The millennial generation’s growing detachment from Israel, creeping doubts about theological fundamentals, declining numbers in the pews and a more significant backing for female clergy than one might expect — these are just a few of the findings gleaned from a first-of-its-kind study on the Modern Orthodox community, a diverse and vocal group that represents approximately 4 percent of the American Jewish population.
The survey, titled “Nishma Research Profile of American Modern Orthodox Jews,” is being reported on for the first time here. The survey’s results—spanning hot-button issues from the day school tuition crisis to acceptance of LGBTQ Jews to the roles and status of women—quantified what some have conjectured to be a growing divide between liberal strains of Orthodoxy and the denomination’s more conservative ones.
Results point towards a “net rightward shift” of 16 percent.
An analysis of observance found that 39 percent of respondents reported becoming more observant over the last decade, while 23 percent of respondents reported becoming less so, pointing towards a “net rightward shift” of 16 percent. (These numbers reflect the overall self-perception of respondents; a separate section of the survey measured observance by keeping Shabbat, kashrut, putting on phylacteries every day — among males — and observing the laws of family purity among married couples).
Those who reported decreasing levels of observance came exclusively from Orthodoxy’s more liberal camps, the self-identified “liberal” and “open” Orthodox. Those in more conservative camps — self-identified as “right centrist,” “centrist” and “modern” Orthodox — all reported increasing levels of observance. Liberal segments of the community also reported a much higher percentage of their children becoming less observant.
“The fabric of Modern Orthodoxy is being stretched,” said Mark Trencher, lead researcher and author of the report. Trencher, a former public policy analyst and market researcher, said that the data indicates a “growing schism” in the Orthodox community.
“The community is becoming fragmented,” he added.
“Polarization increases the diversity within Orthodoxy. The study shows “greater diversity than the image of the Orthodox appears.”
Nishma Research is a sociological and market research firm that studies targeted segments of the Jewish community. (Most recently, the…