermarriage rate for the non-Orthodox in the recent period has been 70 percent.

* * * * *

Pew also discloses that there is no more than minimal movement toward Orthodoxy among those who were not raised Orthodox. This is another way of saying that the statistics of kiruv are disappointing. Spiritually saving a single Jewish life is a noble achievement. The problem with American kiruv is not that the numbers are small but that the approach is not calculated to bring about good results. Kiruv organizations and activities constantly and intensively focus on fundraising and public relations.

The kiruv data also raise – or should raise – questions about Chabad, which is today a massive presence in American Jewish life. There are hundreds of Chabad institutions, thousands of full-time Chabad workers and hundreds of thousands of American Jews who interact each year with Chabad. If the statistics on Judaic abandonment are correct and the parallel statistics of paltry Jewish kiruv are correct, there needs to be self-examination on the part of Chabad as to what is being achieved.

I am beginning a fourth comprehensive census of yeshivas and day schools in the United States, a project I undertake every five years. In the 1990s, when this research was first undertaken, enrollment in kiruv and immigrant schools was more than double what it is today. At least as telling, there were a fair number of students from marginally observant homes in many yeshivas and day schools. Nowadays there are few such students, as our schools are reluctant to accept students who come from homes that do not meet the expected standard of observance.

Today there is a disconnect between kiruv and chinuch, something I decried in a speech about fifteen years ago at Torah Umesorah. This disconnect has meant that kiruv operates as a separate activity and that chinuch is abandoned as an instrumentality for kiruv. There is no better formula for guaranteeing that kiruv activities will achieve disappointing results.

I have no illusions about the challenges faced by those in kiruv and chinuch. The reality is that even with the best outreach to non-affiliated and marginally observant families, American Jewry is certain to experience overwhelming losses. What is disheartening is that there are families that can be reached and this is not happening, in large measure because of the disconnect between kiruv and chinuch.

About the Author: Dr. Marvin Schick has been actively engaged in Jewish communal life for more than sixty years. He can be contacted at mschick@mindspring.com.


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.

Current Top Story
Hillary Clinton and PA acting president Mahmoud Abbas. Nov. 21, 2012
Clinton Said She Will Speak on Benghazi but Only Once
Latest Indepth Stories
Lewis-050115-Police-Training-at-Aleh

Although it’s emotionally difficult to see the suffering, helping out makes me happy.

I decided to really understand what Jewish people go through by becoming a Jew.

March for Armenian Genocide

Why does Obama and other democratic world leaders resist branding the Armenian killings as genocide?

Rioters smash window of police car in Baltimore.

I stated with clarity in simple terms, “Jews don’t have gangs.”

FBI’s undercover agents contacted ORA (Org. for the Resolution of Agunot) pretending to be an agunah

Israel promotes coexistence and peace, providing freedom for all religions on the Temple Mount.

The Jewish vote won’t impact polls as much as it will the coffers of candidates and their Super PACs

Iran stands unopposed by the “international community” and is racing to assert regional dominance.

If some Israeli cops got a Jewish education & learned to love Jews, Israel would be a better place

No where in the world is there the level of intervention by foreign countries as exists in Israel.

The Ravens’ Ray Lewis screamed that violence is never the answer.” Unfortunately, he is wrong.

Obama is the latest incarnation of our ancient enemies who arise every generation with a new face

Why do Jews, then, sometimes feel more intensely about Polish anti-Semitism than they do about German anti-Semitism?

The president is unwilling to cede any of what he considers his exclusive powers in the area of foreign policy and has struggled mightily to keep the Senate away from any role in the kind of deal to be negotiated.

More Articles from Marvin Schick
Marvin Schick

My guess is that most yeshiva students also winged it or cut corners because they, too, had rather onerous schedules.

Marvin Schick

To say he was beloved because of the way he loved his students does not sufficiently capture the reality.

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

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.

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: