2016 Annual Assessment

Annual Assessment 2016

Dr. Shlomo Fischer

Avinoam Bar-Yosef, Susanne Cohen-Weisz, Rémi Daniel, Chaya Ekstein, Dan Feferman, Avi Gil, Inbal Hakman, Michael Herzog, Simon Luxemburg, David Landes, Dov Maimon, Steven Popper, Uzi Rebhun, Shmuel Rosner, John Ruskay, Noah Slepkov, Shalom Solomon Wald, Einat Wilf

Barry Geltman
Rami Tal

2016 Annual Assessment

Both the Pew and the UJA-Federation studies divide the Orthodox population into two main sectors, Modern Orthodox and Haredi, and then further divide the Haredi sector into two sub-groups, Hasidic and Yeshivish. According to Pew, the Haredi community accounts for 62 percent of the Orthodox population, and the Modern Orthodox community accounts for 31 percent.6 According to the UJA-Federation study, in the New York area, Hasidim account for 48 percent of the Orthodox population, the Yeshivish community accounts for 20 percent and the Modern Orthodox community accounts for 32 percent.7

However, neither of the studies’ final reports released give adequate attention to the significant divisions within the Hasidic sub-group, nor acknowledges the existence of “Heimish” Jews who straddle the Hasidic and Yeshivish communities and cannot be solely identified with one or the other. Furthermore, while the broad categorization of Orthodox Jews used by Pew and the UJA-Federation may be valid for its Ashkenazic constituents, and indeed corresponds to categories and labels used by members of this population, it fails to give independent significance to the Sephardic community, a community that is sufficiently distinct to merit separate consideration. Another group that does not fit the Pew and UJA-Federation categorization is Chabad/Lubavitch, a Hasidic group that is very different from other Hasidic and other Orthodox groups, almost constituting a world unto itself. The incomplete recognition of the diversity of the Orthodox population is reflected in the characterization of Orthodox Judaism in the survey questionnaire used by Pew as a “denomination,” comparable to Reform and Conservative.8 Unlike the Reform and Conservative movements, there are no unifying institutional structures of either a doctrinal or social nature for the many and varied communities considered Orthodox.
The following is an abbreviated “field guide” to these major sub-groups, focusing on salient aspects of their respective social life and worldview.