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Not a Choice

In the editorial of June 29, “The Undeserving Poor?” the source of Orthodox poverty seems primarily attributed to the “choice” of having large families. But perhaps a more accurate description should be that they are “programmed” for communal survival.

Worried about the continued existence of their culturally rich community, Haredis fear and instinctually know what Jewish population surveys have repeatedly shown: The majority of their sacrifice to lead their children to a full lifespan of Orthodoxy will not pay off. Only four-in-ten people raised Orthodox as children remained so in adulthood according to the 2000-01 National Jewish Population Survey. At a 60% loss, having 6 children puts Orthodox families just a bit above replacement level at 2.4 children. The Orthodox community’s loss happens to be the main source for the replenishment of the waning numbers of Conservative Jews and also supplies one-in-ten current Reform Jews.

How much actual childbearing “choice” these communities have, if they are to remain viable communities, is open for debate.

Pini Herman
Phillips & Herman Demographic Research
Los Angeles, Calif.

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