December 9, 2005


Jewish Babies (Ben J. Wattenberg, Jeremy Kadden, December 2005, First Things)

While most Jews in America have few children, the Jews of New Square have many: at least six children per woman, and possibly even more, a rate among the highest on earth.

This is not unique to New Square. It is found wherever there are Haredi Jews, all over the world, and there is evidence to suggest the trend is unprecedented in Jewish history. Until the 1950s, official demographic information about Jewish birthrates was difficult to come by. Yet it appears that in the immediate aftermath of World War II, American Haredim were probably having in the range of two to four children per woman, much like their non-Haredi counterparts. But most demographers believe that in the 1970s the situation began to change dramatically. Since then, the Jewish community has broken into two distinct groups.

On the one hand are groups like the Haredim, whose birth rates have climbed to extremely high rates. At their current pace, the Haredi population could theoretically double or even triple in each generation.

On the other hand are the non-Haredi Jews, where the opposite seems to have occurred. Their fertility has fallen steadily to very low levels, with estimates ranging from 1.4 to 1.9 children per woman. Despite surveys that show their desire to have more children, American Jewish women in their thirties are nearly twice as likely to be childless as their non-Jewish counterparts. This part of the Jewish community is also considerably older than the surrounding population: The average Jewish age is forty-two, compared with just thirty-five for the United States as a whole.

Not a single major Jewish organization is working directly to reverse these trends. [...]

Some Jews do not consider birthrate to be a grave problem. It's the quality, not the quantity, that should concern us, some say. In their view, a dedicated minority is far better for the long-term health of the Jewish people than a large group of people who are indifferent to their people's survival. "Less is more," they say. Unfortunately, though, less is really less. Fewer people means less funding for schools, nursing homes, synagogues, and community centers. Fewer people means fewer educators, organizers, and rabbis. It could also lead to decreased power in Washington and decreased support for Israel.

What then is to be done? Some have suggested subsidies, particularly in the form of lower Jewish day-school tuition. However, many scholars disagree, arguing that tuition breaks and other subsidies would do little to encourage higher birthrates. With an ideology of reproduction, subsidies and tuition breaks would help. But among the vast majority of Jews there is no such ideology.

Indeed, the data from Europe and America about "paying people to have more children" through government subsidies and tax breaks are not encouraging. The Europeans have offered all kinds of tax breaks, child allowances, and government programs aimed at encouraging more children. And yet, despite all this, the average European fertility rate is 1.4, an all-time low, with no sign of reversal. Steven Bayme, the director of the department of "Contemporary Jewish Life" at the American Jewish Committee, reports that in the mid-1980s, a broad coalition of Jewish organizations came together to discuss Jewish birthrates. They all favored higher fertility, but there was a problem: How could it be encouraged? After much debate and discussion, the group decided that the best way to attack the problem was through the pulpit. They recommended that rabbis speak to their congregations about the need for more children, setting a tone among the congregations that would hopefully be just as effective as tuition breaks or day care.

But even that bargain-rate recommendation faced stiff opposition, says Bayme.

If most Jews weren't liberal Democrats and thuis captives of the teachers unions they'd be more likely to address this existential issue by supporting school choice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 9, 2005 10:28 AM

Keep your faith-based dogma out my tax supported government and I will and have put my life on the line to protect your right to believe anything you like*.

Oh... and stay away from my door with your prostylizing and I will continue to protect your right to believe anything you like*.

(*) as long as your belief doesn't advocate intolerance and/or child abuse then I will get pissed at you.

Posted by: oldkayaker at December 9, 2005 8:52 PM

Thank you for putting your life on the line, but keep your own "faith based" dogma out of our tax supported schools, please.

Posted by: jdkelly at December 9, 2005 9:05 PM


There is no right to believe whatever you like, however, one of the rights you fought for is that folks come to your door.

Posted by: oj at December 9, 2005 9:13 PM

Next time the Mormons show up... I have the fake blood and fake hatchet ready to stage a bloody gory scene ... they knock and I open the door for them to see the bodies seemingly drenched in blood.

Do you think they will call 911 or try to pedal their faith?..

Now thats humor!

Posted by: oldkayaker at December 9, 2005 9:18 PM


No, that's psychosis. And sadly there's nothing funny about someone as mentally ill as you are.

Posted by: oj at December 9, 2005 9:23 PM

> (*) as long as your belief doesn't advocate intolerance

I'm just taking a wild guess here, but would the person who gets to define intolerance be... you?

Posted by: Guy T. at December 9, 2005 9:41 PM

What's your beef with the Mormons ?

Out of all the religious door-knockers, they're the LEAST pushy. Just tryin' to do you a good turn, neighbor-like.

BTW: You can acquire a copy of the Book of Mormon without cost or obligation. Just fill out the form at this site, or request one by phone: call 1-888-537-7111. Your Book of Mormon will either be shipped or delivered, depending on your preference.

You can also read or listen to the Book of Mormon online, at the same site.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2005 3:45 AM


The government schools are already de facto religious institutions.

1. All other religions are excluded (but none so harshly as Christianity) - "thou shalt have no other Gods....

2. You must be an indoctrinated member of the Priesthood...Teacher certification

3. The goal is not to educate, but to indoctrinate..see HREF=""> here.

There is already a "faith based dogma" controlling the content in our schools. It is a faith in Government Control, Socialism, and Collectivism.

It is a far more vile religion than the most retrograde Christianity and you sound suspiciously like one of its converts.

There is no intellectually sound argument against school choice.

Posted by:
Bruno at December 10, 2005 10:14 AM

Good Golly,

All your help and I STILL can't get the links right.


Posted by: Bruno at December 10, 2005 10:15 AM