The Growth of the Haredi Communities in the Diaspora

The Growth of the Haredi Communities in the Diaspora

First, we must note that the sample of questionnaire respondents is very small (110 individuals) and the findings should, therefore, be considered preliminary.

Responses in the aggregate were moderately optimistic about relations between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox sectors and affirmed a widening cooperation between them. Thus, almost half of the respondents answered that the relationship between the two communities was either “satisfactory” or “acceptable.” Similarly, almost 73 percent of respondents thought that one of the “most appropriate models of collaboration” should be Yeshivish and Hasidic Orthodox individuals serving as federation board members. Again, 70 percent of respondents answered the question, “Should we encourage the Hasidic and Yeshivish Orthodox to participate in community-wide events attracting Jews from the whole spectrum of Jewish life and the Jewish community (including non-Orthodox)?” with “Yes, and it should be carefully planned so that those who prefer mixed gender seating can do so, and those who prefer separate seating can do so.”

The cooperative attitude also extended into the sensitive area of education. A majority of Orthodox respondents (58%) answered that Orthodox Jews should participate in the planning and funding of Reform and Conservative Jewish education. Similarly, 71 percent of Non-Orthodox respondents stated that Jewish organizations should be supportive of increased government funding for Jewish day schools, which is mainly a concern of the Orthodox, especially the Haredim. This support breaks with the long-standing opinion of liberal Jews who were against any “cracks in the wall” separating church and state.

Beyond the aggregate results of the questionnaire, it is of interest to look at select communities and how they compare to the responses of the entire group. Two such communities are Baltimore and New York. Both are outliers, but on opposite sides of the spectrum. Baltimore is a community in which unusual collaboration obtains between the (mainly) Yeshivish Orthodox and the general community and which prides itself on that score. In contrast, the New York respondents expressed the least optimism and readiness for collaboration. Here again, the small sample size requires that we take these indications as preliminary.

Close to half of the Baltimore respondents expressed “satisfaction” with current relations between Yeshivish and Hasidic Orthodox and the general community. Among the entire group, only a quarter expressed satisfaction. Similarly, over 70 percent of the Baltimore respondents indicated that one should support the federation, a significantly higher rate than the group as a whole.

New York gave almost the mirror image. First, the rate of satisfaction with relations between Haredim and the general community is significantly less in New York than in the group as a whole. Only a small portion (12 %) of New York respondents said they were satisfied, while 25 percent of the entire group expressed satisfaction. Conversely, over half of New York respondents answered that relations should be improved, while 40 percent in the general group thought so. Almost all participants identified combatting anti-Semitism as the main arena for possible collaboration among New York respondents and this received far more votes than any intra-Jewish communal topic, including “helping Jews in need.” In other words, in New York it was felt that cooperation between Jews can be achieved if it focuses on the external challenges that face the entire Jewish community – anti-Semitism and physical security. In the overall group, the same number of respondents (70%) felt that helping Jews in need alongside combatting anti-Semitism could be an area of fruitful collaboration. Furthermore, in a sharp departure from the attitudes of the entire group, half of New York respondents felt that there should be greater Haredi participation in community-wide events and that Orthodox norms should be maintained for everybody (in the overall group only 19 percent felt that way). Fewer Haredi participants in New York than in the overall group felt that Orthodox Jews should participate in the planning and funding of educational programs for interfaith couples or LGBT Jews.