Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Truth about the Growth of Orthodoxy – A Clarification

By Professor Chaim Waxman – Guest Contributor

Professor Chaim I Waxman (YWN)
Professor Chaim Waxman was recently featured in a Yeshiva World News story about the growth of Orthodox Jewry and where Orthodoxy of the future will get their leaders. I wrote a follow-up piece discussing the future of Orthodoxy - projecting what I believe its nature and makeup will be.  That projection is based on my own observations and on the YWN article that quoted Professor Waxman. Whose implied projections seemed to match my own.

Many of those that read the two articles objected to the numbers cited about the size and growth of various segments of Orthodoxy. In short they were incredulous about those numbers – saying that they could not possibly be anywhere near accurate! And they blamed YWN for sloppy reporting. Apparently, that is not the case.

Professor Waxman was kind enough to respond to those accusations – clarifying them for me. He agreed to allow me to post his remarks on my blog. His words follow, intact and in their entirety.

Someone sent me your blog,(link)

Actually, I came neither to praise nor bury American Orthodoxy. The piece in the yeshiva world.com was based on a talk I gave where, as requested, I analyzed data from the 2013 Pew Report. 

I spoke on a range of issues showing significant differences between Orthodox and non-Orthodox.  I also analyzed differences between Modern Orthodox and Haredi/Ultra-Orthodox.  I did not support or favor either.  Rather, I pointed out some of what I saw as their strengths and weaknesses. 

I did indicate that American Orthodoxy as a whole is growing.  Much of the talk was based on part of a chapter in my forthcoming book, Social Change and Halakhic Evolution in American Orthodoxy (Oxford and  Portland:Littman, 2017).

For your readers who dismissed the figure on the much higher Haredi/Ultra-Orthodox birth rate, that information comes from Steven M. Cohen, Jacob B. Ukeles, Ron Miller, “Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011: Comprehensive Report,” UJA-Federation of New York, June 2012.  They found that, in New York, “the Modern Orthodox are now a minority, comprising only 43 percent of the city’s Orthodox population. The majority, 57 percent, are “Hasidic &: Yeshivish.”  As for family size, 
“[b]y any measure, Hasidic households are the largest in the New York-area Jewish population. In terms of number of Jews, Hasidic homes are far more than twice as large as non-Orthodox households (4.8 for Hasidic versus 1.8 for non-Orthodox), while Yeshivish households, with 4.1 Jews, are nearly as large as Hasidic families.
 Modern Orthodox homes are somewhat smaller (2.8), but still much larger than non-Orthodox households.  . . .  Hasidic households are home to 12 times the number of children as non-Orthodox homes. Even Modern Orthodox households are home to four times the number of children as the non-Orthodox.” (Pp. 213-14)
All previous surveys showed a very high rate of defection from Orthodoxy but, as I have written previously, it is possible that many of those who said they were raised Orthodox meant their parents belonged to an Orthodox synagogue and defined themselves as Orthodox though they were actually part of what Marshall Sklare and Charles Liebman termed the “non-observant Orthodox.”

Perhaps among those who were, and especially among those who had 12+ years of yeshiva education, the rate has gone up. Perhaps.  There is an “otd” population but, nevertheless, the Orthodox, and especially the Haredi/Ultra/Orthodox sector, is growing.  The latter, btw, has a much lower “otd” rate than is found among the Modern Orthodox. 

Prof. Chaim I. Waxman is the Department Head of Behavioral Sciences at Hadassah Academic College in Jerusalem and Prof. Emeritus of Sociology and Jewish Studies at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey