Changing Face of New York Jewry

Led by Orthodox, Population Grows and Shifts Dramatically

kurt hoffman/getty images

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published June 14, 2012, issue of June 22, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 4)

“Historically, the Hasidim have shied away from doing any lobbying on behalf of aid to Israel or helping Israel on political issues,” said Douglas Bloomfield, a former legislative director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who is today a syndicated columnist and consultant. “Even the Zionist Hasidim have been very reluctant to help garner votes when they were badly needed.”

Less Affluent

One-fifth of Jewish households in the New York area are poor. Eleven percent of Jewish households in the area are on food stamps.

While those figures represent a significant increase from just a decade ago, it’s not just the recession that is making New York Jews poorer.

Source: UJA-Federation of New York

The rapid increase in the number of Hasidic families is pushing up the overall poverty level in a way that won’t rebound when the economy improves.

“There’s kind of a ceiling on what they can earn,” said William Rapfogel, CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, of the Hasidim, citing their generally low levels of English-language secular education and their large families. “The recession issue may impact their actual earnings, in the sense that if there were no recession, they would be making 15% more…. But it’s not the overriding issue.”

The authors of the survey report agree that the growth in the number of Hasidic families is the largest factor in the higher poverty rates, though not the only factor.

The report counts poor families as those with an income level at or below 150% of the federal poverty level, which correlates to $27,000 per year for a family of three. Under those terms, 43% of Hasidic households qualified as poor.

Financial distress is not limited to the ultra-Orthodox. Today, 7% of New York Jewish households report annual incomes of $250,000 or more, while 42% report incomes of less than $50,000. And 37% of households reported that they were “just managing” to make ends meet.

“Realizing that 361,000 people in my community are living in poor households, to me that was striking,” Cohen said.

Though Jewish poverty levels are lower than poverty levels in the general population, the difference isn’t large, and it appears to be shrinking. In New York City, 27% of Jews live in poor households, while 30% of people of any religion live in poor households, according to Jack Ukeles, one of the report’s authors.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.