Haredi Dropout Rate

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz writes:

…Viewed from a historical perspective, the ‘drop-out’ rate from Orthodox Jewry in the past fifty years is far lower than it was during the tumultuous hundred years that preceded the generation of our parents – from 1850 to 1950. I would estimate that during the past few decades, about five to fifteen percent of children from observant homes left Yiddishkeit – which is far more than we would like to admit or believe. But bear in mind that the ‘drop-out’ rate was much, much higher in the Lower East Side at the turn of the century, in Yerushalayim in the Thirties and Forties, and in many Chassidish, Litvish, and Ashkenasic communities in pre-war Europe during the height of the haskalah…

Rabbi Horowitz goes on to list a number of commonsense solutions to this problem, most of them ignored by a haredi leadership more interested in ignoring internal problems and blaming the Other. (As I write this, Agudath Israel’s anti-blogger session is in full steam.)

But I think there is one important point about the dropout rate not mentioned. – it appears to be rapidly increasing. Why? More on this later.

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5 Comments

Filed under Haredim, History

5 responses to “Haredi Dropout Rate

  1. Veganovich:

    Below is what I posted on Horowitz’s site, but I am posting it hear as well.

    I was not an at-risk youth in the manner that mainstream society defines it; I did not drop out of school, take drugs, engage in risky or unhealthy sexual behavior, etc. However, I was an at-risk youth by your definition, since you define being an at-risk youth and leaving Orthodoxy as one and the same. I grew up Charedi, but I am now an atheist. I am not sure if you will post this, but since you profess to be interested in hearing from those who left, I thought I’d give it a try.

    Whenever Orthodox people hear I left, they immediately assume that I had some horrible experience, which made me bitter towards Orthodox Judaism. They ask me if I was angry at my parents, abused by a Rebbe, turned off by hypocrisy, materialism, etc. What they never assume is that someone can be a skeptic by nature, and not believe something simply because an authority figure tells him or her to do so. But that was the case with me. I sat in Yeshiva and I could not believe that what I was learning was true, I was amazed that others did. I was aware of the profound differences in belief between Orthodox Jews and scientists about the origin and age of the world. Even though I did not have a great understanding of evolution or other scientific concepts, (needless to say, given that I was in a Charedi school there was not much of a secular education,) I figured if scientists believed in it, it must be credible. After all, it was scientists who put people on the moon, not Rabbis. Thus, they must have a better understanding of the world.

    I am curious as to how you understand the Haskalah. Do you think that the sudden increase in those that let Orthodoxy did so because they wanted understanding, respect and a shorter school day? Or do you accept that in that case, newer competing ideas made it harder or people to accept a literal understanding of the faith they were taught?

  2. moshe

    it is a shame that you were never got answers to your questions- and were never exposed to the teachings of the likes of Rav Soloveichik ztl – or Rabbi Chait – who deal with these question s and provide rational answers .
    you can get info on some of this by going to mesora.org
    or ybt .org
    good luck

  3. Veganovich:

    In response to my second post on Yaakov Horowitz’s site, he replies by saying, “I am a firm believer in free and open dialogue, and that is why I am allowing instant posting of comments on the articles that I’ve written.” Thus, he leaves the misleading impression that he allowed my comment to be posted uncensored. In fact, he deleted the last three paragraphs of my post. In an effort to combat censorship, I am reposting my post in its entirety.

    I do not mean to change the topic of the post from why people leave to whether there is a god, but since others made it an issue, I feel compelled to respond.

    With regard to me reading Slifkin or anyone else, I am not a scientist, and I do not see what would be the point. What I do know is that the more one is scientifically literate, the more likely one is to be an atheist. In a survey involving 517 members of the National Academy of Sciences; half replied. When queried about belief in “personal god,” only 7% responded in the affirmative, while 72.2% expressed “personal disbelief,” and 20.8% expressed “doubt or agnosticism.” The highest rate of belief in a god was found among mathematicians (14.3%), while the lowest was found among those in the life sciences fields — only 5.5%.

    It is also true that belief in god and fervor of belief is substantially higher in third world societies like Haiti and Iran than it is in advanced societies like Japan and Sweden. The claim that science and orthodox religious belief are harmonious is belied by the fact that Charedi yeshivas feel the need to suppress the learning of science. In my nieces’ Bais Yaakov, students are not allowed to answer questions on the biology regent’s exam related to evolution, and the teachers will mark them wrong even if they fill in the correct answer.

    Further, attempts by the likes of Slifkin to reconcile torah and science are always done by deciding that certain things in the torah are not literal. For example, either the world is less than six thousand years old or it is billions of years old. I’ve heard many orthodox people reconcile it by saying a day in the torah does not mean a literal day. (I believe Slifkin does that as well, but I am not sure.) The problem with that is that it means everything you believe to be literal is only temporary. As new scientific knowledge is gained, you will have to reinterpret that which you currently believe is literal into a metaphor or other non-literal belief. I believe in intellectual freedom rather than censorship, but the rabbis who banned Slifkin’s book are correct in their awareness that his attempts to reconcile science and torah undermine the belief that the torah is the word of god, as he needs to create new doctrine to reconcile the two.

    With regard to your statement, “If you will seriously and objectively study Torah and science you will see that there are no contradictions,” answer me this one question.

    I assume you will agree that the earth revolves around the sun. Yet the author of the chumash thought that the sun revolved around the earth, after all Yehosuah stopped it from moving. Is that consistent with an all powerful deity as the author of the Chumash?

    As to your statement “every day science comes out with new findings that are already stated in the Gemorah for thousands of years,” can you cite some? The Gemorah is filled with all sorts of bizarre remedies that lack all scientific basis. Even in yeshiva the rabbis admitted as much, but stated that shanea hatevah. If you were objective, I think you would admit that compared to current knowledge of science, the amoroim were primitive.

  4. Veganovich:

    In response to my second post on Yaakov Horowitz’s site, he replies by saying, “I am a firm believer in free and open dialogue, and that is why I am allowing instant posting of comments on the articles that I’ve written.” Thus, he leaves the misleading impression that he allowed my comment to be posted uncensored. In fact, he deleted the last three paragraphs of my post. In an effort to combat censorship, I am reposting my post in its entirety.

    I do not mean to change the topic of the post from why people leave to whether there is a god, but since others made it an issue, I feel compelled to respond.

    With regard to me reading Slifkin or anyone else, I am not a scientist, and I do not see what would be the point. What I do know is that the more one is scientifically literate, the more likely one is to be an atheist. In a survey involving 517 members of the National Academy of Sciences; half replied. When queried about belief in “personal god,” only 7% responded in the affirmative, while 72.2% expressed “personal disbelief,” and 20.8% expressed “doubt or agnosticism.” The highest rate of belief in a god was found among mathematicians (14.3%), while the lowest was found among those in the life sciences fields — only 5.5%.

    It is also true that belief in god and fervor of belief is substantially higher in third world societies like Haiti and Iran than it is in advanced societies like Japan and Sweden. The claim that science and orthodox religious belief are harmonious is belied by the fact that Charedi yeshivas feel the need to suppress the learning of science. In my nieces’ Bais Yaakov, students are not allowed to answer questions on the biology regent’s exam related to evolution, and the teachers will mark them wrong even if they fill in the correct answer.

    Further, attempts by the likes of Slifkin to reconcile torah and science are always done by deciding that certain things in the torah are not literal. For example, either the world is less than six thousand years old or it is billions of years old. I’ve heard many orthodox people reconcile it by saying a day in the torah does not mean a literal day. (I believe Slifkin does that as well, but I am not sure.) The problem with that is that it means everything you believe to be literal is only temporary. As new scientific knowledge is gained, you will have to reinterpret that which you currently believe is literal into a metaphor or other non-literal belief. I believe in intellectual freedom rather than censorship, but the rabbis who banned Slifkin’s book are correct in their awareness that his attempts to reconcile science and torah undermine the belief that the torah is the word of god, as he needs to create new doctrine to reconcile the two.

    With regard to your statement, “If you will seriously and objectively study Torah and science you will see that there are no contradictions,” answer me this one question.

    I assume you will agree that the earth revolves around the sun. Yet the author of the chumash thought that the sun revolved around the earth, after all Yehosuah stopped it from moving. Is that consistent with an all powerful deity as the author of the Chumash?

    As to your statement “every day science comes out with new findings that are already stated in the Gemorah for thousands of years,” can you cite some? The Gemorah is filled with all sorts of bizarre remedies that lack all scientific basis. Even in yeshiva the rabbis admitted as much, but stated that shanea hatevah. If you were objective, I think you would admit that compared to current knowledge of science, the amoroim were primitive.

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