Thursday, February 08, 2007

New Study: 7.4 Million U.S. "Jews" (Yes, I Used Quotes)

Cross posted at Kumah.org

When a study claims there are 7.4 million Jews in America Neo-Zionists get scared. Why? Simple. Because previous studies have suggested two conclusions:

1. Only Orthodox Judaism is growing. All other factions are either intermarrying into oblivion or identifying less and less with the Jewish people and

2. Overall the Jewish population in America is shrinking and has no future. (Remember Zeev Bielski and A.B. Yehoshua?)

Other studies have suggested that due to many factors the Jewish population in Israel is growing. This would mean in a few years the majority of those who are halachiclly considered Jewish will reside inside Israel and therefore many halachot will become Torah obligations, not just Rabbinic ones, and that the ingathering of the exiles can be considered complete.

Yet a study just came out that makes this remarkable "7.4 million Jews" claim. Here's how the NY Post reports it:

POPULATION SURPRISE FOR JEWS
By RITA DELFINER

February 8, 2007 -- America's Jewish population is far larger than previous estimates, a new survey shows.

There are as many as 7.4 million Jews in the United States, researchers at Brandeis University said yesterday.

They said the last authoritative survey was taken in 2000-01 and erroneously put the figure then at 5.2 million Jews. It counted practicing Jews; people who said they had no religion but thought of themselves ethnically as Jewish; and anyone with even one Jewish parent.

The Brandeis survey used the same categories and came up with 6 million to 6.4 million, a figure higher than would be expected by normal birth rate. But the researchers said their figure could shoot up to between 7 million and 7.4 million by adding an additional 1 million people who "might be considered Jewish" based on their backgrounds as kids of intermarried parents.

The Brandeis researchers said the earlier survey grossly undercounted non-Orthodox families, did not include "substantial numbers of young and middle-aged individuals" and was wrong to say the Jewish-American population had been in a state of decline since 1990.

"Our analyses tell us that the Jewish community is larger and more diverse than most had thought," said Brandeis Professor Len Saxe.


On the surface this new study seems to declare that:
1. Non-Orthodox Jews are doing great too, and
2. Orthodox Jews are overrated, and
3. The Jewish population in America is growing!

For those of us that follow halacha however this study does not disprove the previous conclusions, (that the ingathering of the exiles will soon be halachically complete) and may even strengthen them.

First let's get something out of the way. What is a Jew according to this study?

The same thing that was a Jew according to the NJPS.

And I quote from that study:

"For purposes of this report, a Jew is defined as a person:
-Whose religion is Jewish, OR
-Whose religion is Jewish and something else, OR
-Who has no religion and has at least one Jewish parent or a Jewish upbringing, OR
-Who has a non-monotheistic religion, and has at least one Jewish parent or a Jewish upbringing."(page 13)

The halachic definition of a Jew is one whose mother is Jewish or one who halachically converted.

The study (which you could download and read for yourself here) relies heavily on unproven assumptions. Previous studies, they claim, underestimated non-Orthodox Jews because they must be harder to reach. That's solid logic if I ever heard it. Got a lower representation than you wanted? Just say, "oh, well, obviously there are more. We just can't reach them."

Look forward to this headline: "Pinchas proves extraterrestrial life exists." See I did a study. I called beings and asked them if they are extraterrestrial life forms but since AT&T doesn't provide long distance service to other planets they are a bit harder to reach. Not wanting to underestimate them I included them in my results.

Here's how they concocted this argument. Are you ready for this?

1. "Families with several school age children, typical of many Orthodox families, have more people available to answer the telephone and may be more likely to be at home. This makes them easier to reach." (page 19)

2. "This fits with our earlier conclusion that non-Orthodox Jews may be more difficult to reach than non-Jews (particularly for telephone surveys) because of their socio-economic distinctiveness." (page 29)

Okay, okay. I know. Purim came early this year! Now after you've stopped laughing and caught your breath it gets better. These researchers are clearly disconnected from the Orthodox Jewish reality, namely that we have a life too and don't sit at home all day waiting by the phone for that survey researcher to call us.

The researchers claim that prior studies "systematically undercounted certain groups..." Namley, "...young adults (18-29 year olds). Young adults are particularly difficult for telephone surveys to reach. An increasingly serious research problem is that these individuals are the most likely to use cellular telephones as their exclusive personal telephone." (page 20)

And we all know that non-Orthodox 18-29 year old Jews use cell phones far more than their Orthodox counterparts. After all, we Orthodox Jews all have black beards and live in Lanchester, Pennsylvania and build barns and plant corn.

What this study shows is that all new studies will begin including more and more people as Jews when they are halachiclly not Jewish at all. And that in fact the halachiclly Jewish percentage of these results will continue to shrink.

Consider this:

"There is increasing evidence, for example, that more intermarried families are choosing to raise children Jewishly. If that trend continues, it portends an increase in the Jewish population." (page 31).

To me it portends an increase in the non-halachic "Jewish" population.

The paper concludes:

"Acknowledging the controversial nature of the present findings, we hope that this report will provoke productive discourse. The larger, more diverse, character of the population suggests that debate about the future of the Jewish community in America needs to encompass multiple viewpoints that address the concerns of the different groups making up the overall community. It suggests, as well, a broadened set of discussions with other Jewish communities around the world, in particular, Israel." (page 34)

In English: Israel should become (or remain) less connected to G-d because so many American "Jews" are.

"Just as Jewish identity is regarded as fluid, and may change in intensity over the lifespan, the character of the population, too, may shift as norms about marriage, child-rearing and religious practice evolve." (ibid.)

In English: Israel should accept, if not encourage, intermarriage, having less kids, and not believing in G-d.

They are the ones that are scared. They need to keep telling themselves it's safe to be a non-religious Jew in America today. They keep telling themselves their future is bright. They should know better. They do know better.

Neo-Zionism is winning. Torah Judaism is winning.

Keep the Torah! Make Aliyah!

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