Battleground Suburbia: Episode 15

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5 Responses

  1. Jonathon Ament says:

    I’m willing to bet that Eytan Kobre did not figure on me responding to his column. But since he quotes me, I feel an obligation to share my reactions.

    First, the NYTimes reporter misstated what I told him or, rather, made a claim that I never stated. Yes, I did tell him that the Orthodox are on the increase in synagogue market share. But I said nothing about the other movements–and, in fact, while the Conservatives are indeed shrinking, the other movements are holding their own or growing. The NYTimes reporter admitted his mistake when I called him the day it ran, and there was a correction printed a week later. If you search for the article in the Times archives, you will see the correction posted at the beginning of the piece.

    Second–the chip on the shoulders of suburban non-Orthodox Jews. This is indeed worthy of comment, but it’s hardly a new phenomenon. 100 years ago, non-Jews had this chip on their shoulders when German Jews began to move to suburbia. Later, these acculturated German Jews developed this chip when their Eastern European compatriots began to enter the suburbs. This was even more pronounced when Conservative Jews tried to establish synagogues, day schools, get kosher meat in local stores, etc–i.e., the resistance was greatest from their fellow Jews. This should be of particular interest to Orthodox Jews, since they often found willing allies (at least initially) among segments of their suburban Conservative brethren, which was key to getting themselves a foothold in suburban locations.

    Third–what is the chip on Eytan Kobre’s shoulder? Why is he convinced that my “forthright” pronouncements are an aberration, rhetorically suggesting that I should contact my UJC superiors to make sure I still have a job? The statistics I cited are publically available, part of an NJPS Special Report on Denominations (which I authored). Anyone can download this for free at And the electronic data set is also available at the North American Jewish Data Bank, so that other researchers can verify that UJC is not making this stuff up.

    A big part of NJPS has been making the data available to the entire Jewish community, through these reports and many, many, presentations. I have made probably 15-20 presentations on Denominations alone to each of the major movements (including their top leaders), on both a national and local level. It has been a positive experience for all. Most importantly, I have seen how each of these movements (including Orthodoxy) has asked hard questions resulting from the data and begun to plan and strategize accordingly for the future. Each wants to impact 21st century American Jewry. To that I say kol hakavod–we all can learn from each other.

    Dr. Jonathon Ament

  2. Joshua says:


    “please don’t suspect me; it was someone else’s discarded copy”

    One is not allowed to buy the Times but reading it is Ok? I am not sure why this comment was necessary if people didn’t read the times your audience would be limited and would not know what you were referring to.


  3. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Is it a matter of Jewish Orthodoxy, or a matter of strong religious convictions in general? When Catholics want to open a new Monastery or Abbey in New Jersey, for example, do they encounter the same resistence?

  4. Zev says:

    “One is not allowed to buy the Times but reading it is Ok?”

    I’d assume he’s referring to the semi-boycott of the Times that started a couple of years back on account of their anti-Israel bias. People don’t mind reading it, but don’t want to support them financially.

  5. JM says:

    Dr. Jonathon Ament’s comment about the other (presumably Reform and Reconstructionist) holding their own in terms of membership is sort of ironic, since they are only able to do so by opening their membership to non-Jews.

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