Global, Politics

Growing Hasidic Population Spells Turn To Right for American Jews?

AScribe reports,

In an era when the Jewish population in America is stable or declining, ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish numbers are growing rapidly — a trend that may make the Jewish community not only more religiously observant but also more politically conservative.
So says a University of Florida population geographer who recently completed the first estimate of the Hasidic population based on the U.S. Census.
Geography professor Joshua Comenetz estimated today’s Hasidic population at about 180,000, just 3 percent of the approximately 6 million Jews in the U.S., in a recent paper published in the journal Contemporary Jewry. However, Comenetz calculated that the Hasidic population doubles every 20 years because Hasidic Jews tend to have many children. That’s occurring even as demographic studies show that the non-Orthodox Jewish population is flat or falling. If current trends continue, Hasidic and other growing ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups will constitute a majority of U.S. Jews in the second half of this century – a potentially profound cultural and political change.
“In demographic terms, Hasidic Jews are more similar to some highly religious Christian groups than liberal Jews,” Comenetz said. “They may also sympathize more with the Republicans than the Democrats on values questions. So, one outcome may be a change in the way Jews vote.”
This bodes a turn toward conservatism among American Jews, most of whom traditionally support the Democratic Party, Comenetz added. For example, most ultra-Orthodox Jews send their children to religious schools, which makes they more sympathetic to faith-based initiatives of the sort identified with the Republican Party.

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Yeah, but uh… What about the fact that Kiryas Joel voted Democratic?

26 thoughts on “Growing Hasidic Population Spells Turn To Right for American Jews?

  1. If current trends continue, Hasidic and other growing ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups will constitute a majority of U.S. Jews in the second half of this century…
    How large is that “if”? I am no demographer, but a lot of the article’s claims seem to rest on this conditional.
    most ultra-Orthodox Jews send their children to religious schools, which makes they more sympathetic to faith-based initiatives of the sort identified with the Republican Party.
    Given the “faith” on which these initiatives are based, and given further that the Republican party of two years from now, let alone of 50 years from now, may look rather different from the one of the past six years, I would not be so quick to assume Hasidic Jews are likely to lead a decisive shift of Jewish politics to the GOP. Even if they do become a majority of the US Jewish population. That big “if” again…

  2. if throwing your trash out your window instead of shipping it to a landfill is environmentally friendly, than indeed, the chasidim are leading the pack

  3. Looks like more of the ‘fear factor’ of orwellian media. Now, in addition to fearing the right wing ‘Christians’ and right wing ‘Muslims,’ we now have to be afraid of the right wing ‘Jews.’

  4. I predict that in 300 years, there will be 6 billion Hasidic Jews in America. And they will all be living in Williamsburg, Boro Park and New Square.

  5. This article pretty much proves that Reform and Conservative Judaism have failed miserably. Not only are they false presentations of Judaism but they are even including Goyimg in their stat numbers. Remember a REform or JTS Conservative conversion is INVALID by not following Traditional Rabbinic Law. So therefore the children of invalid converts and invalid converts are being counted in these stats. Any day now the Conservative movement is going to close up shop and they’re going to hve to decide whether they want to be TRUE Torah Practiciing Jews and go Orthodox or just say we want to be “Culturally” Jewish and move to the liberal Reform Movements. The Conservative movement was a total failure in trying to invent your own Halacha for people that want to be both American and Jewish at the same time – Rav Salavacheck proved that, but the JTS Conservative movement didn’t want to be “that” Jewish – which pretty much means follow Jewish Halacha at all.
    Conservative movement will be officially done in 5 years. By which in that time no one will know who is a Halachic Jew in the Reform movement!
    Great Job JTS and Reform! Keep up your steller peformance!

  6. Six billion is not an arbitrary figure; it’s what you end up with if you start with 180,000 and double it every twenty years during a 300-year period.

  7. “This article pretty much proves that Reform and Conservative Judaism have failed miserably…”
    So tell me, Jeff, when the world ends (either because of global warming or a nuclear holocaust or a comet like the one that killed all the dinosaurs), will a prize be given to the Jewish denomination that has the most adherents? I’m assuming that the Hasidim will win hands down in that category. Unless of course, something goes wrong. Like what happens if people start leaving Hasidic sects in droves because they want to see what life is like on the other side of the ghetto wall? And what happens if genetic diseases (like Tay Sachs, Gaucher’s and Niemann-Pick’s) begin to take their toll after many centuries of intensive inbreeding? So don’t be so quick to give up on the Reform and Conservative movements. They are still in the running for “the prize.”

  8. My favorite part of your ridiculous argument, Jeff, is that you have the following syllogism:
    1. the c&r movements treat converts as Jews
    2. The c&r movements preform conversions which the orthodox do not accept.
    3. thus, the c&r movements are failures.
    what kind of half-assed logic is that? C&R Jews accept C&R conversions as valid. and if some Orthodox don’t, then that would be their problem (they wouldn’t marry C&R Jews for other reasons, BTW, since being born to a woman who doesn’t obey mikveh rules makes your lineage “tainted”). the success or failure of the C&R movements cannot depend on someone’s (prejudiced) criteria for conversion.
    Having said that – history shows that Orthodox Jews tend to stick together when they feel they are threatened, which is why Haredi leaders always instill a feeling of impending doom in their followers. A population explosion of haredim – in ISrael as well as the US – will just mean that their perception of threat will go down, and many of them will become, well, less ultraorthodox.
    The process should be interesting.

  9. With all due respect to every Jew and the path s/he follows:
    The numbers don’t lie. What does a Reform or Conservative Jew think when looking at the numbers? Every study (I recently viewed the latest on indicate freefalling demographics for both Reform and Conservative Jews. (and if I may, Reform accepts people with only a Jewish father as full Jews etc. – so these numbers are actually worse than they would indicate – according to even Conservative standards!)
    So I ask, my dear brothers and sisters, what do you tell yourself when you see that your boat is sinking?

  10. yea, I am one of those ex reform, ex conservatives. The conservative shuls inmy area attract the socially rich Jews. The reform attracts the “interfiath” and “I want to impress my mom and make her think I am jewish” crowd. The Orthodox attracts Dr and lawyer types and people who want to feel “better,more holy” than the rest.
    So where have I found a place? Like the article says…Chabad.
    You don’t have to show your tax form to afford to join, no one judges me as to my observance ( which is growing), no one spews liberal political crap from the bemah, goyim don’t sit on the “board” or hold the Torah, immigrants are welcome…
    So I have made some adjustments..gone are the tank tops and sweatpants in public. My wig is much prettier than my real hair, my clothes are lose so I am not so body concious, I go to the Mikavh and this spices up an already great marriage, we now all eat and have Shabbos on Friday night, instead of a basektball game etc.
    I live no where near the Chassidic community. I have made my Holy place in my house far from the city.So I probably would miss the “count”.

  11. I find two things about this article questionable:
    1. It appears to ignore the growing number of those who leave Orthodoxy. I’m sure the birth numbers are higher, but the defection rate is increasing. Within the past year, I read Off the Derech, by Faranak Margolese. She spoke to a number of Orthodox rabbis and educators who are alarmed at the growing number of Orthodox youth exhibiting “at-risk” behavior, including “frei-ing out”. Among themselves, when we aren’t around and they don’t feel the need to impress us with numbers demonstrating how successful they are and how unsuccessful the non-Orthodox denominations have been, they’re apparently quite concerned and describe the problem as one of “hemorrhaging”.
    2. It also fails to take into account the fact that, as David Kelsey keeps saying, the ultra-Orthodox world encourages a lifestyle and a mindset that foster poverty and unemployment. If this continues (and it doesn’t show any signs of abating), they simply won’t be able to provide for a community that large, and remain at the same time autonomous and aloof from the wider culture.
    Plus, Comenetz didn’t base his selection on religious or ideological affiliation (which he couldn’t have gotten from the US Census); he based it on language, and extrapolated from there. It would be difficult to say how that skewed the results, and which other factors should have been included, but weren’t.
    I’m always wary of social scientists who try to make predictions about human phenomena based on statistics. It’s probably impossible to take all of the variables into account. It’s difficult enough to predict natural phenomena with any accuracy.

  12. Cipher said,
    “I’m always wary of social scientists who try to make predictions about human phenomena based on statistics. It’s probably impossible to take all of the variables into account. ”
    In the 50’s, Orthodoxy was declared to be extinguished in 50 years. Can’t turst this projection stuff when it comes to Jews. We’re too weird.

  13. It’s impossible to discuss entire movements because there is so much variety within them. Some synagogues are successful, and some aren’t.
    Membership and participation at my Reform temple is skyrocketing, particularly among the young, because of various initiatives. We’re getting twentysomething Jews interested in Torah study, study the mitzvot, Israel, etc. Other Reform temples aren’t doing this, and several of them are getting advice from my temple. The increased outreach and activity indirectly causes Jews to meet, date and marry other Jews.
    (And as an aside, it’s not accurate to say that Reform Jews ignore the mitzvot. Rather, the movement encourages Jews to decide for themselves what they Jewish practice will be. There are Reform Jews who are frum, those who eat pork, and everywhere in between. It’s the choice that matters. But I digress.)
    So, at present, things may look bad for the Reform movement. Say 70% of temples are losing members and participation. Those 70% are currently learning from the 30% who are doing well. So I’d expect a large turnaround in the near future.
    And this is just one example of how these statistics are meaningless for future projections. Things are constantly changing.

  14. geez, you guys are pretty obsessed with labels, huh? why can’t we just look at people on an individual basis and see how they’re doing with their own path, their own mitzvot and their own tikkun?
    perhaps people find a movement (or no movememnt) helpful in their path. they could probably stand a little support from you.

  15. WWT said: It’s impossible to discuss entire movements because there is so much variety within them. Some synagogues are successful, and some aren’t.
    Wrong!!! You have now answered my above posted question – you are in denial!
    Between 1990-2001
    Orthodoxy has more than doubled!!!! In that same period Conservative slashed its members by a whopping 35% (NJPS)
    Yes there are dropouts among the Orthodox , intermarriage was at 5% is ’01 compare that to 46% of Reform Jews of which only one third were brought up with any Judaism.
    Mazel Tav for you synagogue. I will belive that there is a rebirth in Reform Judaism when I see it. Until then Yitkadal Vitkadeish.

  16. I just got an email that my reform shuls’ Back to Basics class for December will be: Chrismyth!
    One day they will have Jewish topics….
    Oh wait I forgot, they also had a St Patricks Day Shabbos this year, never mind!

  17. South of Dallas/North of Houston
    I kind of thought it might be. You know it isn’t representative of the rest of the country, right? (I know – New York isn’t, either.)

  18. geez, you guys are pretty obsessed with labels, huh? Nah — it’s that real people actually act in concert, sometimes, as parts of movements. But as soon as all of these movements cease to exist and people begin to act in totally atomized and mutually-uninfluenced ways, we’ll be sure to treat them all as disconnected individuals acting in totally individual ways, sure.

  19. My own search for a place within institutional Judaism has come full-circle in recent years, and in some respects has traversed the whole spectrum being discussed in this thread.
    Growing up in a “traditional” home but attending an Orthodox day school until 8th grade, I often felt limited in my insulated sphere and yearned to break free and see what was out “there.” Later in life I would explore the other movements, that is, R&C, not necessarily by choice, but because these happened to be the only options or because a close friend happened to be attending them. After dating a Reform girl for a couple of years and living in a town with few other options, I got an expansive sense of the movement. In other cities and other contexts, I further expanded my experience base within these movements.
    What I learned was to never know what to expect from a service, ritualistically or liturgically, but to almost always expect a half-hearted service where, perhaps to my biased eyes, the soul of it was missing. Without any sense that the laws were binding, the congregants’ bodies would undergo the movements, but they radiated a sense of casual practice, as though the service was a modern dance or a play they were participating in. Moreover, the overall flow of the service was dictated by whoever the rabbi, cantor, or stand-in spiritual leader was, and these would often improvise to create whatever type of service they desired, be it yoga, meditation, or secular poetry. All things fine and good, I would attest, but they turned the dignified, age-old tradition of synagogue into a soul-less, college-like environment. Indeed, such activities were things I enjoyed in other contexts, but they were not what I came to synagogue for.
    Years later, I am back at an Orthodox shul and quite comfortable. Of course, I have my own conflicts with this movement as well, but nothing in life is perfect. I just like knowing what to expect when I go: that I will get an age-old synagogue experience instead of the creative whims of a quasi-spiritual leader.
    I am sure this will offend some, but I do not write it to offend. Just my experience.

  20. I’m not offended — as a liberal Jew, I think most liberal Jewish communities have a lot to learn about how to make communal prayer less top-down.

  21. i’m not offended either…i am just really losing patience with the automatic bitch-slapping that the Reform, and particularly the Conservative movement gets from so many commenters in this space. Look, I know what the problems are that you’re describing. And I grew up in a lackluster, unobservant, spiritually vacant Reform shul. And I choose to daven in a more Ortho setting now too. I know the deal. But I just find it really unnecessary to slam entire movements of Judaism because they didn’t work out for us.
    Look – for me – the Reform youth movement was absolutely an effective gateway drug. I got more and more interested in text, Israel, ritual and whatnot within the Reform movement. And I moved to NewYork, and I joined a post-denominational shul and then I moved to SF and I started hanging out with ortho indie minyaners, and now I daven wherever I feel like it as long as there’s there there. And no – I have not chosen to join a Conversative shul but I certainly don’t think it is the end of Judaism if someone else does. I am confident in that movement’s ability to deliver a compelling Jewish experience to those who choose to sign up for it. And I think that those people who do so will either find themselves spiritually and communally fulfilled, or they won’t. I like to think that it’s my job – and many of our jobs – to fill in the blanks with terrific community programming and educational opportunities. People will take it or they won’t and really, I don’t know why we have to get so angry in this space about their individual choices. This isn’t Christianity. No one is going to hell because they davenned in a place with top down leadership or hypocritical congregants or leadership that you don’t like.

  22. I agree with Sarah – who are any of us to take a “holier-than-thou” attitude toward other Jews? I grew up in Reconstructionist and Conservative shuls, I now belong to a non-denominational shul and frequently attend services all over New York that are labeled Reform, Conservative, Independent, Orthodox, you name it. I find very little difference between/among the services themselves. One Orthodox shul I’ve visited repeatedly is the coldest place I know, and I spend my time there trying to ignore the chatting in the women’s section and actually daven. One of the Reform shuls I’ve started visiting has such spirit in their service that everyone attending is caught up in prayer, and never once has the rabbi or cantor had to tell the congregants to stop talking, as the cantor at the Orthodox shul does repeatedly during the service. Some of the indie minyans I’ve visited are Shabbat-themed meat markets, others are places for serious study and prayer that transform me.
    There are a number of people out there who go to services for different reasons than I do. I don’t think they’re wrong in their reasons, but I’m glad there are a variety of spaces that can accomodate our diverse needs. And I see plenty of people in every movement who need prayer, who need Shabbat and torah, and are finding them at all kinds of shuls. No movement is “dying,” and I don’t believe any movement ever will. I’m sure the populations will continue to shift as subsequent generations grow up needing different things from their Judaism, and I’m sure there will be new movements that spring up to fill those needs.

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