Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Distorting Statistics about Charedim

As Mark Twain noted, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. You can quote a factually true statistic and use it to completely pervert the truth.

Some tragic examples of this can be seen in the article at by JoeSettler, defending the Israeli charedi community. The falsehoods are so tightly interwoven into the article that I'm going to have to fisk it.
We’ve all heard claims how Chareidim don’t work, that Chareidim don’t go to the army, that Chareidim don’t carry their share of the national burden. Liberman’s supporters are saying Liberman is raising this anti-Chareidi / anti-religious flag for their own good and ours. The tone, the rhetoric, the Sinat Chinam is horrifying – and far too many people accept these statements/assumptions as fact. Here at the Muqata, we had a theory we wanted to test. What if these assumptions are not really true or not completely true, how would we prove it? And if these claims don’t reflect reality what do we need to look at instead? We decided to examine the data for ourselves, and discovered that everyone is comparing apples to oranges.
Actually, as we shall see, it is JoeSettler who compares apples to oranges. 

I. Army Service

True, if you compare the overall percentages of Chareidim that haven’t done the army to non-Chareidim, the difference is huge, and will remain huge.
But we asked ourselves, is that really the right way to look at the numbers and the situation?
Yes. That is exactly the right way to look at the numbers and the situation. 
A 30-something Chareidi man with six children will never be going into the army, so those statistics don’t actually tell you anything useful, other than he is never going to go into the army.
No, it tells you that this Chareidi man has made a lifestyle choice that prevented him from going to the army. That is relevant.
34% of Chareidi males obligated to enlist in the IDF or Sheirut Leumi in 2017 were enlisted, according to a 2018 IDI study... That percent that enlisted is up 5% from 2016, and that percent has been going up every year... Among the non-Chareidi (male) population, it appears that IDF enlistment is estimated at 85%.
First of all, writing as someone who lives in a largely charedi city, this figure of 34% of those obligated to enlist - around 4000 young men - is highly suspect. Where are all these charedim in the IDF? The so-called Nachal Charedi is mostly comprised of Dati-Leumi who want a higher standard of kashrut/tzniyut, along with some charedi dropouts. Who has seen 4000 new charedi soldiers?!

But even taking the 34% number, that is still only a third of chareidi young men who are supposed to be enlisted for the first time. And this in turn is an even tinier fraction of charedi men of army age - of which there are over 30,000 exemptions given annually.
When you look at the relevant statistics, you see a completely different picture than what is portrayed by Liberman and the media.
You see a society that is integrating. You see a society that is catching up to their non-Chareidi counterparts in terms of service. You see a society that is undergoing both evolutionary and revolutionary changes at a healthy pace that is non-destructive to their society.
You then realize that the argument that Charedim don’t go to the army is not only blown out of proportion, but is false and must be rejected.
No, the argument that Charedim, for the most part, do not go to the army, is still absolutely true, not withstanding the very small recent rise in charedi recruits. There are 30,000 exemptions and only a few thousand serving. You can argue about the best way to change that. You can argue that it's best to let the number gradually rise, rather than to force conscription. But it is false to make a general statement that Charedim go to the army.

II. Working

All the statistics we’ve seen until now separately compared the number of Chareidi men working, the number of Chareidi women working, and then compared that to their non-Chareidi male and female counterparts. It’s very Tzanuah (modest) of them to present it that way, but it doesn’t represent certain social and fiscal realities in Israel. Is that really a fair comparison? Is it even a relevant comparison? Why are we comparing individuals when we should be comparing households? In a household it doesn’t matter if the husband or wife is working (certainly not in a progressive household), only if they are making enough money to support their household unit and chosen lifestyle.
Actually, I think that it's definitely relevant to compare individuals rather than households, but let's accept his point for now. And let's see where this leads.
...The answer (based on raw 2017 survey data we received from Kohelet) to the question of how many households have at least one breadwinner is as follows :
Non-Chareidim: 80.1% | Chareidim: 84.6% | Arabs: 79.5%.
...In simple English what do these statistics mean?
It means that most Israelis households have at least one breadwinner who is working and supporting the family.
...What does this mean for the question as to whether or not Chareidim are participating in the workforce?
The answer is that when comparing household to household, there is no effective difference between Chareidi and non-Chareidi Jews. Both family household units work and support themselves.
The sleight-of-hand performed here is so subtle that I'm not sure if the writer even realized it himself. JoeSettler has gone from citing a statistic that most chareidi homes have at least one breadwinner, to arguing that this proves that there is no difference between charedim and non-charedim, and that charedim equally support themselves.

How on earth does this follow?!

The fact that someone is working does not mean that they are managing to support their family. And it most certainly does not mean that they are equally contributing to the economy!

A household in which there are one or two people working in high-income jobs, paying full taxes, contributes to the economy. A household in which the husband is in kollel, and in which there are one or two low wages, often in non-professional careers, and in which there is a resultant tax exemption, does not contribute to the economy (or contributes far less).
What becomes clear is that Chareidi households are not a drag on Israeli society and tax payers as Liberman and friends may claim. Israeli households and society are holding their own and doing their part.
Chareidim make less money and spend less money. Their purchasing patterns are also very different. And those are all valid lifestyle choices.
What becomes clear is that Chareidim are not economic burdens on society.
When comparing household to household – which is the only comparison that matters – Chareidim households are on par with the rest of Israeli society.
This is so obviously false that it boggles the mind to see anyone make such a claim. Even charedi apologist Jonathan Rosenblum wrote in Mishpacha that "We All Need Charedim To Get Academic Education And Professional Employment." Endorsing a speech by President Rivlin, Rosenblum noted that "20% of the school children in Israel between first and sixth grade are now in chareidi educational frameworks" (if you just consider first grade, it's over 30%). Leaving aside the question of who will serve in the IDF, the pressing question that he asks is: “who will fund the maintenance of this army if Israeli society is poor?” He also notes that “the modern economy puts a high premium on education, and ever more jobs require academic or vocational training of some kind.” How will the national economy survive, with such a huge proportion of society being uneducated and unemployed?

And then you have the staggering study that came out from the Finance Ministry a few weeks ago, saying that if the employment rate of ultra-Orthodox (haredi) Jewish men remains stagnant, it will cost the Israeli economy more than $100 billion a year over the next several decades.

Anyone who denies the reality of this problem is supporting its continuation. 

III. Sharing the Burden

The same unfair question can of course be turned around. Are secular Jews doing their share for Israeli society?
The data shows that when it comes volunteering and charity, Hilonim are not giving close to what their Chareidi counterparts are giving back to their fellow Israelis.

First of all, I don't know why he's comparing Charedim to Hilonim. Is that the standard that Charedim should set for themselves? Why not compare Charedim to non-Charedi religious Jews?

Second, the immense amount of volunteering and charity that occurs in charedi society is mostly to help other charedim - who are in dire economic straits!

Third, volunteer work done by charedim does not remotely compare to years of IDF service and milu'im and Sherut Leumi.

Fourth, charity to poor charedim does not remotely come close to outweighing the tremendous economic burden on the country by a rapidly growing population in which half the men don't work, those who do work are generally in non-professional careers, and there is virtually no secular education.
Hiloni households are also not doing their share in the demographics battle with the Arabs. It’s the Chareidim that are out-birthing the Arabs and maintaining Israel’s demographic balance, and it is the Chareidim that are bearing the financial burden of the demographics battle.

Increasing the number of Jews does not help the country if those increased numbers are dragging down the economy (which in turn encourages others to leave). And even if charedi families have two kids which become more "modern" and take a real job, that still leaves four more who don't.


JoeSettler concludes as follows:
The next time you hear Avigdor Liberman complain about Chareidim not carrying their share of the national burden and that drastic action is needed to fix the situation, you’ll now know that not only is Liberman completely wrong, you can ask him, why aren’t his Hiloni voters doing their share for their fellow Israelis?
In reality, neither question is fair to ask. Israel is a mosaic and every community is contributing in their own way to make Israel a dynamic, vibrant society. Everyone is shouldering the burden in their own way, but there are far too many false claims made against Chareidi society that simply aren’t backed up by the data – especially when you start to compare data points that more accurately represent real life in Israel.
In reality, while Avigdor Liberman may well distort some things, the fact is that charedi society does not remotely share the burden of military service, and is a dangerous ever-increasing drain on the economy. There can be reasonable disagreement about how to solve this problem, such as regarding whether it can be changed by imposing financial pressure. But denying that the problem exists is wrong and dangerous. It harms the nation of Israel, and it doesn't even help charedim.

For further reading: Rosenblum: We All Need Charedim To Get Academic Education And Professional Employment

(I'm off to the airport now, so there will be a delay in moderating and replying to comments.)


  1. I do miluim in a regular unit that has a track for "hareidi" soldiers. These guys do a very honorable service, no less than that any non-hareidi. In their own way they fit in and are a part of the unit. I would say that this is a significant kiddush hashem, that people that have had no contact at all with the observant (hareidi being a variant of that) now get to sit, work, and eat with them. Building bridges, slowly.
    As far as one-third enlisting...maybe, maybe not. The army and politics levels have an interest in elevating the numbers. An easy way to do that is to include the "lighter" Shas schools and say that anyone that graduates from them is by definition "hareidi", even though lemaase it is not the "full truth". Many tricks like this can be played.

  2. Also if you look at any of the annual poverty reports put out by the Bituach Leumi (National Insurance Institute) you will see that the incidence of poverty nationally is about 18%. But in general Israeli society (where there are mainly two working parents - avg 1.7) the incidence of poverty is about 5%. In Haredi and Arab sectors (where there is only one working parent - avg 1.3), the incidence of poverty is about 50-55%.

    It's a no brainer. If you want to solve the poverty issue in Israel, get Haredi men and Arab women into the work force.

  3. This whole army thing is a red herring

    The IDF is overstaffed

    It's time to abolish the draft

    Vote Zehut

    1. I enlisted in the US Army on 31 August 1971, and was sent to Fort Ord, CA for Basic and Advanced Infantry Training. Ours was the last BCT class to include draftees; after that, it was an all-volunteer force (VOLAR). OTOH, the draft provided a socio-economic-educational cross-section of Americans; OTOH, the volunteer-army included only those who wanted to serve.

      Social engineering aside, no military is aided by soldiers who don't want to be there and who can't wait to get out. We saw, time and time again, how one soldier's bad attitude can infect and affect others... at squad, platoon, and company levels. We couldn't wait to see them go.

      The same was/is true in the IDF -- there's no place for a "takhman" (in the US, we'd call him "Casper", 'cuz he was always "ghosting").

      If we want the IDF to be an all-volunteer force, we'll have to give our sons and daughters more reasons to enlist than just "patriotism" -- offer them (where qualified and where needed) the options to train in a skill, or to serve in a particular unit; offer them a realistic salary, usable benefits for education, housing, and retirement.

      And yes, please do "Vote Zehut".

    2. then end haredi draft, and at same time end the kollel welfare system. this would be fair--let the world wide haredi lifestyle supporters support it ...

  4. "Increasing the number of Jews does not help the country if those increased numbers are dragging down the economy (which in turn encourages others to leave). And even if charedi families have two kids which become more "modern" and take a real job, that still leaves four more who don't."

    First of all, increasing the number of Jews certainly does help, regardless of the effect on the economy - this is a democratic country and numbers are critical re. security among other things.

    Second of all, I doubt that on a whole chareidim are actually a burden on the economy. Has anyone calculated the effect of hundreds of millions in foreign support money being spent (and vat-taxed) here? All the apartments being purchased by foreign chareidim or locals who receive family help or raise funds abroad? (No one is buying apartments on government stipends). This is the economic equivalent of exports. And many do work.

    1. Increasing the amount of people who rely on public assistance and who will not contribute to society (and don't spew the BS about how learning full-time is oh-so-necessary) does not help. Numbers alone are meaningless. So they'll vote for charedi parties in elections? That's not a good thing.

      Your comment about foreign investment is just as insidious as the above article. Yes, foreign money helps Israel's economy, but charedim will still take more, and foreign investment doesn't offset whatever goes to charedim. They'll never be satisfied with less, so however much the economy grows, charedim will always need more. That's a pretty obvious burden.

      "And many do work." Sure, but many more do not. Do you just ignore whatever statistics you don't like?

    2. Since you made up numbers, I'll make up an answer: yes, it has been calculated and found that Charedim are a net loss to Israel.

    3. To "Not Chareidi"

      All anger, no substance.

      To Avi:

      What numbers did I "make up"? I merely expressed my doubt regarding the assumption that chareidim place an overall burden on the economy. It is the attackers that are making unfounded assertions.
      [If you refer to my reference to "hundreds of millions," I think that is a pretty safe assumption. If there are more than half a million chareidim and each benefits from a five hundred dollars a year from abroad (including family suppport, personal donations and indirectly, through support for yeshivos and kollelim), this amounts to hundreds of millions.]

    4. Leizerson: Your assumptions include made-up numbers. "Pretty safe assumption" still means it's not based on fact. And "all anger, no substance"? You're still ignoring statistics that say that most charedim don't work and are a burden on the economy. Those "unfounded assertions" are, in fact, based on reality, unlike your own.

  5. Modern nations have a myth that the economy constantly needs to grow. If chareidim refuse to participate in this mind and ecology destroying rat race, so be it.

    1. Even if the economy doesn't grow, there still needs to be enough money to support whatever needs to be funded. Charedim will never stop taking, so if they don't contribute, eventually there won't be enough for them.

    2. Modern nations also have this myth that all citizens should be cared for, and that takes money. If the economy were not growing, the non-productivity of Charedim would be even more disastrous than it is.

  6. What a hypocrite. Fix your own house first, Dr. Slifkin
    I'm sure being the director of a museum, living on taxpayer dollars without producing any consumer goods or services is not exactly contributing to the economy.
    You'll probably argue that your museum is a cultural asset of Israel which need not contribute to the economy, or that it generates tourism which helps the economy, well, chareidim can certainly win on both counts hands down.
    Massive amounts of money pours in from abroad on account that their community exists and inspires Jews worldwide.
    The existence of the chareidi community in Israel in its current form is precisely what leads Jews from abroad to invest in their institutions and buy apartments for their children and vacation homes here, and come here on vacations and stay at hotels and eat at restaurants, etc.
    Changing the nature of chareidi society in Israel to integrate into the modern State of Israel by compromising its values will bring much of that Orthodox tourism to end.

    1. Ignorance and lack of education have never been Jewish values.

    2. Massive amounts of money pours in from abroad

      Cite some figured here. Otherwise, we will assume you pulled this "factoid" out from your latest bowel movement.

    3. "I'm sure being the director of a museum, living on taxpayer dollars without producing any consumer goods or services"

      Huh? The museum does provide services to all the people who come to visit and experience it!

      What a Low IQ and low energy response. Sad.

    4. "living on taxpayer dollars"

      Maybe there's a tax deduction? but the museum lives on donations from individuals and entrance fees, not taxpayer dollars. This is a private museum, not a public one.

      "without producing any consumer goods or services"

      Huh? It's a museum. You pay to visit, and the guides give a speech and photo ops with giant snakes. That's a "service" (one valuable enough that we were *delighted* to have paid for it. Seriously one of the highlights of our first ever family trip to Israel). The museum also sells books and things on the way out (we bought a sefer), so that's "goods." So you've got both goods and services.

      "is not exactly contributing to the economy."
      Of course it is. We visited in January. In addition to all the ancillary tourism revenues generated by our visit (rental van, gas, food, trip to other paid, semi-nearby attractions), there was the entry fees which pay for rent/utilities, animal upkeep, and salaries. This isn't complicated economics, you don't need to have gone to secular college or grad school to understand this.

    5. You don't need to go have gone to secular college to read the rest of my comment.
      By your ridiculously broader definition of "consumer goods and services" Chareidi institutions certainly qualify.

  7. The first distortion is about the nature of Lieberman's complaint, which is misstated in order to create a red herring. Lieberman's attack is less against the Haredim themselves and more on the Bibi led governments that willingly acquiesce to their demands, leading to the result that the tail rather expensively wags the dog.

  8. This post is hilarious. Why are you so shocked that someone else can have such a distorted agenda? People in glass houses and all that.

    1. The point of the post is not the being shocked, if he even is. The point of the post is for people who do not live and breathe demographic and economic figures to have the truth (or if you please, at least an opposing viewpoint) out in the open so that they can have a more informed understanding of the situation.

  9. Did not read the whole post, but I'm sure you are right. Because, as your opening line notes, statistics are inherently false. Moreover, any study or report is also inherently subjective and agenda-driven, by definition. (For even if the facts reported are stated accurately, the writer or analyst has still chosen what facts or statistics to include and what to leave out.)

    This explains a lot about politics, about vaccination, about science/"science" - it explains everything. Because you (anyone) can try to support any argument with links to media reports or studies till you're blue in the face, and it wont mean a thing. Your opponent will simply not believe what you're showing him, or else he will respond with facts and studies to the contrary - which then YOU wont believe.

    בעקביתא דמשיחא, האמת תהא נעדרת We are right there, baby. RIGHT THERE.

    1. "statistics are inherently false". Convenient for constructing your own reality.

    2. Yes, they are convenient for constructing your own reality.

    3. I suppose you think the democracy is a big fake and all of the election results are lies. Also that stupid ideal gas law they made you memorize in high school. All lies.


    The usual YA.

  11. The draft is the cause of Charedi unemployment. working nullifies the exemption and the army is traife.

    1. The army actually has a lot of kosher. They really try.

      No, I do not have firsthand experience, but I do have family members as well as have heard shiurim delineating the religious measures that army has taken.

    2. And really - without the draft, will hoards of chareidi men suddenly reveal their true opinion: that not learning constantly is actually OK? Will the Roshei Yeshiva suddenly breathe a sigh of relief and say that the danger is past, now the bochurim can learn a trade? Really?

    3. There have been MKs that have advocated granting an army exemption to Charedim, so that they wouldn't be afraid of joining the workforce. The rationale was that, at least the Charedim would be getting gainful employment, decreasing the overall poverty in the Charedi community. And their income would be taxable, so the country as a whole would also benefit.

    4. This is false. Charedim have the same opportunity as anyone else to opt for National Service, and there have been efforts to provide an official exemption from Army service in favour of NS. The Charedim will have none of it.

  12. RNS, you know very well its not nearly as simple as you make it. Certainly the frustration with Charedim is understandable, for the reasons you say and a lot more. At the same time, its the Charedim that have preserved Judaism, allowing for the very existence of Jews and the state of Israel.

    I know what you're going to say - that Charedim are a new phenomenon, that they don't represent authentic Judaism, much less authentic orthodoxy. That's false, and you need not be an anthropologist to know it. Much of the non-essentials surrounding them are new, but in terms of where they are within Judaism, it is THEY, and none other, that are the direct evolution of the pious Shtetel Jew from which every Israeli leader, from Ben Gurion to Begin, trace their roots. The Modern Orthodox Jew, much as I love and respect and admire them, are not the stubborn closed-minded Jews which kept Judaism alive through the millennia. Incredibly frustrating, is it not? But true.

    1. Charedim did not preserve Judaism. They are an evolutionary form of it. And no, they are not authentic and they do not represent Judaism. The aversion to anything secular is not part of Judaism. And those "non-essentials"? That's how they define themselves.

    2. Judaism didn't start in the Shtetl and Shtetl Jews didn't create the state of Israel on which Israeli Charedi Judaism now depends. I agree that the authenticity debate is kinda dumb, but copying the isolation and segregation forced upon us by anti-semitism by creating a voluntary segregation and isolation doesn't make you an authentic preserver of Judaism.

  13. You talk about Charedim as if you have some connection to them, as if you practice different paths to the same religion. But no, you practice an entirely different religion. Name it what you want but you have no connection to the Charedim. You don't understand them at all, don't try to understand them. So please stop studying the works of our great scholars. Go pick through the handful of semi-scholars that the Dati Leumi world has produced and stop bothering us, stop talking about us. And don't try to make a minyan with us because you don't count.


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