The 2022 Annual Assessment

The Situation and Dynamics of the Jewish People

Project Head:
Shmuel Rosner

Gabriel Abensour, Nadia Beider, Dan Feferman, Shlomo Fischer, Shuki Friedman, Avi Gil, Noa Israeli, Dov Maimon, Steven Popper, John Ruskay, Adar Schieber, Noah Slepkov, Yedidia Stern, Shalom Salomon Wald, Haim Zicherman

Barry Geltman

The 2022 Annual Assessment

The Jewish People in 2022: Challenges of Governance, Culture, and Polarization

In the past year no significant deepening of any of the acute challenges facing the Jewish people was observed. All the same, no progress was registered toward overcoming these challenges. Developments in the geopolitical, economic, and social arenas, however, did affect the Jewish people and overshadowed internal developments and change trends. The war in Ukraine posed the challenge of absorbing refugees, including Jewish immigrants, in Israel. Political instability has necessitated yet another round of Israeli elections, the fifth in four years, while political polarization in the United States continues to intensify as midterm elections approach. Antisemitic phenomena around the world, and on social media, continued in accordance with trends observed in recent years.

Studies of Jewish communities in a number of different countries have identified continued erosion processes in Jewish institutional membership, a phenomenon connected with a general trend toward secularization and detachment from any recognizably “religious” identity. Economic crisis, as well as a lack of consensus regarding means and methods, makes it difficult to expand investments in strengthening Jewish identity, while a sociopolitical crisis sharpens disputes among Jews that take control of the agenda.

In this chapter we will examine the political arena in Israel, as well as long-term trends regarding ties to tradition and religion, challenges arising from the current wave of immigration from Russia and Ukraine, and from the strengthening of Israel’s Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) sector. The main discussion of antisemitism appears in the context of the Antisemitism Index on page 93; the main discussion of the situation of the communities in Russia and Ukraine appears in the Demography Index on page 69; and the main discussion of trends in Israel-Diaspora relations appears in Israel-Diaspora Index, which can be found on page 87.

Polarization and Governance in Israel

In Israel, the home of the world’s largest Jewish community, political upheaval continues for the fourth year, which makes it difficult to form a stable coalition, to draft and implement long-term plans, and to adequately address burning issues. The outgoing Israeli government, and the Knesset majority on which it rested, registered several specific achievements, above all the significant and precedent-setting inclusion of an Arab party in the ruling coalition.1
This development signaled the possibility, even if not the certainty, of a long-term trend toward deepening the integration of Israeli Arabs in shaping Israeli policies out of a sense of partnership and shared responsibility for the destiny of the country. However, the fact that the accomplishment was short-lived, which collapsed largely due to the opposition (or elements within the opposition) that rejected this Jewish-Arab partnership and were unable to reconcile themselves to it, indicates the opposite possibility: that, based on this experience, the time is not yet ripe for deepening the Jewish-Arab civic partnership, and Israelis – Jews and Arabs – are not ready for the change of consciousness required to bring such partnership to fruition.

In early November, the citizens of Israel will go to the polls for the fifth time in less than four years, in what is actually an ongoing crisis the essence of which is the difficulty in reaching a consensus on the nature and composition of the governing coalition. The difficulty is less a matter of significant disagreement on policy regarding the major issues, than of resolving gaps of identification with personalities, symbols, communities, and tribes in Israeli society. On the main issues, such as the economy, healthcare, the Iranian challenge, relations with Arab countries, and more, the differences between the positions held by the various political parties are usually not very large. The political fault lines are most evident in the context of personal matters, issues of minor impact on the country’s resilience, primarily of symbolic importance (such as the religion-and-state controversy over bringing chametz (leavened products) into hospitals during Passover), and in the context of communal identity of different groups (“Haredim,” “Arabs,” and the like).

These fault lines indicate an ongoing and sometimes bitter dispute over the Israeli social vision, which is often simplistically (and harmfully) depicted as a conflict between those who want “a more Jewish state” and those who want “a more democratic state.” This promotional framing, which public leaders exploit to foment political polarization, obscures the fact that majority of Israeli Jews want a state that is both Jewish and democratic. It sharpens suspicions among Israelis that one political camp is not committed to democracy and another camp is not committed to the state’s Jewishness. It is of course true that narrow communal identification and the vision gap may also affect policy on various important issues. This is the case with regard to the challenge posed by the growth of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community and its economic and social implications for Israel. It is also the case regarding the challenge of integrating the Arab sector, and its ramifications for Israel’s identity as a Jewish state. It furthermore applies to the integration of radical groups from both ends of the spectrum within Israel’s decision-making system.

The cumulative result is that Israel suffers from an ongoing crisis in the government’s ability to function – a situation marked by difficulty establishing the functional continuity of the legislative and executive branches. In the absence of any political disagreement of principle, it is important that we understand the source of the crisis, for which three interrelated and complementary explanations may be proposed. The first, point-specific explanation relates to the political figures who lead the various Israeli factions and the crisis of trust between them, which makes cooperation difficult even under conditions of political consensus. The second explanation relates to the structure of Israeli society and the tribal preferences within it. According to JPPI data, the secular sector prefers Arabs as political partners, while more traditionalist and religious Israelis prefer partnership with the Haredim.2

These two distinct groups, the Arabs and the Haredim, together constitute about a third of the population; both hold the power to enable a government to form, and the power to prevent one from forming. Part of the difficulty in establishing a stable coalition stems from the reluctance of one camp to partner with the Arabs, and the reluctance of the other camp to partner with the ultra-Orthodox (and also the divergent positions of the elected Arab and Haredi officials themselves).

A third explanation relates to a fundamental disagreement over the appropriate guiding vision for Israel’s future. Several visions exist in a state of tension, competition and, at times, contradiction, as reflected in the personal and group identifications noted above. In an era characterized by polarized and vitriolic social discourse, in Israel as elsewhere, and by a weakening of the moderating mamlachti (“statehoodist”) influence, it is difficult for groups with competing visions to work together even on issues where there is mutual agreement.

At the time of writing, it is too early to determine what the consequences of this phenomenon will be for Israel’s political system in the coming year. It may be that one of the “blocs” will achieve a sufficiently large majority to assemble a coalition without having to compromise with disapproving parties. It is possible that such a majority on one side of the political map would force a “rethink” on the other side; it is also possible that the present state of affairs will continue (there is no particular reason to believe the campaign promise of “no sixth round,” as such promises were also made during the “third,” “fourth,” and “fifth” rounds of elections). What is clear is that until a stable government is finally established in Israel, one that will implement a systematic work plan of some kind, it will be impossible to progress toward resolving many of Israel’s domestic and external challenges, some of which have broader implications for the Jewish people. This state of affairs is undesirable for Israel, as some of the challenges are accumulating additional layers of complexity, and the longer it takes for Israel to address them, the harder it will be to do so effectively.

Religious and Political Identity

In recent years, researchers and opinion influencers have claimed that political identity is emerging as an alternative to religious identity for citizens of many Western countries.3
There are various explanations for this phenomenon, many of which see technological changes as the main key. “Social media and news consumption habits […] have cordoned Americans off into ideological echo chambers that are all-consuming […]. The sense of connection some find online may be replacing social networks once formed by houses of worship.”4
This phenomenon has many different implications for Jews, including their ability to maintain cohesion, ease tension, and reduce polarization. This is because a reciprocal dynamic distances these groups from each other – groups that diverge on religion cannot reach a consensus in the political sphere either, while those that differ in the political arena also experience tension on the religious level.

This relatively new reality naturally sparks debates about cause and effect, whether Jews (and non-Jews) change their political positions due to their religious outlook, or whether they forge a religious outlook in accordance with their political positions. For some time, it was commonly held that religion is the factor that drives political attitudes. In recent years, however, a number of studies have advanced a different hypothesis: that membership in human groups with a particular political ideology also largely dictates the religious affiliation of their members. Findings from the U.S. and Israel support this idea.5

In the U.S., as in Israel, there is an evident connection between political ideology and religious practice. Politically conservative Jews, on average, observe many more Jewish practices than do politically liberal Jews. For example, three times the number of conservative Jews say that religion is very important to them compared to liberal Jews (per Pew data: 41% versus 12%). Accordingly, there is an easily discerned “gradient” in almost all surveys of Jewish beliefs, behaviors, and commitments, for both American and Israeli Jews. The proportion of conservative American Jews who belong to synagogues is nearly double that of liberal Jews (45% versus 25%). A much higher share of conservatives say they observe Shabbat “in a way that is meaningful” to them (53% versus 33%).

In Israel, only a minority of those who identify as “completely secular” come from the “right” or the “center-right” (less than a fifth). By contrast, the share of traditional and religious Israelis who hold right-wing political views is much higher.6
Accordingly, there are gaps in Jewish traditional practice (and not lonely those pertaining to “mitzvah observance”) are also evident in the political sphere. On the right, more than half of Israeli Jews “study Jewish texts,” compared less than a third of political centrists and less than a fifth of those on the left. On the right and the center-right, nearly all Jews feel “very Jewish” (on the right, over 90% rated their Jewish feeling at 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10). By contrast, the share of political centrists who feel “very Jewish” drops sharply (to about 70%), while for those on the center-left and left the percentages drop even further (between 40 and 50%).

None of this is news, but the possible consequences are relatively new: Due to deep political polarization in the U.S. and, on some issues, in Israel, there is a feedback loop between the two phenomena. When political positions are polarized, it becomes necessary to “align” commitment to tradition with them, and when commitment to tradition increases, it becomes necessary to “align” political views accordingly. The cumulative result is a rapid erosion in the share of those able to hold political views typical of one group while maintaining an attachment to tradition characteristic of another group. And on the practical level: 50% of American Jews identify as liberal, 16% as conservative.7
There are indications that liberal U.S. Jews (and leftist Israelis) who wish to maintain a strong attachment to traditional Jewish practice along with their place in their political identification group will find the task more complicated than it once was.

In this context it is worth noting that, for somewhat similar reasons, a substantial proportion of Jews in Western Europe have gradually moved from the liberal camp to the conservative camp (in France this occurred in the 1980s; in the UK the process has been slower). Departure from the liberal camp is linked to Muslim immigration, to the left’s connection to the immigrant community, and to the rise of antisemitism on the left. According to various findings, both in Western and Eastern Europe, some Jews have become more religious and more community-oriented (or it may be that those who did not make such a transition gradually disconnected from the community and their Jewish identity). Were a parallel process to take place in America,this would translate into more Jews joining the conservative camp and, perhaps, a rise in religious commitment.8

The Declining Power of Religion

Long-term processes affecting the Jewish people do not renew themselves from year to year, but new data allow us to identify trends as they develop, and to track the pace of their progression. One such important trend is secularization in the Western world. Indications of this trend can be seen in the two largest Jewish population centers in North America (relative to the general population). In late 2021 it emerged that the share of Americans of no religion, which had been climbing for several years, had reached nearly a third of all citizens, and that the share who say that religion is not important in their lives had reached another third (per data from Pew;9
Gallup data also point to a rise in the share of those who do not identify with a religion, though that share is lower).10

Canadian data show that 85% of Canadians born before 1959 are affiliated with a religion, while for those born in the 1980s and ‘90s the share plummets to 32%.11
A quarter of Canadians take part in religious activity of some kind once a month or more (a 10% decline within a decade). The United and Anglican Churches and Jewish religious institutions report the lowest participation rates of all religious factions (24% for Jews). Although the Canadian Jewish community is indeed growing, and on its way to becoming (or already is) the world’s third-largest Jewish community after Israel and the United States, it is shrinking in terms of its share of the total population. Today, Jews constitute less than one percent of Canadian population.

The percentage share of Jews in the United States is too low to obtain a precise breakdown of this trend among the Jews. However, specific studies of the Jewish community indicate that it is more than possible that what is happening to other significant American subgroups (especially Protestants) is also happening to the Jews. Only a third of those belonging to these groups attend prayer services once a month or more. About a fifth say they have no religion – a share lower than that of Jews who self-identify as having no religion.

Jews in general are characterized as much less religious than Americans of other faiths. For example, only a fifth of Jews (according to Pew surveys) consider religion to be “very important” to them, versus 57% of Christians. The share of Jews who never, or almost never, go to synagogue is more than half (52%), compared with a third of Christian adults (32%).12
And it is worth noting the steep decline in religious engagement in the United States: In 2000, when Americans were asked whether they had entered a house of worship in the past seven days, 44% answered in the affirmative. In 2021, the share dropped to 29%. Along with the decline in attendance at houses of worship, membership in religious institutions has fallen. In the 1930s, more than seven out of ten Americans were members of a church; today the share is less than half, with lower percentages for Jews.

The continued decline of organized religion in Jewish life is a familiar phenomenon, having appeared in the past in conjunction with other developments, such as a general dwindling of the role of religion in the lives of Americans. Like the percentage of mixed marriages, it entails a reassessment of the ability of religious institutions to serve as anchors of Jewish life in North America.

Is there another option for sustaining vibrant Jewish life, one that does not depend on participation in religious activity? In recent years attempts have been made to identify such a possibility, based on the assumption that what Jews are no longer interested in is “institutional religion,” and that engagement with Jewish practice and the expression of Jewish identity are gradually moving into other arenas. To date, these efforts have not been persuasive. Take, for instance, the data on “Jewish giving” (to Jewish causes). In the Pew Research Center’s 2013 survey of American Jews, 56% of respondents said they give to Jewish causes. In its 2020 survey, the share had dropped to 48%. Comparison of the two surveys is problematic for methodological reasons, but Jack Wertheimer, who conducted such a comparison, found indications of decline in nearly all parameters in a way that is hard to attribute to research methods alone.13

Forty-two percent of adult American Jews see their Jewishness as a very important part of their lives, down from 46% in 2013. In 2013, 30% said that they felt strongly attached to Israel, while seven years later the figure had dropped by 5%. Friendship with other Jews has become less common: a quarter of Jews said that they have almost no close Jewish friends, a rise of 4%. Wertheimer points out that “Jewish secular, cultural, or what used to be called ‘peoplehood’ engagement is also weaker.” An examination of different community studies shows that such engagement characterizes just a small percentage of Jews. For example, in a study of the Baltimore Jewish community (2020) 55% of non-Orthodox Jews said that they never read Jewish content online (31%) or do so rarely (24%).14
Fifty-eight percent said that they do not consume “books, films, television or music” focused on Jewish themes. In other words: Jewish “religious” activity is, in some cases, engaged in as a form of Jewish “cultural/secular” activity, and not as a substitute for it.

Here is another example in the same context: Among the non-Orthodox in Baltimore, just 8% are affiliated with an institutional Jewish organization, and 6% with a non-institutional organization. The corresponding figures for the Orthodox, whose religious engagement is strong, are 21% and 22%, respectively. The share of non-Orthodox Jews who participated in “an event, program, or class” at a Jewish institution once a month or more was 9%; among the Orthodox the share was 31%. Perhaps more importantly, the share for non-synagogue-members was 6%, but 24% for synagogue members. In other words, a significant relationship was again found between religious engagement and cultural attachment/activity (thus, attachment to Israel as well).

Convergence and Aliyah

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022 was an event of global significance with only marginal effect on the Jewish people. However, both countries involved in the war, the invader and the invaded, have Jewish communities – one a victim of wartime aggression like the rest of Ukraine’s citizenry, and the other a victim of sanctions and economic deterioration like the rest of the Russian population. In both of these communities – small remnants of the large Jewish communities that dispersed with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the great waves of immigration in Israel and the West – there has been renewed interest in emigrating to other countries, including Israel. And for some of them, aid is required to alleviate hardships arising directly from the war, whether in the form of food and supplies for individuals, or assistance to community institutions. This situation is part of a general trend of erosion in Jewish communities in most countries around the world, with particularly rapid attrition in environments unfavorable to Jews, and a convergence of those who do wish to remain actively Jewish in a much smaller number of large communities (mainly in Israel and the United States, but in other places as well)15
– or in Orthodox-Haredi communities that maintain a distinctive and insular way of life even where things are more complicated in terms of attitudes toward Jews.16

Relief work for the Ukrainian and Russian Jewish communities has provided an opportunity for the Jewish people to act on behalf of a common goal with no significant ideological discord. Although political, social, and legal debate has erupted in Israel regarding the state’s duty to absorb non-Jewish immigrants as well, there has been no serious disagreement about the absorption of those eligible for immigration under the Law of Return, and state institutions and the Jewish Agency have mobilized for the absorption of larger-than-usual numbers of refugees and olim. Sixty percent of all those who immigrated to Israel over the past year have come from Russia or Ukraine. In the first three months of 2022 some 10,000 olim arrived from these two countries, and it is estimated that by years’ end the number of immigrants will be more than double that of previous years.

It should be emphasized that various forecasts of significant Jewish immigration numbering in the tens of thousands, or even the hundreds of thousands, have not materialized, or even come close. As with similar predictions regarding aliyah from France a few years ago, when antisemitic incidents rocked the community, Jews have proven this time as well that they are in no hurry to leave their places of residence – and if they are, Israel is not necessarily their destination. On the other hand, since the beginning of the 21st century, around a fifth of French Jews have left the country, with 60,000 coming to Israel. Although French Jewry numbers half a million, only a third had a meaningful connection to the Jewish community to begin with. That is, the core community numbered fewer than 200,000, making the departure of a quarter of its members significant indeed. However, this does not constitute a dramatic demographic increase for Israel: the number of Jews who arrived from France in 2019-2020 was less than 5,000 in total.17

One way or another, the Jews of Ukraine and Russia could have left before the war, but they preferred to remain in those countries. Many of them, even in wartime, have preferred to stay in their current homes rather than emigrate (detailed information on Ukrainian and Russian Jews can be found in the Demography Index, page …). This year’s immigration numbers amount to a few tens of thousands. These are larger numbers than usual, but not large enough to significantly affect Israel’s demographic balance (as of this writing, it is too early to assess how the closing of the Jewish organization offices in Russia, including the Jewish Agency office, will affect further immigration).

The war is still going on, and its outcomes are unknown. Accordingly, it is hard to say, at this point, what percentage of those who are now leaving Ukraine and Russia will wish to return there once the fighting has subsided and the geopolitical arena has calmed down. It can be assumed that the longer the crisis continues, and the more successfully the olim are absorbed, the greater the chance that some or even most of them will remain in Israel. Conditions in Israel will also affect any such future decisions. Data from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics show that a fifth of immigrants from the FSU reported that their main reason for immigrating to Israel was the desire to ensure their children’s future, while another fifth immigrated because their parents or spouses decided to do so. Only 14% of these olim said that they had made aliyah because of a “desire to live as Jews in the land of the Jews.” In other words: the likelihood of aliyah will increase should the economic situation in Ukraine and Russia remain poor in the long term. And in this sense, it may be that aliyah from Russia, a country caught in the grip of sanctions, is the more likely scenario, while immigration to Israel from Ukraine, should the war end, is slightly less likely (it must be said, with caution, that Russia’s long-term occupation of parts of Ukraine is not certain to promote economic prosperity in other parts of the country).

Regarding Jewish immigration from Russia and Ukraine, it should be noted that most of the immigrants are eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return, but not necessarily recognized as Jews by the state and the Chief Rabbinate, which employ the Orthodox-halachic definition. This situation embodies potential for increased tension surrounding the question of “Who is a Jew” in Israel, especially given this year’s Jewish People Policy Institute research finding that, in the consciousness of most Israeli Jews, Jews are those born to a Jewish mother.18
When the Central Bureau of Statistics, a decade ago, attempted to determine how FSU immigrants self-define, four out of ten were found to consider themselves “Jews,” a far lower share than in the general Israeli population. A similar number self-defined as “Israeli,” while another fifth (21%) defined their identity according to their country of origin. In Ukraine 200,000 people are eligible for Israeli citizenship per the Law of Return. Fewer than 50,000 Jews there are manifestly Jewish (what is referred to as the “core” Jewish population). In Russia, 600,000 individuals are eligible for Israeli citizenship per the Law of Return, and the core Jewish population there is numbers slightly more than 150,000.

This year, the outgoing Israeli government examined the possibility – which did not come to fruition – of changing Israel’s conversion system, so as to increase conversion rates among immigrants. Today, there are half a million immigrants living in Israel under the Law of Return who are not recognized as Jews, and the number is increasing. The proposed solution still focused on procedures in accordance with Orthodox methods, but research data do not justify assuming that such measures as changing the format and expanding the range of conversion options (the law proposed by former Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana would have transferred conversion authority to city rabbis) or easing the conversion process (if certain rabbis agreed to less demanding procedures) would result in a significantly higher number of converts. Most of those who belong to the “irreligious” group marry/establish family units among themselves, or with secular Israelis who see no need for conversion, or who are content with “some kind” of conversion process, even if it is not recognized by the Rabbinate. Under these circumstances, two likely scenarios for the coming years should be considered. One is that the aliyah from Ukraine and Russia will enlarge the share of Jews in Israel who do not marry through official channels (because they cannot be married via the Rabbinate, Israel’s sole official channel for Jews). The other is that the large number of “irreligious” immigrants will increase pressure for instituting civil marriage, so that couples whom the Rabbinate does not recognize as Jews will be able to marry in Israel.

The Challenge of Haredi Integration

A widely publicized report released in mid-2022 noted that one out of seven Jews around the world today is Haredi (ultra-Orthodox), and predicted that in 2040 a quarter of the world’s Jews will belong to communities identified as Haredi.19
This report caused a stir, though its findings were not very surprising; rather, they confirmed and provided framing for trends that have long been known. In Jewish communities such as those of the UK and Belgium, the share of Haredim has already reached the numbers forecast for other communities (25% and 35%, respectively). According to the report, the UK community will be 40% Haredi in 2040. In Israel, where the Haredi sector is much larger in numerical terms, the sector is growing at a rate of nearly 4.5% per year (24% over the five years that ended in 2021), thanks to a high fertility rate of 6.6 children per Haredi woman (compared to 2.1 among secular women, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics). According to various forecasts, within a few decades a third of Israeli citizens will be ultra-Orthodox.20
Even if the Haredi birthrate were to decline somewhat in the coming years, the sector’s young age composition ensures continued rapid growth for at least the next two to three decades.

In the ultra-Orthodox sector, the rate of male participation in the work force relatively low, meaning that, for many young people, the task of supporting the household falls on a small number of breadwinners, and on the state’s welfare system. This burdens the Israeli economy with yet another needy population whose contribution to economic growth is small relative to its size. At the same time, the Haredi sector is characterized by a unique way of life that sometimes causes tension in its relations with other groups. Tensions arise with regard to behavioral requirements in the public sphere (such as gender separation); the issue of burden-sharing (e.g., military service); legislation and regulations (e.g., leavened products in hospitals during Passover); relations with progressive Jews (e.g., the struggle over Kotel space), and much more. This state of affairs is not new, but the past year has been marked by developments in several dimensions.

The first development: the lack of Haredi representation in Israel’s outgoing government, and fact that a number of attempts at reform were made that put the government in conflict with the Haredim. This was the case with the decision to reform Israel’s kashrut supervision system. Another example was the attempt to undermine the Haredi leadership’s supervision of cellular phone use via the “kosher” phone system. Other disputes had to do with taxation and budgeting decisions (the tax on disposables, the attempt to change criteria for subsidized childcare, and more). These moves led the representatives of the ultra-Orthodox public to fight against the government, with the aim of toppling it, and, it seems, to a determination to be a part of the next government, conditions permitting.

Because the Israeli political system has had trouble producing a stable parliamentary majority without the participation of the ultra-Orthodox, the present state of affairs indicates a reasonable possibility that the next coalition, no matter who is charged with its formation, will be attentive to the Haredi parties’ requirements for joining it. These requirements will likely have both budgetary and cultural components. What this means is that the next government will have trouble formulating policy on ways to address the economic-social challenge posed by the Haredi sector, unless it manages to do so with the consent and cooperation of the ultra-Orthodox leadership itself.

The second development: During the first quarter of 2022, the leader of Israel’s Lithuanian Orthodox community, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, passed away. For many, his death marked the end of an era in which Israel’s Haredi public had a relatively clear and easily identifiable leadership. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s preeminence was evident in the Sephardi-Haredi sector until his death in 2013; since then, it has been hard to identify a leader whose positions are decisive. The Ashkenazi Haredi community has been in crisis since the passing of Rabbi Elazar Menachem Shach in 2001, though several leaders did succeed him (Rabbi Shteinman, and then Rabbi Kanievsky) who could be identified as leaders of most of the Lithuanian public. Again, some feel that this sector currently has no clearly defined leadership that speaks with a single voice and can impose its authority on the entire Haredi sector (or at least the Lithuanian-Ashkenazi sector).

The long-term significance of this development is hard to predict. It might result in greater power for the askanim (the Haredi political hacks or power brokers) as opposed to the rabbinical ranks. It might also lead to division into political camps and power struggles within the ultra-Orthodox society. This divisiveness could, in turn, weaken the sector’s collective sway, though it might also give rise to extremism, with each subgroup feeling obligated to prove that it is more “authentic” than the others. It could complicate dialogue between the government and the ultra-Orthodox citizenry in the absence of mediators able to “close deals” that would be binding on the entire Haredi public.

The third development: Just before the government fell, a program was launched to enable Haredi primary schools to remain outside the large Haredi educational networks and to teach core subjects such as mathematics, English, and science, in exchange for a budget increase to 100% of the basic state school budget. This program, which has sparked debate about its ramifications and its ability to initiate change in Haredi society, was approved by the rabbinical leader of the Belz Hassidim, and applies to the Belz educational institutions. A few other Hassidic sects, as well various Haredi political leaders, have opposed the reform.

Core studies are currently taught only to girls in the Haredi education system, which creates a significant barrier to the integration of ultra-Orthodox men in the labor market and in high-demand occupations. The new program is an attempt to move toward a goal of more core studies for boys, albeit in an agreed and limited format. Rather than a state-imposed curriculum, the program offers budgetary “carrots” in the form of increased funding for educational institutions. The program has several major and obvious limitations: It applies solely to primary education, although high-level study of core subjects takes place at the post-primary level. It is being implemented solely in Belz institutions; it is unclear whether other institutions will want to join the program, and how many. The program was developed at a time when the Haredim were part of the governing coalition; when the Haredi parties return to the government, budgetary increases will become possible even without the core studies requirement, which could render the program redundant in the eyes of various Haredi subgroups.







6. Data taken from the Jewish People Policy Institute’s Israeli Judaism study.



9. See:






15. On Jewish migration from South Africa to Australia, for example, see:


17. Aliyah Day 2021: Data on New Immigrants to Israel,2019-2021. Knesset Research and Information Center.

18. “Who Is a Jew?” Views of Israeli Jews, Shmuel Rosner,Professor Camil Fuchs, Noah Slepkov, The Jewish PeoplePolicy Institute, 2022.

19. Haredi Jews Around the World: Population Trends andEstimates, L. Daniel Staetsky, JPR, May 2022

20. CBS 2017: “The Haredi population’s share is expected torise from 11% of the total Israeli population in 2015 to20% by 2040 and 32% by 2065. In the “Jews and others”category, the Haredi population is expected to increasefrom 14% in 2015 to 24% in 2040 and 40% in 2065.”