The Orthodox population is growing even faster than earlier reports from the Pew Research Center’s recent survey of American Jews suggested.
A new analysis of data from Pew finds that 27% of Jews younger than 18 live in Orthodox households. That’s a dramatic jump from Jews aged 18 to 29, only 11% of whom are Orthodox.
“Orthodox birthrates in just the last few years have been soaring,” said Jewish sociologist Steven M. Cohen, who requested the new data from Pew. “The sky is falling for the rest of the population.”
Previously published Pew data suggested that growth among the Orthodox was tempered by high dropout rates. No data was previously available on the proportion of Jewish children in Orthodox homes. The new figures show that the demographics of today’s Jewish children are radically different from those of even today’s Jewish young adults.
“There is a trend afoot, and in the next big population survey like this, we will see the beginning of a switch, whereby Orthodox Jews will eventually likely be the majority of American Jews,” said Sarah Bunin Benor, a professor of Jewish studies at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She, like Cohen, was a member of the Pew study’s advisory committee.
The Pew report was based on interviews with 3,500 Jews across the United States. In its analysis of its research, Pew described a gradual decrease in Jewish identity among the non-Orthodox, and a gradual rise in the overall proportion of Jews who identify as Orthodox. The study reported that 10% of Jews were Orthodox, just 2% higher than a roughly approximate study 10 years ago.
The new numbers give those findings a different cast.
As a proportion of the community, the Orthodox population more than doubles when you compare the demographic slice of middle-aged Jews with that of Jewish children based on the new data, according to Cohen. “Every year, the Orthodox population has been adding 5,000 Jews,” Cohen said. “The non-Orthodox population has been losing 10,000 Jews.”
The nationwide findings are in line with a 2012 study by UJA-Federation of New York. The study reported that 60% of Jewish children in the New York City area live in Orthodox homes.