Aided by Orthodox, NYC’s Jewish Population Is Growing Again


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After decades of decline, the Jewish population of New York City is growing again, increasing to nearly 1.1 million, fueled by the “explosive” growth of the Hasidic and other Orthodox communities, a new study has found. It is a trend that is challenging long-held notions about the group’s cultural identity and revealing widening gaps on politics, education, wealth and religious observance.

Along Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. In 2002, 33 percent of respondents identified themselves as Orthodox Jewish; in 2011, 40 percent did.

Those findings, contained in the first authoritative study of the city’s Jewish population in nearly a decade, challenges the entrenched image of Jews as liberal, affluent and well educated. Over the last decade wealthy, Ivy League graduates like those on the Upper West Side have increasingly lost population share relative to Orthodox groups, like the Hasidic population in Brooklyn, where college degrees are rare and poverty rates have reached 43 percent.

Members of these Orthodox groups also have been known to be far more likely to adopt more conservative positions on matters like abortion, same-sex marriage and the Israeli approach to the Palestinians.

At the same time, among non-Orthodox Jews, there has been a weakening in observance of quintessential Jewish practices. Participation in Passover Seders has declined: 14 percent of households never attend one, almost twice as many as a decade ago. Reform and Conservative movements each lost about 40,000 members between 2002 and 2011; nearly a third of the respondents who identified themselves as Jews said they did not ally themselves with a denomination or claimed no religion.

“There are more deeply engaged Jews and there are more unengaged Jews,” said Jacob B. Ukeles, a social policy analyst and one of the principal authors of the study, which was sponsored by UJA-Federation of New York. “These two wings are growing at the expense of the middle. That’s the reality of our community.”



  1. The most amazing thing is that the Times noticed something happening outside of Manhattan. Their foreign new bureau is really on its toes.

    Of course the “center” will decline since once someone decides on being non-Orthodox they will normally end up totally assimilated (that is the pattern over the last few millenia), and if they decide that being Jewish is important to them, they will seek out something authentic (as opposed to “Bagel and Lox” or “being a Democrat”) and end up becoming a Baal Tseuvah.

  2. “There are more deeply engaged Jews and there are more unengaged Jews,” said Jacob B. Ukeles, a social policy analyst and one of the principal authors of the study, which was sponsored by UJA-Federation of New York. “These two wings are growing at the expense of the middle. That’s the reality of our community.”

    A perfect example of oxymoronic thinking.

    What is the point of counting an “unengaged Jew?” What makes him Jewish at all? Is it the gefilte fish he eats?

    An unengaged Jew is a Jewish drop-out. The only REAL GROWTH is in the Orthodox sector, and that is why the NY State GOP picked a Hasidic Jew–Yossi Gestetner–to be its director of Jewish outreach, something that would have been unheard of 10 years ago.

  3. Deepthinker – If the “unengaged Jew” has a Jewish mother he’s as Jewish as you. The problem is the children of the intermarried who despite the last names are not Jewish at all. The “unengaged” can return at any time to a life of Torah and mitvos.

  4. Poor Forward, they must be cringing that the uneducated, poor frummies are winning. And all those poor Yiddishists ar YIVO who are so afreaid that the Yiddish language is dying. Hundreds of Jews are added each year to Yiddish speaking. Yes Yiddish “culture” is dying but Yiddish Torah is gaining exponentially. As the Folksbiene loses members, Yeshivos and shuls are opening each week literally. B’H

  5. Would like to see a breakdown of UJA money as to its distribution in the Jewish community.

    What % goes to Orthodox sectors ?

  6. Before you get all happy remember 2 things:
    1. We shouldn’t be happy that so many Jews ave simply fallen by the way side, I am a case in point. Of 5 Jews in my Generation (I am an only child 2 cousins on either side). I am the only one who is Shomer Shabbas. On my mom’s side both are intermarried and one is even a Lutheran Minister.
    2. The non-religious, as the article says have money. As they become less connected to Judaism they will donate less to Jewish Federations, resulting in less money going to the Orthodox community. That will force the more right wing to re-look at not getting a good secular education, which once they do will cause some of them to move to the middle. Already we are seeing that. That is why this talk of how many are Charedi vs MO never gets answered, If I have a Black Hat always listen to my Rabbi, think Men and women should be separated as much as possible, but have a degree, non-Jewish friends, and accept that the Earth is 4.5 Billion years old am I a right wing MO or left wing Charedi? (My guess is at shul its left wing Charedi that talks about “listening” to the game on radio not admitting they have a TV and among his/her less strict friends its Chareidi who always listens to the Gadeli and such.)

  7. @deepthinker- I f you really think about it, where does UJA-Federation get most of its money from, or the vairous Chabad houses, or , in fact so manyother Tzedaka? From the poor poverty level orthodx Jews or theaffluent unengaged JEws. Un engaged to thewriter of the article means unaffiliated with Jewish ritual, observances or organizations, not necessarily Jewish life. I know many not yet Reliogous individuals who are “very Jewish” gie lots of Tzedaka, but are other wise- unengaged in Jewish Life.

  8. The “reform movement” is fond of mis-informing the world claiming that THEY are the largest and/or fastest growing “movement” in Judaism.
    The way they are able to perpetrate this lie is by basing their numbers on “temple” membership numbers.
    Their numbers ARE indeed high, but they are misleading because they do not take into account the fact that at least half (or more) of their members are intermarried (with non-Jews) immediately reducinging their truly JEWISH members by more than 50%.
    Futhermore, in the cases where the wife is the non-Jew of the couple, that of course means that the children are not Jews either, further reducing the truly Jewish membership.
    Finally, in many “reform temples” they give membership to totally non-Jewish families who join the “temple” simply to make use of their facilities, i.e. their gym, pool, racquet ball court, etc. Nevertheless these people are still counted in the number of “temple” members.

    While the number of ‘orthodox’ Jews who go off the derech, is undoubtedly terribly tragic, and needs to be seriously addressed, there is no doubt that it is only the frum “stream of Judaism” that is growing, and growing significantly.

  9. 6 and 7: You are being quite foolish. We’d MUCH rather live a Torah-steeped life with financial poverty than give up even one iota of our kedusha (i.e. remains frum just more “modern” and engaged) even if that will mean we could be wealthy. We’ll stick with the poverty and not give up one iota of what we have.

    That’s why we survived this long. And we are not changing. The ones that change are the ones that assimilate.