Orthodox Population Grows Faster Than First Figures in Pew #JewishAmerica Study

27% of Jewish Children Are Orthodox Homes — Huge Jump

getty images

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published November 12, 2013, issue of November 15, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

Much of the growth appears to have come from the ultra-Orthodox including the Hasidic sectors. Though Pew did not break out age data for that subgrouping, the survey found that of the 10% of Jews who identified as Orthodox, only 3% said they were Modern Orthodox.

The factors driving down the non-Orthodox population were explored thoroughly in early coverage of Pew and discussed widely in the Forward and elsewhere.

Less noticed were the exceptionally high birthrates reported by Orthodox Jews. Low levels of retention among older Jews who grew up Orthodox distracted from the birth rates and gave the impression that enough children were leaving Orthodoxy to keep the population relatively flat.

The new data challenges those assumptions.

High ultra-Orthodox birth rates are often visible in news media anecdotes For instance, when Israeli ultra-Orthodox rabbinical leader Yosef Sholom Elyashiv died in July 2012, he was said to have more than 1,000 living descendants.

Pew puts data to those anecdotes. The study’s numbers suggest that the Orthodox birthrate in the United States is far higher than that of most other religious groups. Pew found that Orthodox Jews averaged 4.1 children per adult, while America’s. general public averages 2.2 children. The Orthodox number is higher than the average for Protestants (2.2) and Catholics (2.4). Hispanic Catholics (3.1) come close, but still fall short.

These birth rates, which are helping to push the demographics toward an Orthodox majority, remain confounding to outsiders.

“Orthodox life is very, very different than a conventional lifestyle,” said Alexander Rapaport, 35, a father of seven. Rapaport lives in a Hasidic community in Brooklyn’s Boro Park and runs the soup kitchen network Masbia. He described a social structure designed to encourage and support large families — and that structure has apparently succeeded in more than doubling its share of the Jewish population in less than two decades.

Rapaport’s wife had the couple’s first child when Rapaport was 21. Their total of seven (so far) is about average for their community. Their latest, a 3-month-old, wears baby clothes passed down from a cousin born a year earlier.

“My wife didn’t buy any new stuff for my daughter,” Rapaport said. “My sister gave her all her stuff that she had for her daughter.”

Food, Rapaport said, is also inexpensive. “Most people in New York think of food, they think of eating out,” Rapaport said. In his community, it’s “chulent and gefilte fish eaten at home.”


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!
  • "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?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • 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.