Identity, Politics

More Jews than we thought, by about a million

The 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey, which was criticized for methodological problems, painted a grim picture. It had the American Jewish population on the decline and led to a decade of the official Jews running around with their heads cut off, trying to stop intermarriage, which, as we know, is the root of all evil.
Leonard Saxe, the Klutznick professor of contemporary Jewish Studies at Brandeis, said that the survey was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Saxe has a new study out that puts us in a growth trend, estimating one million more Jews than previously thought, for a total of 6.5 million.
Read more about this at The Forward.
The money quote:

“We have to stop worrying about whether the community will exist,” Saxe said. “Instead we should worry about the content, about how we make communal life meaningful for the many Jews who are out there.”

Which is kind of what we’ve been saying all along.

13 thoughts on “More Jews than we thought, by about a million

  1. Who is we? There has been plenty of talk in “progressive” Jewish circles that greater intermarriage and more lax conversion standards are the key to “Jewish continuity”, thereby accepting the mantra just joining in with solutions from another angle. Conversely, the Federation system will now claim that it was their policies over the past decade which have created a “growth trend”.

  2. Do these extra Jews include J4J’s?
    Do these extra Jews include members of sects who consider themselves ‘the real Jews’?
    I don’t think this Klutznick study was, ahem, well co-ordinated.

  3. If the population is 20% bigger than thought, doesn’t that mean our efforts are 20% less successful than imagined? Shouldn’t we all give ourselves 20% paycuts?

  4. My brother the statistician says that Saxe is not at all reliable. He takes the most favorable interpretation from various surveys which have very few Jewish participants, leaving a margin of error of 50-100%.

  5. The point is that we need to stop trying to program Jews to be a certain way. Enough with social engineering. So many Jews I know lament endlessly at our communal problems, ready to offer expansive solutions to convince thousands or millions of Jews to do X. They themselves, however, can’t be bothered to do the thing they advocate. Like Obama used to say, “be the change you want to see”. You want a strong, educated Jewish community? Stop trying to control other people. Just pick an hour in YOUR week and join a class on chumash with rashi or mishnah or chassidus.

  6. Victor, I’m not sure it’s a growth trend. I think the last study was just a gross mis-calculation. And we means people who agree with me. Loosely defined, obvi.
    Reb Yudel, word.
    Jeff, I also read in the article about this that there was wide agreement among experts outside the Jewish studies field that his methods were sound. Though I’m curious to hear more.
    Victor (again), that sounds really great, especially when you narrowly define “the change you want to see” as “a class on chumash with rashi or mishnah or chassidus.”

  7. Victor’s suggestion about taking an hour each week to actually learn Chumash with Rashi (or Mishnah or Chasidut) is on point — and is far better than a million hours spent in seminars and discussions and conferences *about* being Jews.
    If our people spent more time *doing* Jewish (learning, davening, doing Mitzvos), instead of *talking about* what it means to be Jew, we’d be in much better shape.
    I don’t think it’s any real mystery “how we make communal life meaningful for the many Jews who are out there,” as Saxe puts it. Find a rabbi/chevrusa/friend(s) to learn with, find a place you like to daven, and put Judaism at the center of your life.

  8. @ DAMW
    Re your quest for translation — it means the Klutznick study WAS well coordinated, since the source of the quote has a track record for being — well, wrong might not be as good a word as foolish.
    Meanwhile, as I remarked earlier in a reply that did not survive moderation, I know not why, the accuracy or lack thereof of the study is not nearly as important as what you perceptively describe as the money quote.

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