Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Guest Post: The Charedi Spring?

Here is part one of a series from Avishai Ben-Chaim, entitled "The Charedim: Disintegration," translated by Marty Bluke

According to estimates, one out of ten charedim have become non-religious - and Charedi society is in a crisis that it has never experienced before. Some become part of the romanticized group, those that represent freedom, but also many of the sons and daughters of baalei teshuva are leaving the path in great numbers. "This is like the Arab Spring, the same influences," says Yehuda Moses, the son of MK Rabbi Eliezer Moses. "In the past what blocked Charedim from the world was the failure to bring in the outside media. Today anyone who wants has it in his pocket."

Is it possible that for the first time since the masses left the yeshivas on the winds of the haskala and and later with the charm of Zionism that we are looking at a revolution? Is it possible that today there are more people leaving Charedi Judaism then joining?

"Today Charedi society is facing its biggest challenge in its history" says Avishalom Shiloach a former Charedi. "Thousands of young people are leaving. This is no longer just teens in trouble, or families in distress, this is from the cream of Charedi society. There is no house that doesn't have someone leaving."

Moshe Shenfeld, a former Charedi from the organization "Making a Change," says, "In the past few years, about 1/10 of the Charedi population leaves every year. The Central Bureau of Statistics has a poll about society. Among other things that it asks, it asks about the persons level of religiosity now and asks what was your level of religiosity when you were 15. 10% have become non-Charedim."

These astounding numbers are backed up by the Central Bureau of Statistics. Out of 157,000 people polled who said that they grew up in a Charedi household at the age of 15, more then 12,000 defined themselves as no longer Charedim. "Given a few more years and the Charedi mother will be giving birth to more Chiloni children then the Chiloni mother", says Shenfeld.

Since the poll a few years has passed and the phenomenon of "yotzim bisheila", becoming non-religious, in the Charedi world is only growing and getting bigger and bigger, the estimate is that 1 in 10 Charedim are leaving. To these, one must add the even larger number leaving the National Religious world, according to some estimates 25%.

For many years there has been talk in Israel about successful Charedi demographics, but it seems that the Chilonim may be able to ultimately win in this historic battle, and the number of Charedim leaving today is more then the number of Chilonim joining the Charedi world. Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi, an important kiruv Rabbi, states: " The number of religious people in the world is not growing. Many Charedim are leaving the fold. Someone told me that there are more people leaving religion then joining".

Uri Zohar, in a publicity video for the organisation "Maaneh", adds, "We are in a very unique generation. There is a phenomenon that has never happened is such numbers, there were many people who left the Torah world at the time of Haskala and reform ... but that was due to ideological reasons."

Avi Tapilinksy
Avi Tapilinsky, once Rabbi Avraham Tapilinsky, lives in an old building in Nachlaot and was joined by a group of people who left the Charedi world. "The Charedi world does not understand the depth of the crisis that it is in", he says. Shiloach adds "They say that we have [lives with] no meaning, a soul, spirituality. [However,] we have God and also the Sabbath and also girls. We have both this world and the next world". Others add "We are like a big population of immigrants. In our view, the Charedi world has lost the war. Charedim is a new phenomenon, 60, 70 years old - they keep everything in the Torah except in reverse."

This is the spring for former Charedim. Suddenly even those who disappeared years ago are revealing themselves. Yehuda Moses, son of MK Eliezer Moses, left the Charedi world. Why did no one speak of him, only the daughter [of MK Moses]? "Because I am shy" he explains. "I didn't publicize it because I didn't want publicity".

It is hard to describe how bewildered the Charedi leadership is in response to these powerful stories, and how these stories are so painful and dealt with great care. Rabbi Eliezer Moses "Why do you say my children, I have my daughter Chaya Heidi, who I am very close to and she is very close to me, my grandchildren, an accident happened to her in her life as they say. What can I tell you, it really hurts me. It hurts me but I am not sitting shiva. I asked the Gedolei Hador and they told me there is nothing like Kiruv, to have any chance of making things better".

Yehuda Moses: "This is like the Arab Spring. In my opinion it happened for the same reasons. In the past what blocked Charedim from knowledge of the world was the inability to bring in any media. Today, everyone who wants has all the information in their pocket. Someone who is an idiot, better he stays that way, someone who has the ability to understand and the curiosity to want to know, knows. This is the Charedi Spring".

Rabbi Lazer Moses, the father, has a great soul. There is much pain and longing hiding behind the historic drama that the two opposing sectors of society provide, those who leave religion and those who return. "Today I went to a monastery, that is anthropology" says Yehuda. "When you see other religions, you see either how pathetic your religion is or how similar they all are."

The romanticized group of leavers from mainstream Charedi society that have turned into a symbol of freedom are only part of the crisis. Charedi society at its high point produced many returnees, but now their children are leaving the path in great numbers. With them it is not ideological, even if the pain and disappointment sound much the same.

Shiloach: "We are part of a crusade to to kill God, 'the threatening God,' the 'strict God,' the 'God of texts and rituals.' We are looking for a God who is much greater and much more loving. Every day we need to kill the old God so that we can love the new God and ourselves."

Given the large numbers of leavers, it seems that the non-religious and Zionists are going to win this historic battle and even to offer an alternative Sabbath experience. Later, we will see how the non-religious help the extremist Charedim win out over the moderate Charedim and come out on top in the struggle to define the face of Israel and no less important, Judaism.

[A reminder, because, incredibly, there are always people who do not read the title or first paragraph: This is a guest post. That means that I didn't write it. N.S.]

94 comments:

  1. The post does not (directly) address former Chareidim that now identify as Dati Leumi - such as me, or, for that matter, Rabbi Slifkin. I grew up in the more moderate non-Israeli version of Chareidism, but after being exposed to the hard-core Israeli version, realized that this was not for me. I do not reject religion at all, though - just those who distort it; so I've happily found my niche in the DL world.

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  2. The article at one point says that 1/10th of Chard I'm leave each year and later that 1/10th have left since they were 15. IF the first statement is correct then in about 10 years close to 2/3 of the current population of chare dim won't be. That seems a bit implausible and I suspect that what is probably meant us that after some number of years 10% of a given cohort is not cared anymore. Comments?

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    1. The after 15 years old was a one time number from a survey done

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    2. Agree, 10% per year doesn't make sense. I believe the correct statement would be: "in a recent survey, it was found that 1 in 10 people who said they identified as Charedim at age 15 no longer do".

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  3. "Don't rush to eulogize the Charedim yet"

    http://mida.org.il/2016/01/26/הנתונים-האמיתיים-להספיד-החברה-החרדית

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    1. This must be read. It shows actual numbers, and nothing this article is based on fits.

      (Aside from the fact that few of us would consider the 4.3% who are now dati are OTD. If some Ponovezh drop-outs now hang out with guys who went to Hesder, is there really a problem to discuss?)

      The real OTD rate, based on that table, would be no more than 5.8%. (Depending how far left your frumometer goes; I only took the rightward unhyphenated dati column.)

      Whereas 48% of those from dati (with no qualifier) homes are OTD (summing the chareidi and dati columns). 48%!!! Ignoring that is burying the lead!

      Also, note that these are 2012 numbers. Things were worse in 2007, when
      the number was 14.3%; and in 2009 -- 13.4%. Overall, trending down. I do not think it's coincidental that as the battle over the draft polarized their community, their dropout rate fell. But whatever the cause, things are tightening.

      The story is really the opposite of this article's claim. And a bunch of careidim chadashim / DL / MO Jews sitting around discussion "their" 5.8% rather than the nearly half in the DL camp is avoiding one's own (huge) problems by spending all day talking about someone else's (small ones).

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    2. A ponoviczer (or any charedi, yeshivish or chassidish) who identifies as MO, DL, RZ, is considered OTD by charedim.

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    3. But they aren't the ones doing the judging and discussing here, are they? If we are discussing a problem chareidim are facing, shouldn't it limit our discussion to something we actually consider a problem?

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    4. Micha b 11:34:

      Theseare former charedim who self identified as non charedi. Presumably, their upbringing definesOTD for them.

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  4. Here are some (general) reasons why people are leaving:

    1) Hareidi society cannot make any claims to a higher morality or loftiness than other segments of (Jewish/Israeli/gentile) society
    2) Hareidi society has become a gateway to pauperism and ignorance
    3) Hareidi society has no real positive role to play in (Jewish/Israeli/gentile) society - it has become a separate stream within Judaism (Chabad are examples of exceptions)
    4) Hareidi society has no longer got answers to modern day problems
    5) Hareidi society relies on idiosyncratic/dogmatic Jewish ideas that have become innovations
    6) Hareidi society has rejected normative/mainstream notions with Judaism that have existed for centuries

    A final note to Mr. Ben Chaim: Yossi Mizrachi (not a Rabbi by the way - he is a self-appointed Kiruv Rabbi obsessively focussed on pointing out who is or isn't going to hell and whose children may or may not be reincarnated as cripples or cancer sufferers) is PART OF THE PROBLEM. As people leave, he can no longer appeal to the rational and moral appeal of Yiddishkeit - he can only appeal to people's fear and ignorance. He couches his beliefs in Kabbalah and Sefer HaGilgulim and exact metrics for Tznius. He is the type of man who claims idle chat in Shul causes cancer, that a Jew should not endeavour to be a doctor or dentist - but should aim for full-time study, converts can never be real Jews and that Goyim are the dreck of the earth. A 'Hail Mary' doomed to failure as his outrageous positions are now being exposed for what they are: corrupt and driven by hate and not Love (of fellow Jew/Man)

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    1. Well, Chabad is *really* a separate stream- they don't really interact with any other Jewish groups, Orthodox or not- but at the same time they *do* interact with the wider world.

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    2. I appreciate your synopsis of why people are leaving. Disclosure: there have been many times in the last 10 years where I have also considered booking out of this lifestyle, despite having very strong identification with haredi oriented Judaism for the prior 20 years.

      It's good that you provided a list, because there is never a single reason (perhaps other than personal tragedy experiences) that push a person over the edge to make them and their families leave. I have a personal revulsion to orthodox Jews who game the public assistance system beyond anyone's average ability and take gross advantage of section 8, medicare, medicaid, food stamps, and sundry other forms of public assistance while simultaneously refusing to work, using lie and deception, and continuing to have children they will be unable to support. All of this whilst maintaining they occupy the moral high ground above all others as the Am ha Nivchar- despite the fact that from the perspective of the average gentile, they are nothing but crooks and thieves who operate at the tax payer's expense. This is referred to as your "gateway into pauperism and ignorance".

      I would add one more point to the list: The absence and inability of haredim to openly criticize and condemn unlawful criminal behavior openly, and without rationalizing and making excuses. Long time readers may remember the debacle surrounding the death sentence received by one Martin Grossman, who murdered a female state trooper. That he may have deserved clemency or pardon for technical reasons may have been valid (although they were denied by the Governor of Florida). But the degree of fawning and rationalizing over this animal that took place in the public discourse was disgusting: he was referred to as a "tzadik", a Melitz yosher (!), a baal tesuvah, and myriad other euphemisms - fomented by the Aguda, none the less, who effectively made him into a hero of sorts- only because he was a Jew. A goy under identical circumstances would never have been subjected to such a phony religiously exclusive campaign to rationalize a murderer's behavior. At the same time, sympathy for the family of the victim was minimal and in some cases, the family was subjected to harassment by Jews championing the cause of the murderer over the plight of the family of the policewomen and her family.. It was so disgraceful that it had a permanent affect on me. But the number one champion of Grossman's apotheosis from criminal to Tzaddik was Dovid Zweibel of the Agudah. To quote Mark Levin: There, I SAID IT.

      Haredim in particular place themselves within the realm of presumptive moral superiority, regardless of how disgraceful certain public displays of moral depravity are on record. And if certain people attack them for it, it's guaranteed that the canard of accusing them of anti-Semitism will be pulled out of the defense arsenal.

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    3. Very well said,Meir Moses!Mizrachi is a hateful individual and should be avoided like the plague!Do you by any chance have a link where he say converts are not real Jews?

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    4. This 10% dropout rate is particular to ISRAELi Charedim, Correct? In the States, the drop out rate seems much less.

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    5. Actually, evidence is that in the States, the rate is closer to 17%. And that's OTD, self-identify as Shabbos non-observant, which would be smaller than if we add in the number of children of chareidi homes who end up MO as well -- all non-chareidi children of the movement.

      Personally, I would focus on the OTD rates, not the 10%. It's not that important to me what kind of observant Judaism works for someone. But if you want to make any comparison, we have to match apples to apples.

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  5. What are you trying to bring from this? I assume you do not agree with the sentiments expressed by the author, and people quoted in the piece.
    So are you trying to say that chareidism is failing to feel meaningful to today's generation? That is then clearly true for these 10 percent of cases, but for the other 90 percent it is the opposite of the truth.
    So you may be suggesting that a national religious approach may attract them more. Now whilst for me personally I have become far more nationalistic (not to mention rationalistic) since becoming disillusioned with chareidism, the article states clearly that the drop out rate is far greater in the national religious community. So that doesn’t look like the solution. (although you could argue that's due to other factors in the daati community which wouldn't apply ta a nationalised chareidi society).

    So perhaps rationalism could connect with these 10 percent? Perhaps, although I personally feel that will only be the case for a miut- some of those that went off for purely intellectual reasons, not simply because they were never interested or couldn't be bothered.
    And what about the other 90 percent? Unfortunately introducing them to some of the ideas espoused in this blog is only more likely to send many of them on a short cut straight out of religion.
    Nonetheless I believe educating the chareidism in certain aspects of the rationalist approach is neccessary simply because I believe the way they act is so far from that which God wants. It is necessary to educate them in certain concepts because extremist chareidism is very much working lehepach of the true aims of Judaism. That is the true failure of chareidism-those 50 percent who take it way too far.
    But to market rationalism is a tool for kiruv? Too stem the tide of those going off? Unlikely.
    For me I take it because it's the closest to the Emes.

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  6. Yosef mizrachi shouldn't be quoted in any context for "facts."

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  7. "When you see other religions, you see either how pathetic your religion is or how similar they all are."
    He doesn't entertain the third possibility: that you can see that your religion is superior to the other ones. (The Rambam writes at the beginning of one of his epistles that Christianity and Islam are clear forgeries of Judaism, copying ideas while adding some of their own. It's not politically correct to say that nowadays.) Why isn't that one of the options?

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    1. It's not just Christianity and Islam, it's all of them. For example, Google "menstruation taboos." Or tripartite ANE temples.

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    2. Still, although we might see similarities in the taboos in other cultures and our own, there must be some ways in which Judaism is unique, למעליותא. I don't know if there was a monotheistic religion before Judaism.

      My question still remains: this person's statement indicates a clear contempt for Judaism in particular. To him, Judaism is either just as faulted as any other religion, or "pathetic".

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    3. Monotheism pre-dates Judaism, developed independently in many cases, and with the aggressive spread of Christianity and Islam, re-emerged as a dominant idea, becoming "fashionable" over the last millenium. Conceptually, all it takes is to reinterpret the chief god as the primary and then, the only force and relegate competing godlings to the status of symbolic attributes or angelic/demonic automatons and dependants. All major and some pristine, religions appear to harbour the nugget of the monotheistic idea which at times receded or came to the fore, (e.g., Tengrism/Tangrism of Temujin's ancestors) but it is undeniably Judaism which was the first religion to definitively, unambiguously and without compromise declare its total loyalty to the One God.

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    4. Depending on how you date it, Akhenaten may have come before Judaism. If you accept the academic view of how Judaism developed, he definitely did.
      I find it fascinating how different religions have the same outlines and use the same mechanisms. While this says nothing about the validity of a particular religion, it does undermine exceptionalism. I strongly disagree with his assertion that Judaism is "pathetic," but I understand where the sentiment comes from. There is a tendency among people who have left a religion to highlight it's inconsistencies, oddities, and things that look ridiculous when taken out of their cultural/religious context.

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    5. Even if there was an Egyptian precedent of monotheism, they certainly didn't remain monotheist for very long. And I'm sure it didn't have the number of prohibitions that Judaism has regarding avodah zarah.

      An interesting point: I once glanced at Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary. He has an entry there on circumcision. He says that it was more likely that the Hebrews got the idea of circumcision from the Egyptians, than the other way around (I don't remember if Voltaire mentions the Midrash that says that Joseph compelled all of Egypt to circumcise themselves.), since the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt, and would have a tendency to want to imitate their masters.
      But still, doing a circumcision on an eight-day-old baby, and to institutionalize it, and to say that a person gets excision for not doing it, doesn't seem to have any precedent. Bill Maher, in the movie "Religulous", says, "I don't know WHERE they got that idea [i.e., circumcision] from." But that's of course more comedy than comparative religion.

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  8. Very much agree with Meir M.- succinct and to the point!
    My suggestion to author of the article to never use Mr. Mizrachi as any authoritative source, he is not Rabbi by any stretch of imagination, just listen to his YouTube videos and you will understand what I am talking about. People like him causing sometimes irreparable damage and should be actively denounced on every public forum, maybe then he will disappear from Kiruv scene, amen.

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  10. A better article would be the one on haaretz by tamar rotem http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/features/.premium-1.698777

    Available for download here:
    http://s000.tinyupload.com/?file_id=59288173424649766249

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  11. Interesting guest post, but this far in the series the focus is on anecdotal people-fluff and second-guessing.

    It's always better to begin with the obvious and measurable. Haredi Judaism emerged at a particular time, in particular locations and in the midst of particular events. If one would reverse-engineer its emergence and re-emergence in North America and look at only at measurable, material factors, one would immediately recognize it as a coping/survival strategy for conservation and maximization of tangible and social resources. Starkly put, the social structures and strictures, the warehousing of young males in academies, limiting women to domestic work and occasional small business, the development of closed-loop economies supporting a large religious bureaucracy and a strict hierarchical society with well-defined and strictly enforced values allowed great masses of European Jewry to scrape a meagre existence in a hostile environment and survive economic disasters and genocidal attacks.

    Temujin is not a researcher, but he is a gambling man and would venture to wager a bottle of well-chilled Maccabee beer that as obvious as philosophical issues and the impact of information technology may appear, the answer to the problems in the Haredi retention rates is...just as with its emergence and growth...economic and social. The proofs for this hypothesis would be found in economic analysis, as simple as income levels, family sizes, cost of necessities, education, etc. The price of a particular religious lifestyle. The question to ask is, what does the balance sheet of the material costs versus the material benefits show? These are tangible, quantifiable measurables which can be harvested from a great number of sources. Temujin's prediction is that the data will show that in the aggregate, the driver behind Haredi problems which may lead to its decline is its expense and its inability to provide today what it was able to provide in difficult times in the past.

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    1. Materialism does not explain everything. (Maybe in the U.S. it does, but not elsewhere.) As much as I admire Temujin, I would suggest that it's ideology that is the driving force here. Jews sacrifice much for the Torah, always have. Israeli Chareidim, btw, have a lower cost of living than non-Chareidim (Mehadrin products are cheaper here, not more expensive like in the U.S.) - unfortunately, their incomes are lower yet, and families much much larger (15-18 is not uncommon). But - the women are choosing to do this because they believe that living like this: having many children (ka"h), working outside the home, and living very simply contributes to the growth of Torah and to having children who are Talmidei Chachamim. It's the mothers who send their kids to cheider that doesn't teach math & English. Ideology.

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    2. mehadrin chicken is much more expensive, up 2 or 3 times the price. i never saw that the vegetable prices were less either, if you're comparing a similar supermarket.

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    3. I've seen surveys that show that Americans are significantly more spiritual/ religious/ charitable than Europeans. It's understandable that you would believe this, because it's a common perception. But I'm not sure where this common perception comes from.

      Andy

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    4. Kira,

      Materialism does not explain everything...I would suggest that it's ideology that is the driving force here.

      Of course not, materialism cannot explain all actions and motivations by individuals, the thoughts and motivations behind them, the idiosyncrasies, emotional motivations and such. What it does rather well, though, is to predict group behaviour based on long-term social and environmental trends and pressures. To use your example of women choosing home versus the workforce, or vice versa, if you look at the chronology, you will find that major economic changes affecting communities or populations pre-date ideologies and apparent individual "choices." For example, feminism may have been present as a set of ideas or an ideology since antiquity, but it was only in the post-World War II social and economic environment that it was able to emerge as a force that mattered. i.e., as a culture where women joined the work force and political life on more or less equal terms as men. The resulting mental expressions and "conversation" are merely entertaining fluff. Remember, ideologies are readily "visible" as expressions, while the appearance and effects of long-term material forces require a methodology and research tools to be seen. In our case, it appears that the Haredi culture has hit its invisible growth, functionality and sustainability limits, at least in Israel, which allows men to avoid conscription and work; it's something we have been discussing on this blog for while. Note that in order to arrest the resulting attrition of unhappy people, Haredi culture is already adapting through practical measures (tentative and controlled entry into the army and work force) and ideological changes (rabbinic opinions and re-interpretations of what a religious Jewish life entails).

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    5. Andy: I never intended to suggest, G-d forbid, that Americans are less spiritual or less giving than others. Quite the opposite. They just explain everything in terms of material gain. As in "everyone just wants to make a living and send their kids to college". No, they don't.

      Ben: I was thinking of chains like Osher Ad, and even stuff like Ma'adanot frozen pizza which is cheaper when packaged for Chareidi stores.

      Temujin: I agree that it has hit its limits and I agree that there are changes being made. What I don't agree with is that it is sufficient to predict group behavior. If you've read Dan Ariely's work, you'll know that economic psychology is much more complex than a simple benefit-loss calculation. And I've heard with my own ears mothers whose dream it is to have children who are not exposed to any "outside" culture, and don't want them to learn English. They also believe that if you're not suited for learning full-time, you should catch up on Bagruyot in one year and go be a doctor or an engineer. But not their kid, who will find work as a Dayan. Real conversation. Is this denial or ideology, or both?

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    6. Kira, Temujin is not arguing from the perspective of either benefit-loss or the Expected Utility Hypothesis, which is what Ariely and the mentors he takes off from, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, addressed. Yes, on the smaller scale and in the short term, human decision making is complex and involves much more than rational costs vs benefits calculations. But this is where behavioural economics flops as a science and slides into obacurantism, or at best, into schlasticicism; it merely attacks straw men in the form of simplistic rationalist or materialistic economic theories without providing useful, testable explanations. Neither Kahneman, Tversky or Ariely can explain the nechanusm behind "irrational" economic choices.

      Temujin's preferred cultural materialistic approach merely postulates that economic conditions influence or "bend" cultural strategies under sufficient and sustained pressure. This is by no means a perfect system; culture is by definition (and for sound reasons) conservative, and so tends to respond poorly to rapid change. This "culture lag," which is observable and predictable, remains as the better explanation for at least some of the seemingly irrational economic behaviours.

      As much as one is on the same page as you are about Haredim making seemingly poor decisions, the bottom line, given the short time frames we are talking about, is in all honesty that we are ...just as the Haredi... merely guessing and assuming. In pur case, we are guessing that the political and economic circumstances which currently work against Haredi culture are permanent, and on that assumption, we are judging their resistance to change as "irrational."

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    7. Kira--

      Agreed; but I would just add the hyphenation "Secular/ Leftist Americans"

      Andy

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    8. Agreed - making a living is important, has always been important. But we don't know. The world is about to undergo another shift in automation, and we don't know what effect it will have on anyone. So maybe the model of the society pooling together and funding research and art is actually the wave of the future.

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  12. More people leaving Charedi Judaism then joining? The guy probably never saw the statistics of Israeli population and the amount of students in Yeshivot.

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  13. Seems like a prediction with the hopes of it becoming self fulfilling. Take a look at the Historic speech Rechnitz gave in Lakewood https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2_QuIJVWak He took the Torah world by storm. People will listen to him and chareidim will live on in a better less judgmental fashion. Peolpe will feel less judged and stay in the chareidi fold. Thats my prediction.......

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    1. He's already been pressured to write a retraction letter, shows the strong social forces involved. They will not give up easily or tolerate an attack on their hierarchy

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    2. Correct - he has apologised and retracted and therefore nothing will change. The Rabbis have won their pyrrhic victory.

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    3. Nobody pressured Rechnitz to do anything. Come on, think for a second. What pressure can anyone possibly exert on the biggest or most generous gvir in orthodox society? The truth is that Rechnitz is at heart a yeshivish guy, and he felt guilty for basically calling out all of Lakewood and their roshei yeshivahs in front of their faces. Now, that's a mistake, because of course everything he said was right, and rabbis and rosh yeshivahs so rarely hear actual criticism. But we are all subject to self-imposed guilt trips, and we all mistakes. In any event, no one pressured him to to anything.

      [To clarify the above, rosh yeshivas in the charedi world dont don't hear or read the criticism in blogs and papers, and their actual followers either believe they are infallible, in the extreme form of the daas torah dogma; or that any form of criticism or evaluation, even if constructive, is Pogeiah B'kovod Hatorah, so they don't say anything. The end result is that these people are completely unaware of their many mistakes, because no one ever tells them. They live blissfully in the fantasy world where rabbis tell other rabbis "Maan malkei? Rabban" and no one ever sets them straight.]

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    4. If you read his "apology" you will notice it is just a restatement of his speech.

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  14. The similarity between our faiths and others is a sign of their strength, not weakness. I suggest reading "The Dignity of Difference" by Rabbi Sacks.

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    1. I don't think it's a sign of either strength or weakness, but of convergent evolution. Different societies develop the same mechanisms for the religions because those mechanisms work well.

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  15. The statistics on dati leumi are extremely concerning if accurate. 1 in 4 going otd? Keep in mind that dati leumi birthrate are also lower, and that there's also some movement to the right, with dati leumim becoming charedi. In fact I'm inclined to disbelieve this statistic until I see the source, because at face value it suggests the dati leumi community is disappearing entirely, and I haven't seen that.

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    1. Moshe Dick writes:
      Don't believe any polls. They are always wrong-on every subject. Believe facts and the fact is that the dati leumi sector has grown-witness their representation in the Knesset, in the army and in every political party. Actually, the chareidim are the ones who have stagnated.

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  16. 1. Seems like the chareidim have a 2.5 times better retention rate than the rationalist dati leumi world.

    2. How does 10% attrition compare to other world religions?

    3. I suspect that it's the fundamentalism itself which makes chareidism thrive/survive, which is sort of the opposite point of this article.

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    1. The majority of the daati leumi crowd are not by any stretch of the imagination rationalist.

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  17. In looking up the statistics on supposed dati leumi leaving, all I've been able to find is a study saying that 25% of those enrolled in dati leumi kindergartens or elementary schools do not make it to dati leumi high schools. Dati leumi elementary schools apparently are 20% of country elementary schools.

    I'm going to continue searching, but it seems likely this is the source for the statistic quoted, in which case it is taken completely out of context - going to a dati leumi kindergarten does not mean being dati leumi, and the far more likely explanation for a Dati leumi kindergartener moving to a chiloni school is that their family was never dati leumi to begin with, unless we really think there's a phenomenon of first graders going off the derech.

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    1. Indeed - "dati leumi" covers a very wide variety of people. If you were to put the Jewish People in Israel on a bell curve in terms of observance, between "Dati Leumi" and "Masorati", would cover 2 standard deviations in each direction. And Masorati people tend to send their kids to dati kindergartens, sometimes even elementary schools, and often even high schools.

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  18. As Bill Clinton said it's the [charedi] economy stupid."

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  19. It's interesting. But it's badly written, and the statistics contradict themselves. If 1 in 10 leave every year, then in 10 years there won't be Haredim.

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    1. Uhh...nope. 1 in 10 of people in a certain year in school. So 90% still remain out of every year. So actually even if you just take the people younger than 15 and have a 10% dropout rate every year when they turn 16 for example, and saying that there is the same amount of people in every year, then 10% of what is 1/15 or 6.66% of the population would be dropping out every year, so .666 every year, and over 10 years 6.66% of the population will have been lost. Hardly no more Haredim.

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    2. Shai, I think that you need to rethink your calculations.

      You do make one good point though. It is quite possible that something has been lost in translation here and when the article states "about 1/10 of the Charedi population leaves every year". It actually means something like "about 1/10 of each cohort of the charedi population leaves". This would be just about believable and also consistent. It still does not specify what they are leaving *to*, nor does it tell us anything useful about the future expected growth rate of the community as a whole, however it does serve to resolve the apparent contradiction in the article's wording.

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  20. In part 2 Ben Chayim admitted that numbers are hard to come by. That tidbits removes much of the series's credibility.

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  21. the question, imo, is can the chareidi world produce another generation that is super centered around yeshivot. i haven't seen anything that tells me that they're failing here.

    if the chareidim come up with pressure valves that allow a relatively small number of people to work or go to the army, but the large majority stay in yeshivot, they're succeeding.

    ben chayim didn't show any break down in the core essence of the yeshiva world.

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  22. This article makes it sound as if Haredi Judaism is the major source of hemorrhaging. But there's one little statement buried in there that tells us a lot: "...the estimate is that 1 in 10 Charedim are leaving. To these, one must add the even larger number leaving the National Religious world, according to some estimates 25%."

    In other words, 1 in 4 DL Jews is becoming secular. (Or does that 25% include those who become Haredi?)

    If that's the case, then Baruch Hashem the dropout rate from the Haredi world is as low as 10%. And while that's not a happy number, it's nowhere near as scary as 25% from the Dati Leumi world. If any sector needs to look long and hard at itself to understand why it is hemorrhaging, it's the Religious Zionists...

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  23. I find this style of journalism irritating even when it's done well, and here it is not. It is particularly egregious when it is imitated by Israelis, and translated. What might be a reasonable turn of phrase in Hebrew ends up sensationalist in English. But the whole "let me tell you about one or two people to put a human face on it, then quote lots of statistics out of context, and then make it fit my personal philosophy".... yuck.

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  24. As several commenters have pointed out, the statistics quoted contradict each other. If 10% of a sample polled have become non-charedi since they were 15 this would only equate to an annual drop-out rate of 10% if the average age polled was 16 (approximately). I think this is unlikely. Even if this was the case it would only show the dropout rate for 15 year-olds, which could not be reliably extrapolated across an entire sector. In either case, suggesting a 10% annual dropout rate from this poll is pretty tenuous at best.
    In any event I think that a 10% annual dropout rate is highly unlikely. A dropout rate of that magnitude would likely tear the fabric of a community apart in a matter of a few years. In effect it would mean that on average each member of the community would only be a part of it for 10 years and that the probability of any individual member remaining in the community for over 20 years would be about 14% (assuming independence and uniformity). That itself seems pretty decent evidence against this theory.
    It should be noted however that were there to be an annual dropout rate of 10% that would not necessarily lead to numbers falling at the rates suggested by some commenters. You would need to balance the outflow rate with both the growth rate (births above deaths) and the conversion rate (kiruv) to get the overal rate of decay. In practice if these were high enough you would still end up with overall community growth (although you would not solve the churn issue described above unless you resorted to a very high correlation of kiruv to dropout - in this instance effectively it is no longer a charedi problem at all).
    Ultimately coming up with a dropout rate is no mean feat as you would need a large and stratified sample in order to ensure you were not getting selection bias from cohort, region etc. I have no data to go on other than my own unscientific observations, but I would suggest that, at least in the UK, the charedi dropout rate is far lower than 10% annual. Possibly 10% of a total cohort is a reasonable figure, but the majority of that is not to non-religious but simply to non-charedi.

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    1. Apologies. As noted in my response to "shai" above it is quite possible that the apparent inconsistency is a product of mistranslation rather than an error in the author's part. My Ivrit is pretty atrocious so I can't really tell either way.

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  25. > Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi, an important kiruv Rabbi

    If Yosef Mizrachi said the sky was blue, I would have to go outside and check. Citing him hurts the credibility of the piece. Better to just use the statistics.

    > "We are in a very unique generation. There is a phenomenon that has never happened is such numbers, there were many people who left the Torah world at the time of Haskala and reform ... but that was due to ideological reasons."

    Many people who left traditional Judaism during the Haskalah left because for the first time, they could. And there are many people today who leave for ideological reasons.

    The comments in this article by those who left is disappointing. Now they have Shabbos and girls? They're killing the old strict God so they can have a new loving God? Perhaps there's more depth that didn't come through in these short quotes, but I was hoping for something better than the hedonistic OTD stereotype.

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  26. If it's true that people are leaving Judaism for non-ideological reasons, i.e. to increase their ability to satisfy hedonistic, narcissistic drives, then I'm guessing it's because that's all that's out there in Israeli society today. If so, it's not just Chareidim or DL who are in trouble. It's only a matter of time until the very ideological true-believer violent radicals overwhelm the rest of us.

    Andy

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  27. I am a little frustrated. Bennyp posted a link to a web page that had actual statistics, formally collected, care with digits of precision, the works. The numbers here aren't only inconistently described, they do not match reality -- overestimating chareidi OTD (which happens to have been declining, as of 2012) which is really only 10.1% leaving chareidism, not Shabbos observance.

    But more importanly, rather than the rumored 25% leaving the dati category, there are 48% -- yes 48% -- of the unhyphenated dati category not ending up dati or chareidi.

    The actual numbers exist, and to still be talking about the future of chareidism after looking at them is ignoring the real crisis in the room.

    Again, see

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  28. The same people who accept, with blind faith, anything said by charedi rabbis or anything that proportedly shows the strength of charedim, suddenly turn into the biggest skeptics, closely scrutinizing the mathematics, when the table is turned.

    Nothing unusual about that. Political parties do it every time. So as long as we understand that charedi Judaism is just another political identity party with no more or less integrity than any others, than sure, its OK to play the hypocrite.

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    1. Not necessarily--I have the book, "Off The Derech" by Faranak Margolese. The book opens up with a quote by Rav Steinsaltz, who says that we're losing Jews "with every tick of the clock", and has copious quotes from Rav Berel Wein and Rav Sachs to that effect. She also cites a figure of around 10% leaving frumkeit at some point--but she also cites the numbers returning to it.
      I don't know if it's hypocrisy, but we look at the perspective of the writer as well: Ms. Margolese wrote her book clearly hoping to help find ways to stop this trend, while the Mr. Ben Chayyim seems to say that the disintegration of charedi society is (hopefully?) imminent and inevitable.

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    2. Reb Yehudah, 10% is closer to her number of those "At Risk" for anti-social and/or self-destructive behavior; she quotes numbers of 14% () and upward for all OTD. Those who don't own the book might want to see the 10 pages or so starting at https://books.google.com/books?id=pHVz5to9c0UC&lpg=PP1&pg=PA21#v=onepage&f=false .

      But then, Margolese is focusing on the US, where the social cost of switching teams is lower. A chareidi who wants to go OTD but doesn't want to hurt his siblings' ability to find mates, get into the yeshivos / sems they were dreaming of, etc... has a much higher threshold before he is willing to walk. Not to mention the level of hostility he will personally experience from the people he left. Etc...

      YU's CFR survey came up with 17% keeping "half-Shabbos" or less; that's primarily HS kids in their feeder schools, but they did get responses from others too. R' Zecharia Wallerstein presented numbers in the Inreach Track of the 2011 AJOP conference and came up with 15% in Brooklyn, but with a wider margin of error. A few of years later, the Pew Survey says that across O the number is 17%.

      (I had a heated argument with Menkin about this on Cross-Currents, and only gave up because he was using his moderation power to omit comments that he couldn't rebut to his own satisfaction. I believe he too is still quoting Margolese's first and most optimistic version of "Indicator 1: Kids At Risk" number as though it were the final number of the full problem. At least you showed me it's a common and easy misread.)

      I find it very plausible that 17% of American chareidim are leaving OTD, and only 6% are giving up on Shabbos among Israeli chareidim. (While I am very aware of the fact that the word "chareidi" has very different meanings in those two phrases, I still do not think that's the big reason why.)

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    3. Perhaps the actual numbers are not as important as are the reasons why people leave frumkeit. One encouraging statement in Ms. Margolese's book is that those who have left the fold due to purely philosophical reasons (questioning the truth of the Torah, or the Oral tradition, or inadequately dealing with Torah/Science issues) generally come back (they reason that every system has flaws, so they might as well remain with what is most familiar). Those that leave frumkeit due to (abuse/molestation/witnessing hypocrisy of religious leaders) are more resolute in not going back to observant life.

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  29. We can debate the rights and wrongs of the charedi approach until the cows come home (and there are many aspects of charedism that I disagree with), but in terms of keeping people 'in the fold', whilst it is far from perfect and plenty go OTD, it still does far better than any other religious subgroup as far as I can tell. I don't think anyone can seriously deny this. The number of DL/MO that leave observance (admittedly this is based only on anecdotal evidence) seems to me to be greater and is a crying shame.

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    1. I wonder how many MO/DO people leave because they are sick of what they see in the frum world AND because they are sick of the 'silence that condones' from their own rabbis. ..

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  30. I lived among the charedi community in jerusalem from 2007-2012 and from my experience 10% annually sounds like wishful thinking to me.moreover One can do data analysis in many different ways,and make mistakes during the analysis, I think that is what happened here. Secondly the question should be where does that 10% move to? Do they all become OTD? maybe they become Hasidic or DL. It all remains very ambiguous, including the translation. I dont like this guest post not because I dont want to see the truth because I am charedi (I am not religious) but because if one post such an article one should provide the methodology and statistics to the reader who can verify the research done. Shame that such an article is posted on this blog.

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    1. I lived among the charedi community in jerusalem from 2007-2012 and from my experience 10% annually sounds like wishful thinking to me.

      Call and raise: The entire article is bad math and non-sequitur in support of wishful thinking.

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  31. Or maybe it's just a really bad article.

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    1. That was meant be a replay to Eliezer.

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  32. I wish people wouldn't compare it to "the Arab Spring". Look how that turned out.

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    1. The comparison is apt given that both are the products of wishful thinking. You are right that they are not identical. In this case, the entire phenomenon seems made up out of whole cloth. The Arab Spring involve actual revolutionary activity and the wishful thinking was that the revolutionaries were committed to western-style pluralistic constitutional democracy. But the use of 'Spring' is analogous.

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    2. There's another point that people are missing. The Haskalah succeeded in luring Jews away from Torah because it offered them an alternative - successful emancipation, a reduction in persecution and access to the world of European knowledge and culture. The Arab Spring took off because people wanted an end to bloody dictatorships and dreamed of free societies. Exactly what is the Chareidi Spring offering? In return for dropping out of a complete culture, albeit one that is dysfunctional for many, what are they getting in return? Who is leading this charge? Where is it going? I would wager the answers are: Nothing, nothing, no one, nowhere.

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    3. The Arab Spring took off because people wanted an end to bloody dictatorships and dreamed of free societies.

      Would that it were so.

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    4. For all its impact on Jewish intellectual history, Haskalah could not have been the cause of the sudden and scattered "desertions" of masses of Jews. First, the numbers of the intellectuals involved and the percentage of those even aware of their work and contributions was in the low digits and secondly, the "desertions" can be traced and plotted chronologically, region by region, and these appear to have been reactions to a kind of a push-and-pull tug of war. The dissolution of Jewish self-government institutions and an expensive religious elite provided the push, and opportunities created by legislative and economic changes brought by emancipation, the pull. To complicate matters, this process was messed up by the reaction to liberalization, esoecially in the East. Haskala emerged as a cultural force after the process was well under way and provided the rationale for those who needed one. Secularized Jewry "created" Haskalah, not the other way around, as the alarmed rabbis and later historians thought. This process will probably repeat itself, on a much smaller scale, with the OTD Jews of this generation, which will predictably "create" its own philosophers to rationalize the phenomenon, and soon thereafter the chronology will be again forgotten as future Haredi leaders and secular historiographers once again blame or hail the handful of intellectuals.

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  33. One could comment that all religions seem to look the same but then that becomes a damning indictment of the religious practice of many Charedim and non-Chareidim for whom ritual is the be-all and end-all of their religious practice. What about learning? What other religion demands theological literacy of all its adherents? Who else says a blessing before eating to acknowledge the true owner of the food? Who else kisses his holy book after it falls on the floor?

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    1. > What about learning? What other religion demands theological literacy of all its adherents?

      Gemara != theology.

      Who else says a blessing before eating to acknowledge the true owner of the food?

      "Bless us, O Lord, and these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen." Taken from here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_(prayer)#Typical_Christian_grace_prayers

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    2. Christianity is a poor example. Even Christians know that their religion started as an offshoot of Judaism.

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    3. Muslims kiss their holy books when they fall on the floor. (Salman Rushdie writes about that). Odds are that we learned it from them, as well as phrases like "b'ezrat Hashem" - "Inshallah".

      It's not very hard to say, "ki banu bacharta mikol ha'amim" and mean it. We really don't need to point to cultural things that may or may not be unique to us when we have 613 Mitzvot.

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  34. This article is unnuanced, unsophisticated, lacking in serious analysis and no, I am not a blind supporter of harediism.

    If one in ten are becoming non-religious, with a huge birthrate, the haredi population is still exploding.

    And as was mentioned, haredim becoming dati leumi is not necessarily a net loss to Judaism.

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  35. It seems to me that this article is not worthy of appearing on this blog.

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  36. Indeed, it was a lousy article, but look at all the fascinating discussion that it stimulated!

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    1. Don't be stupid. Keep your politics elsewhere.

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    2. That comment is really awful. Frankly "Think before you speak" isn't very competent. It's hard to be competent when you have blood pouring out of you. Besides he was probably born in either Kenya or Canada. Just take one look at my poll numbers and you'll know that I'm right. When I'm President, I'll have Hamas paying for Iron Dome.

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  37. To me, the important fact is not the supposed "10% who drop out", but rather the fact that as Rav Natan Lopes Cardozo is always pointing out which is the level of emunah among Haredim, particularly in Israel, is abysmally low. In other words, when asked "why are you religious" the answer is "I don't know" or "I was born into it". If you went even to the most prestigious Lita'i yeshivot and asked them "how would you convince a non-religious Israeli of the importance of Torah", few would know what to say.
    I believe the explosive growth of the Haredi world has been primarily enabled by the existence of the modern Western welfare state, which goes a long way to isolating Haredi youth from the economic hardship, in addition to antisemitism that drove most of the religious youth away from Torah a century ago, and the prevailing Post-Modernist culture of the surrounding society which indulges exotic forms of spirituality which were deprecated in the past and which views all beliefs as equally valid. Should this situation change, the Haredi world will be in for as big a crisis as it encountered in the years before the Second World War.

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  38. R' Slifkin, please be careful that what you post is of good quality. Legitimate criticism of haredism is both necessary and warranted. However, this almost seems to have been posted just for the sake of gaining one up against a group that you understandably have issues with, given what they did to you. I don't think the discussion was fascinating at all - it just pointed out how poor he article is

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    1. But what was posted is of good quality, in the sense that the guest article illustrates an uncertainty, a confusion,a paucity of factual information and a general confusion over a phenomenon which may or may not even be real. What could be better under the circumstances?

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  39. What is everyone crying about 9 out 10 staying sounds great to me.

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  40. I have to say with all due respect that this article is pretty silly. Not that the core issue its relating to - that of people in the Haredi world leaving the faith - isn't important, but because it makes such a mess of it, muddying the waters rather contributing something new.

    The numbers not only don't add up, they're absurd. The CBS figures - which are the only actual statistics offered - suggest that 7.6% (12,000 out of 157,000 polled) of people raised as Haredim ultimately leave the Haredi world. That's a very realistic figure. It's not 10% - the author seems to have trouble with math - and its not every year, but total, and its not even the number becoming secular, but merely those who no longer identify as Haredim.

    Just to make the point, if every year 10% of Haredim were becoming secular, within 8 years there'd be more secular ex-Haredim than Haredim. Within 15 years the number of Haredim would have been cut in half, and a generation later they'd be all but extinct.

    Instead the number of Haredim has increased by leaps and bounds, while the proportion of secular Jews has declined. And every projection shows the percentage of Haredim continuing to skyrocket while the percentage of secular Jews continues to shrink.


    This article irks me because the issue of Haredim leaving because of deep-seated problems in Haredi haskafa and the community's leadership is one that deserves serious attention. Gross hyperbole that blows it out of all proportions doesn't do it justice; it just distracts. I'd also say that while the figure given by the CBS of 7.6% who leave the Haredi world - though not necessarily to secularism - sounds totally plausible, it ignores the other equally troubling problem of people who remain ostensibly Haredi but who have left it emotionally or intellectually.

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  41. I do not think the number of "hollow" chareidim (chareidim anusim -- "Marrano" chareidim) as mentioned by Dawidh or Y. Ben-David (in then name of R/Dr Cardozo) is a major crisis. While it's a crying shame, it's normal. In no community can we expect more than 10% or so to be actual idealists. Which means that a sizable minority will be on the other side -- socially affiliated without real buy-in. Some because they simply don't care about the subject enough, others because they care about not overturning their lives more than they care about religion.

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    1. And as always in the history of Am Yisrael, there will be a difference between men and women in this area.

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