On the October issue:
To the Editor:
Moshe Krakowski’s article “The Jews of the Jews” (October 2022) contains some misstatements about Pew Research Center’s 2020 survey of Jewish Americans that require correction or clarification.
The author writes that the Center “did not recruit any Haredim to help conduct interviews.” It’s true that there were no Haredi interviewers. But neither were there any Modern Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or non-Jewish interviewers. In fact, there were no interviewers at all. This was a self-administered survey in which the respondents filled in their answers themselves, either online or on paper.
Krakowski contends that “choices baked into the Pew study’s design all but guaranteed that few Haredim would participate,” noting that the survey was not administered in Yiddish and that it “used paper ballots rather than phone surveys, ensuring that most Hasidim would toss this foreign-language (English) mailing in the trash.”
It is true that the survey was not conducted by telephone—because response rates to phone surveys have plummeted. But the research team, which I led, did make special efforts to reach Orthodox Jews, including Haredim. The survey was conducted nationwide, with mailings to randomly selected residential addresses in all 50 states. No lists of Jewish names or Jewish community members were used. But the country was divided into layers, or strata, allowing researchers to “oversample” areas where many Jews reside. More letters were mailed in those areas than in other parts of the country. (Crucially, researchers take this into account when they weight the data, ensuring that respondents in each geographic area are represented in proportion to their true share of the U.S. population.)
The research team prioritized reaching Orthodox respondents, including Haredim, by creating a special stratum consisting of three counties—Kings and Rockland Counties in New York and Ocean County in New Jersey—that have large Haredi communities. Each of the initial letters mailed in those counties (as elsewhere) contained $2 in cash, as a trust-building measure, and qualified respondents were offered additional incentives (typically $10 or $20) to complete the survey. If po-tential respondents tossed the mailings in the trash, they were literally throwing money away.
More than 68,000 adults across the country responded to the survey, including 4,718 adults who identified as Jewish. Of those, about 430 indicated they are Orthodox Jews, including more than 200 who indicated they are Haredim (an umbrella category that includes Yeshivish or Litvish individuals as well as Hasidim). Once the data were weighted, they resulted in an estimate that about 2 percent of U.S. adults are Jewish, and that about 9 percent of Jewish adults are Orthodox.
Among Orthodox Jews, the survey found rising percentages of Haredim in younger age cohorts—a strong sign of demographic growth. Indeed, the first page of our report on the findings, Jewish Americans in 2020, says that “fully one-in-ten U.S. Jewish adults under the age of 30 are Haredim.” Krakowski’s article omits the word “adults” from that sentence, suggesting that the estimate includes children under 18, which it does not. Then he adds that “there are good reasons to think this is a serious undercount.”
Every estimate has some uncertainty around it, and estimates concerning small subgroups in a survey have especially large margins of error. So I agree: The estimate that 10 percent of American Jews between the ages of 18 and 29 are Haredim could be an undercount.
But it’s very difficult to know whether it actually is an undercount. Krakowski offers no evidence on this score—no data from other sources on the size of the Haredi community, for example. He suggests that Haredim are hard to survey without special efforts, but he doesn’t seem to know what efforts were made in 2020. Nor does he say what it would take to do a better job.
And that’s the rub. At present, the Haredi population is at the outer limits of what a scientific sur-vey of the overall U.S. public can capture. Even if there were twice as many Haredim as the 2020 survey indicated, they would still make up far less than 1 percent of U.S. adults, well below the margin of error in most national studies.
That doesn’t mean Haredim can’t be studied. It means that other kinds of studies are needed. Ethnographies, in which researchers closely observe members of a community, can help. So, perhaps, can in-depth interviews with small samples of people who are willing to be interviewed but who are not statistically representative of all Haredim. Orthodox communities could also try to survey their own members through synagogues, schools, and so on.
All these methods have disadvantages and advantages. No single piece of research can tell us everything we’d like to know.
Two final points. Krakowski asserts that Pew Research Center’s 2013 survey of U.S. Jews, which he incorrectly dates to 2013–15, offered an “absurd” picture of Haredim. Actually, Orthodox Jews—and especially Haredim—appear consistently in the 2013 survey as the most traditional and observant part of the Jewish population, with the largest families, on average, and near-zero rates of intermarriage.
Absurdities emerge only if you ignore the totality of the data and scour the results in search of anomalies. There are only a tiny number of them, and they have been well explained over the years. The question about handling money on the Sabbath, for example, was worded in a way that probably confused some respondents. It asked whether they “refrain” from handling money, so that answering “no” meant that, yes, they do handle money on Shabbat. This wording was taken verbatim from a previous national-Jewish-population study. It clearly was flawed and has not been used again. And, yet, even with its flaws, it showed that Orthodox Jews (Haredim in particular) are much more likely than other Jews to abstain from handling money on the Sabbath.
Last, Krakowski claims that Haredim are “the most rapidly growing segment of American Jewry.” That’s possible, but it may depend on who counts as Jewish, because another potential claimant is the secular Jewish population, which has been growing by leaps and bounds. While national surveys are unable to dig as deeply as one might like into relatively small subgroups—such as Haredim, Jews of color, or Jews in a particular city or state—they have the advantage of capturing the broad spectrum of Jewish life and engagement. One key takeaway from the 2020 survey is that there is growth at both ends of that spectrum.
Director of Religion Research
Pew Research Center
Moshe Krakowski writes:
I appreciate Alan Cooperman’s acknowledgment of my central points about Pew’s approach to Haredim. He concedes that no Haredim were involved in Pew’s survey process, that the survey was not translated into Yiddish for respondents (even though it was translated into Spanish and Russian), and that responses to the 2013 study on Orthodox Jews were flawed. (Though he understates just how flawed—1 percent of Haredim had Christmas trees? Fifteen percent attend non-Jewish religious services at least few times a year? Were these all just bad questions?)
Mr. Cooperman believes that Pew took measures to solicit Haredi responses. But these measures didn’t do much to take Haredi behaviors into account, reflecting just the sort of disregard for Haredi life that my essay addressed. Mr. Cooperman seems to think, for example, that Haredim should have jumped at a $10 offering, something that says more, perhaps, about his view of Haredim than about Haredim themselves. The failure to include Haredi voices in the survey design and implementation ensured that questions and incentives that would have mattered to Haredim were ignored.
There may be good reasons to think that phone surveys are not ideal for the general population. But if you want to understand a population that seriously restricts Internet use, the opposite is true. As the 2020 Pew report notes: “It’s possible that the 2020 web/mail survey may not have been as effective as the 2013 phone survey at reaching segments of the Jewish population who are uncomfortable with going online or lack access to the Internet.” This was a deliberate choice on Pew’s part. So, too, was taking the trouble to obtain data from Russian and Spanish speakers but not Yiddish ones.
Likewise, Pew’s questions uniformly reflected issues central to non-Haredi American Jewish experiences (such as Israel and Zionism) and included no questions particular to Haredi sensibilities or sense of self-identity (e.g., how often do you consult a religious authority regarding life decisions?).
Despite Mr. Cooperman’s belief that large-scale surveys just can’t capture Haredim, the upshot of these choices—and make no mistake, they were choices—was survey data that almost certainly missed large numbers of Haredim and failed to tell us much of substance about their lives.
Three final points: It’s true that I omitted the word “adults” in paraphrasing Pew’s estimate that 10 percent of American Jews under 30 are Haredim, although adding it would have strengthened my point about Haredi growth. On the other hand, 2013–15 was not a mistake. While the initial Pew survey was conducted in 2013, Pew’s spotlight analysis on Orthodox Jews was released on August 26, 2015. Finally, while there may be rapidly increasing numbers of secular Jews, “secular” does not describe a coherent group of Jews, but many different groups who share little other than an absence of religion.
I have tremendous respect for the work Pew does; that is why their treatment of Haredim is so disappointing. It’s not explicit antipathy toward Haredim that worries me in this case, it’s the sidelining of Haredim as a genuine part of the broader Jewish community. The reality is that it’s not that hard to get data on Haredim, even in a large and sophisticated survey such as the one Pew runs. You simply have to know something about Haredim and care enough to bother trying.
Right and Left on Boys
To the Editor:
Naomi Schaefer Riley’s review of my book is headlined “The Idea Thief” (October). As the alleged thief, I feel it necessary to put the record straight. According to Riley, my book Of Boys and Men “simultaneously rips off the right while condescending to, belittling, and insulting those who saw long ago what he sees now.”
Disagreement is one thing. Accusations of intellectual dishonesty are quite another. Especially when they are wholly without merit, as anyone who has read the book can attest.
Exhibit A for Riley’s prosecution is my treatment of her fellow AEI scholar, Christina Hoff Sommers. The specific claim is that I repeated arguments made in Sommers’s 2000 book, The War Against Boys, without due credit. As Riley writes, “giving Sommers short shrift in a volume that follows in a direct line from hers is the worst kind of intellectual dishonesty.”
I do, however, quote (p. 26) and cite (p. 120) Sommers, with reference to the gender wage gap and to her book The War Against Boys. Indeed, Sommers herself read my book in draft and gave me some good feedback, for which I was grateful, and which I incorporated in the final version of the book. She then went on to endorse the book. I was delighted to put her words on the back cover: “In this judicious and meticulously researched book, Richard Reeves reminds us that the problem of male disaffection and underachievement is worsening, and points to sensible, humane and practical solutions.”
Readers can likely draw their own conclusions about the veracity of Riley’s accusation here.
What of Riley’s broader claim that I stole ideas from conservatives without acknowledgement? This is utterly absurd. As well as Hoff Sommers, I quote, sometimes with some approval, the views of many conservative writers and scholars, including George Gilder (p. 41–2, 127), Kay Hymowitz, (p. x), AEI’s Charles Murray (p. 125), Geoff Dench (pp. 33, 34, 37, 124, 127), Jordan Peterson (123–5), David Blankenhorn (37–38), Oren Cass (148), AEI’s Daniel Cox (68), Steve Ruggles (37), AEI’s Scott Winship (49), and many more.
I have plenty of faults. But intellectual theft and dishonesty are not among them. This is not simply a matter of setting the personal record straight, however. When one scholar accuses another of intellectual dishonesty, without a shred of supporting evidence, our public discourse simply takes another turn for the worse.
Richard V. Reeves
Naomi Schaefer Riley writes:
I cannot explain why Christina Hoff Sommers did not criticize Richard Reeves for failing to give her proper credit for the pioneering work she has done in this field. I can only presume that politeness and modesty prevented her from doing so.
As I wrote in my review, Reeves cites Sommers once to tell us that “some conservatives go so far as to claim that there is a feminist-inspired … ‘war on boys,’” but that doing so only “validates and fuels a sense of victimhood” and that “such claims float free of the facts.” Moreover, he claims that the “conservative goal here is to whip up the partisan base.” I have read Sommers’s work for a long time and would be hard-pressed to think of a time the woman who hosted a video blog called “The Factual Feminist” was just trying to “whip up the partisan base.”
In the second and final instance, he quotes Sommers as saying that the wage gap “is a massively discredited factoid.” To which Reeves responds that the wage gap is “not a myth. It is math.” As if Sommers and other conservatives—what?—don’t understand math.
In fact, if Reeves had done more than just list a book title of Kay Hymowitz’s and deeply considered some of her work, he might have noticed how frequently over the past decade she has carefully explained what he finally acknowledges, that having children takes women on different career courses and that single, childless women are now out-earning men in many contexts. And so when controlling for childbearing and child-rearing, the wage gap actually is a myth.
My review did not suggest Reeves failed to mention conservatives, merely that he failed to give them credit for saying things over the past quarter of a century or more that he has only now come to understand. Quoting Charles Murray to criticize his beliefs about custody agreements hardly fits the bill. Neither does noting that Daniel Cox has done surveys recently showing men have fewer friends. Nor does citing Scott Winship on black men’s failure to achieve economic mobility.
Reeves seems to be under the impression that sprinkling in the names of conservative authors would create some kind of intellectual shield, that we wouldn’t notice that his book’s main arguments—that it is boys who are falling behind academically, economically, and socially; that our educational institutions are failing them; that pretending girls and boys are not different from each other has had deeply harmful effects; that the rise of out-of-wedlock birth has left men without purpose and meaning as fathers; and that in order to help boys and men, we need to undo years of feminist propaganda in the media and pop culture about how girls are the only ones who need support—are what folks on the right have been saying for decades.
We’re happy to welcome Mr. Reeves to the club. Perhaps he could be a little more respectful to the members who preceded him.