It seems that I am not the only one that has predicted the future of Orthodoxy lies in the Charedi world. Based on data he saw, Rutgers Professor Emeritus, Dr. Chaim Waxman made the same prediction recently. It was made during a presentation at the Center for Kehillah Development (CKD). He claimed that studies now show that the rate of growthin Orthodoxy now exceeds the dropout rate. “Increasingly, Orthodox Jews are choosing to remain Orthodox” says Professor Waxman.
Not that any of this surprises me. I never believed that the dropout rate outpaced the growth rate - if only by virtue of the exponentially higher birth rate in the Orthodox world than in the rest of world Jewry. And as you go up o the ‘Charedi’ ladder so too does the birth rate. From Yeshiva World News (YWN):
(Professor Waxman’s) research indicates that Chassidishe Jew have 12 times as many children as the non-Orthodox, and even the Modern Orthodox have 4 times the number of children as the non-Orthodox.
This is not an insignificant difference to say the least. The implications of which are profound. It will surely change the way Jews will be seen by the rest of the world. We will go from being seen as liberal humanists seeking social justice as our primary role in society to being seen more like Evangelical Christians that focus more on the fundamental precepts of the bible.
Not making judgments here. Just observations. As a Modern Orthodox Jew I will however say that the two are not mutually exclusive. One can and should focus on what the bible says – which includes pursuing social justice… Or as Rav Ahron Soloviechik put it, ‘the building up of the world’.
This exponential growth of Orthodoxy will obviously effect the way Israel operates. Once the Orthodox demographic exceeds the non Orthodox demographic, Halacha will become more of a factor in governance. The repercussions of which are unclear. For example, how will a Charedi Prime Minister – (should it happen) deal with populating an army?My focus here, however, will be how it will affect those of us living in the Diaspera.
While the reproductive rate of Modern Orthodox Jews outpaces that of the non Orthodox world, the Charedi reproductive rate seems to be four times greater than that. I therefore do not see any other scenario. Charedim will rule the Orthodox World. They will produce the religious leaders of the future who will serve all of us. Which is why the CKD was formed. To provide those leaders. Which is troubling. On the one hand I am very glad to see an affirmation of my beliefs by virtue of Orthodoxy’s growth. On the other hand I am dismayed at the kind of leadership this may provide. From YWN:
According to Rabbi Leib Kelemen, founder of the CKD, this sudden growth in Orthodoxy requires urgent action... (T)he responsible strategy would be to help the biggest talmidei chochomim get the background and skills they need to assume communal leadership. “We have giants in Torah who have tremendous maalos and beautiful middos,” Rabbi Kelemen said, “and many would be excited to take responsibility for the Klal.” This is precisely the mission CKD has accepted – in Rabbi Kelemen’s words: “To give chashuve avreichim the time and training they need to become quality leaders.”
Rabbi Keleman said nothing about defining Orthodoxy in the full dimension of each of its Hashkafos. The impression I get is that Modern Orthodox rabbis need not apply. Recruits will be coming entirely out of the Charedi world – whose Hashkafos increasingly reject secular education in their curricula - placing little if any value on it. And they denigrate the general culture which they say should be avoided as much as possible! This Hashkafa is the opposite of Modern Orthodoxy. Which places a high value on secular education. And looks favorably on those aspects of the general culture that do not conflict with Halacha.
Will the fact that Charedim will by far be the largest segment of the Orthodox population... and the fact that Charedim are far more likely to go into all manner rabbinic positions mean that Modern Orthodoxy will not have a voice? Not that this suggests that Modern Orthodoxy will die. It just asks how it will be looked at by the future leadership. Will it be marginalized? Or even tolerated?
I should add that the non Orthodox Jew will not be ignored. Outreach will still exist and will probably increase. There is no legitimate Orthodox Hashkafa that rejects any Jew – not matter how far they are removed from Torah. But their outreach will focus on a Charedi Hashkafa as the most legitimate form of Judaism and will likely discourage a Modern Orthodox outlook.
So I go back to my original prediction. The Orthodoxy of the future will consist mostly of what I call Moderate Charedim. These are the Jews that accept the Charedi doctrine with respect to secular studies and the general culture, but have nonetheless utilized the former to enable them to earn decent incomes for their families - and participate in the latter albeit from a position of guilt. Their lifestyle will therefore not differ significantly from the right wing of Modern Orthodox Jewry. They will do the same things but will see them from a different perspective. Hopefully the leaders that come out of the Charedi world will at least appreciate that fact and learn to be more tolerant of a Modern Orthodox Hashkafa since their own people involve themselves with it.
What about the extreme right and extreme left? What about the secular Jew? They will still be around. But in my view they will not be a significant influence on the overall Jewish population of the future. I believe the dominant moderate Orthodox culture of the future - and the real world will combine to impose its will and prevent extremism from taking root... all while the secular Jew will increasingly reject his Judaism altogether. If we don't succeed in reaching out to them.