Random Thoughts on Another Flawed Survey of Orthodox Jews

A new “blockbuster” survey has been published online to offer insights into why some people “leave” Orthodox practice and go OTD (“Off the Derekh”). This most recent entry in Jewish demography is based on responses from more than 800 self-identified OTD respondents. See: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/first-large-scale-survey-explores-motives-and-experiences-of-formerly-orthodox/?utm_source=Sunday+June+26%2C+2016&utm_campaign=Sun+June+26&utm_medium=email. In seeking to determine why some Jews leave full observance, the survey proffers “findings” that accord with the “common wisdom” among the liberal literati, reporting that respondents attribute their slackened piety to such reasons as their pursuit of gender equality, concern over community hypocrisy, and such.

Back in the 1990s I had the honor and privilege to clerk for the Hon. Danny J. Boggs in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Among many skills I learned from Judge Boggs was how to read data and how to interpret surveys. Even before that time, I had become increasingly suspicious of Jewish Federation-sponsored surveys that regularly “showed” perpetually worsening demographic attrition in the Orthodox community or that “demonstrated” low or insignificant demographic gains among Orthodoxy. 

For example, a Los Angeles Federation survey two decades ago had “found” sharply limited growth among the Orthodox community of Los Angeles. However, the data did not make sense to me because it was discordant from reality. All around me, I saw yeshiva elementary schools and high schools expanding their campuses or building new structures because they had exceeded physical capacity. The expansion phenomenon was near-universal. In addition, new yeshivot were opening to accommodate the increased demand. Likewise, Orthodox shuls were expanding dramatically throughout the area we call the “Southland.” Perhaps most tellingly, kosher restaurants and kosher pizza shops were popping up all over. As I wrote some twenty years ago: When it comes to surveying Orthodox demography, figures can lie, but kosher pizza shops never do. 

As a result, I started trying to discern where the survey mistakes lay. In most of those situations, I found crucial errors in the fact-gathering presumptions. For example, if survey phone calls are made over the weekend, then Orthodox Jews will be disproportionately excluded from data intake because we do not answer phones from Friday sunset until Saturday nightfall. Moreover, as anyone Shomer Shabbat can attest, we also reduce answering Friday calls all afternoon, and we certainly do not call surveyors on motz’ei Shabbat. Thus, as that one example among many, we inadvertently are undercounted. I believe these errors partly arise from surveyors’ innocent ignorance of the Orthodox Jewish community and our traditions and practices — and partly from agendas driven by a not-so-innocent desire to undercount Orthodox Jews so that Federations, for example, can justify continuing to allocate funds in directions that would not be tenable if true census data were recognized.

There is more, much more. As one example of some past thoughts I have published on the subject of surveying American Orthodox Jews and gathering data, please see: http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2011/03/06/census-and-non-census/ . However, here I focus primarily not on the data gathered but on the analysis thereof. Towards that end, I begin with an analogy to reflect how data can be analyzed incorrectly: If someone clips off a bird’s wings and then instructs it, in a sharp and clear voice, to “fly,” that bird will not fly. A wrong inference is: “When a bird’s wings are clipped, it becomes deaf.” Another false inference: “Birds do not speak English.” By contrast, an honest and accurate inference is: “When a bird’s wings are clipped, it no longer can fly.”

We must not allow others to fool us into believing that which is false when they draw agenda-driven conclusions from data, even where the data are accurate.


A Modern Orthodox guy from a Modern Orthodox family goes to a wonderful liberal college. (With the rarest of exceptions, they all are liberal.) He still is frum as he begins his freshman year. One Saturday night he attends a party on campus. He meets a great female. She is gorgeous. She drinks alcohol freely. He never before — except perhaps at a Chabad Purim or a Chabad Simchat Torah — has seen a woman who drinks alcohol so freely. She can ski. As he talks with her, she tells him that she can twirl a baton that is on fire and yet not get singed. Her teeth are perfect and pearly white. She smokes dope and even has some extra weed in her dorm room. And he can tell, certainly by their fourth beer, that she is into him. He is overwhelmed and overcome. He never before has met anyone like her. She is everything he ever could have hoped to ask for — and never even dreamed of.

So he gets involved with her, or with her friends, or with all of them, or with others like them — the opportunities for such socializng and even “hooking up” on campus are beyond endless — and he soon accepts that his deepening relationship with her and with others like her requires him to become non-religious. (Hopefully, at least she is Jewish.) Either that girl changes his life, or she and others like her combine to change his life. I saw this happen frequently when I was an undergrad at Columbia University between 1971-1975. I still remember the names of the guys from yeshiva high school — there were 13 of us who wore kippot as Columbia freshmen in September 1971 — and only two of us still were wearing kippot by our senior years. I remember each of the fellows because they were my early inner circle of friends when I began college. I remember each of them, and I remember, en passant, many of the girls from Barnard and elsewhere who took them away.

Imagine if this fellow were interviewed then, forty years ago. Having given up frumkeit, the fellow is asked by an interviewer: “Why did you stop wearing a yarmulka at Columbia? Why did you become non-Orthodox?”

He has a choice. He can respond: “Because I met this gorgeous co-ed/gal/chick/lady/person of the female persuasion.” [The noun is generational-dependent.] OMG! She drinks alcohol sofreely. She does weed. She can ski. She can twirl a fiery baton without getting singed. Her teeth are perfect and pearly white. Her eyes. Her nose. I am telling you, I never saw two such nostrils so perfectly meant for each other. And she is into me. She is everything I ever could have hoped to ask for. I think about her all day, and I think about her all night. I cannot get her out of my head. I cannot give her up, and — for goodness sakes! — there is no way she will observe Shabbat and limit herself to kosher restaurants and two sets of dishes and monthly mikveh when we marry — and she sure does not now.”

He could offer that honest answer to his questioner. But he is not going to say that — not to the interviewer, and not to the mirror that he sees each morning. He knows that sounds so superficial. It is so self-demeaning. He is a brilliant Ivy League undergrad, and he is giving up everything in the world — his life, his tradition, his heritage, his eternal soul — for that? “That is why you are giving it all up? A heritage of 3,300 years and all the struggles of your ancestors, your great-grandparents in the Old World? For perfect white teeth and skis?” So instead he teaches himself to find a deep, philosophical, intellectual basis: “Well, Orthodoxy does not accord equality to women. And it is insensitive towards Gays. And the readings in my Contemporary Civilization course and the values I am being spoon-fed by my humanities professors do not accord with what I was spoon-fed by my parents and rabbis before I came to college. And the hypocrisy in the Orthodox community is intolerable — that is why I vote for Hillary.”

So let us be clear: None of that reasoning he tells the interviewer is true to the reason he left. Rather, he left for the gorgeous baton-twirling skiier.

I have seen it. Many, many times. I lived through it all around me in college. It was like “Invasion of the Kippah Snatchers.” One by one, the pods of gorgeous alcohol-drinking skiing baton twirlers with unswervingly linear septa took over the minds of my friends. I saw it forty years ago, and I have remained deeply involved with college youths through the generations. (And, if it gives heart, I also have seen other beautiful women lead other fellows to Orthodoxy. Indeed this is the simple message of Dvarim 7:3-4.) That is the reason. Not hypocrisy and not “gender quality.”


There is a second factor. Many of today’s OTD Modern Orthodox young people feel themselves utterly socially isolated when they initially arrive in college. I remember the loneliness, particularly for guys, that we few Orthodox fellows felt when we first settled in. We are so different, with our yarmulkas defining us and isolating us as outsiders even among the advocates of diversity. The culture of “Diversity” does not include the Orthodox. (It did not then, and it does not now. Last year I successfully attended a great university’s voluntary program in Diversity Training, for which I now am “Certified in Diversity.” I did so because I now am in my thirteenth year as an adjunct law professor, and I want to continue maximizing my value to my students, who come from all backgrounds, cultures, and orientations. I was struck by how the Diversity program’s weekly group team-building gatherings always were on Saturdays, and they always included Group Lunches that were non-kosher.) Young Orthodox fellows are overwhelmed as they embark on the liberal contemporary campus environment. They are confronted by unprecedented social possibilities in front of them, and they are emotionally and psychologically unprepared to turn away so much social opportunity that they never before have had, in an environment where they are so free from parental oversight or restriction. It is one thing to turn away a non-kosher hot dog at a ball game or a non-kosher piece of cake at a party. It is quite another matter to face four years on the secular liberal campus, where the challenges are ubiquitous and 24/7.

Everyone around the Orthodox newcomer is having intercourse in their dorms. Literally, almost every room on the floor in the dorm. I still remember back forty years ago. I remember my dorm roommate in my freshman year asking me if I could find somewhere else for a night or two because he had a girlfriend coming over to sleep with him. Or, he said, I could stay in the room, and that would be OK with him; he thoughtfully gave me a choice. The Orthodox fellow walks down the hallway to his room, beginning to think he is alone in retiring privately with no “action.” Meanwhile, in class their professors all extol the virtues of progressivism (formerly called “liberalism”) and hedonism, non-judgmentalism and sexual freedom, while denigrating the backward values of their parents and religious mentors. All the classmates fall into line. I saw this; I experienced this. I similarly saw non-Jewish conservatives break and profess liberalism by the end of their freshman years. And these overwhelmed Modern Orthodox young people just cannot handle being alone — being Avraham ha-Ivri, where everyone is one side and they alone on the other. They cannot handle it.

Look at Sefer Melakhim — latter half of Aleph and all of Beit — to see how entire populations can change 180 degrees, on a dime, when the social direction changes at the top. That is how people are. It is a bell curve. A few will stick tight no matter what. A few will depart no matter what. In between, the milieu will impact most. Most people are weak. They tell themselves that they are brilliant and sophisticated. They tell themselves that they are changing ideologies to accord with the minds of others who are brilliant and sophisticated. But in fact they simply are weak.

Do you need to be persuaded that the underlying issue is Groupthink and Social pressure — not whether Orthodoxy is sensitive to gender equality? 

When I was at Columbia in the early 1970s, a poll found that George McGovern had the backing of some 92% of Columbia-Barnard students — and Gus Hall, the head of the American Communist Party, was second, ahead of Richard Nixon. The rest of the country did not get that memo, and Nixon beat McGovern in 1972 in the biggest landslide in American history. How explain the dissonance? Here we had all these brilliant Ivy League college professors and students who grasped everything so clearly and believed that each had reached the same independent individual conclusion: McGovern, not Nixon. And yet such a large majority outside the Poison Ivy saw it the other way around. That dissonance is explained by the enormous, indescribable social pressure that results in Groupthink, the desire and compulsive need to be liked by others, to be accepted, and to fit in. It is this that defines everything from college students’ politics to their religious associations and affiliations . . . to the behavior of people everywhere. Thus, it explains how intelligent corporate executives sitting on the boards of Savings & Loan associations in the late 1980s could drive them into insolvency, one by one, by approving extraordinarily irresponsible gambits. It explains how people behave on shul boards.

This Groupthink phenomenon that saw “everyone at Columbia voting for McGovern” in 1972 further is confirmed twenty years later and twenty years after that by the overwhelming support that Hillary enjoyed and still enjoys among those who attended such colleges by the late 1990s and who now are in their mid-30s and 40s. In their time and in their space, the social pressure was to iconify the Clintons over the Bushes. That adoration rarely has departed from them. And yet, twenty years later, instead of the Ivy League mindset remaining true to Hillary in the Millennial generation, it now instead is Bernie Sanders who enjoys near-universal adoration among Millennials. Millennials withdraw from and even despise Hillary; her supporters on campus actually feel compelled to hide their views from Bernie people. Yet those in their mid-30s and 40s cannot imagine trading in Hillary for Bernie. How explain it? They all made it to the progressive liberal colleges, so are presumed to be very smart, of a similar mind. Yet, a difference of fifteen years individuates the Hillary and Bernie worshiper.

This business of non-Orthodox or liberal Orthodox analysts interpreting survey data to advance their personal ideological agendas is something to which we must be smart. Even with their skewed analyses, only 11 percent say their views on religion are driven by Orthodoxy’s views on gender roles. (Wait till they find out that only children of Kohen fathers may dukhen or get the first aliyah.)

Something similar is true of the female experience, although women tend to be more religious and more protective of preserving the culture and species. They also are not required to wear external defining symbols when they begin college, a sartorial factor that forces an OTD decision sooner, like deciding to stop wearing a yarmulka. For reasons dictated here by space considerations, I have focused here on the male phenomenon.

We do ourselves a terrible injustice if we fail to discern that the data are what they are because that is the way of the contemporary world, the life in the Exile, the era of the progressive and sexually unbounded campus. The premise that those Off the Derekh would be on the path if only we gave women aliyas and ordained women as rabbis, and brought LGBTQ+ advocacy into the temple, and demanded that Rubashkin rot for life in an Iowa prison, and if only we accorded “Palestinians” “equal rights” and “justice in Palestine” — well, no. Orthodoxy would be gaining nothing and losing everything.


Surveys purport to report large attrition rates among Orthodox Jews, particularly among those over 40. Those conclusions help justify minimizing Federation allocations to Jewish institutions. However, attrition data would have more reliability if they were built on factual confirmation that respondents who report that they were reared as Orthodox really were. However, the actual way that people were reared is not investigated; rather, their assertions are accepted as fact. In reality, before the 1970s and 1980s — an era when greater Judaic knowledge was available and when Orthodox Jews emerged into the open from a century of hiding in America, so that non-Orthodox people could see what real Orthodox Jews are and thus could see that they themselves were not actually “raised Orthodox” — many people went through life thinking they were raised as “Orthodox” even though they were not. Many of their homes were not kosher — no two sets of dishes, non-kosher wine and cheese, often non-kosher meat. They traveled on Shabbat, turned on lights and TV every Shabbat, shopped at stores, conducted business and missed every moment of Shabbat except, perhaps, for a family Friday night dinner. Yet, they identify to survey questioners as having been “raised Orthodox” because . . . (1) the shul their fathers dragged them into for five minutes each Yom Kippur was an Orthodox one, (2) the shul where they were forced to have a bar mitzva was Orthodox, (3) the rabbi who buried their parents was Orthodox, and (4) the parents never ate pork or lobster. So they self-identify to survey questioners as having been “raised Orthodox.”

Anyone who has been a shul rav and has met people who come by the Rav’s office, whether to start reciting kaddish or to get married or whatever brings them in, and has met such people who speak of having been “raised Orthodox” — when, in fact, a brief warm conversation with them reveals that they in fact never were even in the same orbit as Orthodoxy — knows how common the mistaken self-identification is.

Thus, so-called “high attrition rates” away from Orthodoxy assigned to earlier generations has no meaning until we get to those who were reared as Orthodox in the 1970s and 1980s — the first American generation where “Orthodoxy” was identifiably Orthodox. The supposed “attrition” numbers among those over age 65, and among those between 50-64 are nonsense. They merely reflect the percentage of non-Orthodox people, people non-Orthodox all their lives, reared in non-Orthodox homes, who think they were reared Orthodox half a century earlier. Those data responders are no different from Navin Johnson, the character played by Steve Martin in “The Jerk,” who explains that he thought he was Black until many years into adulthood.


Rav Dov Fischer, now concluding his second three-year term on the RCA Executive Committee, is Adjunct Professor of the Law of Advanced Torts and of Civil Procedure at two major Southern California law schools, and is rav of Young Israel of Orange County. Many of his writings can be found at www.rabbidov.com

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216 Responses

  1. Shades of Gray says:

    “Likewise, Orthodox shuls were expanding dramatically throughout the area we call the “Southland.” Perhaps most tellingly, kosher restaurants and kosher pizza shops were popping up all over. As I wrote some twenty years ago: When it comes to surveying Orthodox demography, figures can lie, but kosher pizza shops never do.. ”

    In “The Last Jews Standing?” on the Patheos blog(8/20/14), R Adlerstein wrote similarly:

    Demographers had previously tried to deny the growth—both absolute and relative—of the Orthodox. But as I told the Los Angeles Times as early as 1998, “People lie. Statistics lie. Kosher pizza shops don’t lie.” The visual evidence for Orthodox vitality was there for anyone who looked, not only in kosher eateries, but in schools, synagogues, and upscale shtetl sprawl in many cities.

    I am wondering if it was Rabbi Adlerstein,  Rabbi Fischer, or a third Californian  who  originated this line about kosher pizza. Must be something in the LA pizza 🙂

    [YA – I’ll take the full credit – and flack – for originating. Became the single most-often quoted thing I ever said.]

    • mycroft says:

      Re Kosher Pizza shops one could just as easily make the following  statement ““People lie. Statistics lie. Kosher meat consumption doesn’t lie- our problems in reaching Americans  was there for anyone who looked, not only in decrease of kosher meat markets, but in decrease in numbers of synagogues,  and  making a Yahadus that only the upscale can partake of”

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Kosher food as opposed to meat, can be found in any major supermarket chain. You can even buy glatt meat in Cosco’s in certain locations. Many Orthodox communities have fairly large stores for buying meat. Most surveys simply don’t survey properly today’s Orthodox communities-and base their assumptions of Orthodoxy that was very weak and confined to such neighborhoods as the LES and/or Brownsville.

      • mycroft says:

        “Kosher food as opposed to meat, can be found in any major supermarket chain”

        Agreed-as one who has been in every State or Province that was part of the US and Canada in 1948-48 of CONUS and all Canada except for Newfoundland one can easily find Kosher non meat products anywhere the reason is simply technological changes made many products Kosher anyway-thus very little expense to be Kosher. See Kopsher USA for a discussion of this point-they also explain why much less kosher meat is sold in US tha ndecades ago-“raising the standards” for Glatt has a lot to do with it. Raise the price and people are forced out.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I know of no one who is reliant on Tomchei Shabbos or the equivalent solely because of the fact that we have a baseline standard acceptable to all known as “Glatt”.

      • Yossi says:

        Decrease in number of synagogues where? Go to Brooklyn, Lakewood, Monsey, LA, Chicago, Teaneck, Passaic, and shuls seem to be flourishing.

      • mycroft says:

        Decrease of synagogues has been drastic-religious Jews congregate in small areas. I live 3 houses from a schul. My suburban county has roughly 3 areas where there are frum Jews of any number. The county as a whole is many times larger and the rest of Jewish population has very little to d o with Yiddishkeit. Read Gellers book as to his study of the decrease of synagogues.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Communities, like generations, rise and fall. The inner city communities failed to survive their physical deterioration, the flight to the suburbs and the enrollment in public schools.  Today’s Orthodox communities have far fewer shuls, but the era of people showing up for Yizkor with pocketbooks, etc., is over. IOW, ethnically committed Orthodoxy died-but a yeshiva-raised-and-educated Orthodoxy, regardless of it being Charedi and/or MO, has replaced it with signs of increasing vigor-just look at the number of yeshivos in any community. Today it is no longer a seller’s monopoly but rather a parent’s choice where their children should attend or transfer to for the best interests and needs of their children.

      • mycroft says:

        “IOW, ethnically committed Orthodoxy died-but a yeshiva-raised-and-educated Orthodoxy, regardless of it being Charedi and/or MO, has replaced it with signs of increasing vigor-just look at the number of yeshivos in any community”

        Assuming arguendo that it is better for a family that can afford a day school and whose child has a verbal IQ of at least 110-115 the day school movement is worthwhile-but not allowing the alternative of talmud torahs for those either less wealthy or those who can’t handle a day school curriculum we have limited Orthodoxy to the elites.

        You may be happy limiting Orthodoxy that way I am not

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Are you contending that the average person who lives in today’s Orthodox communities neither can afford tuition nor has children whose IQ at the levels that you mentioned? That requires data, not just an assumption. The assumption that a Talmud Torah education is a viable option, especially in today’s atmosphere, remains a rejected option, especially when there are all kinds of options of Limudei Kodesh and special ed services out there  that parents look at quite carefully before picking a yeshiva for their kids.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Take a ride anywhere on Long Island between the Five Towns and Great Neck on the south end of Long Island and you will see a very assimilated Nassau and Suffolk County. That has nothing to with the decrease of synagogues because there were never Orthodox synagogues either in many portions of either Nassau or Suffolk County. OTOH, where there are yeshivos such as in the Five Towns from K-Kollel as in the Five Towns, Yiddishkeit flourishes. These are the simple facts on the ground.

      • mycroft says:

        “IOW, ethnically committed Orthodoxy died”

        That Orthodoxy which you always make fun of supplied much of those who attended YU through the at least the 60s.

        “-but a yeshiva-raised-and-educated Orthodoxy, regardless of it being Charedi and/or MO, has replaced it with signs of increasing vigor-”

        limiting ones availability to the elites will increase the vigor-but I never learned in my days at Yeshiva that Yahadus should be limited to the elites-either those who have a lot of income or can make leining on a ksos.

        just look at the number of yeshivos in any community

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Please define “upscale.” Advertisements for Pesach in exotic locations vacations on every Yom Tov,  and tours all over Eastern Europe by no means confirms that we live in an age where even more members of the community have more money to spend on such expenses. We do have more educational options from K-kollel and certainly more options for those children who need different educational formats and programs. How many MO communities and schools have programs together with a regular yeshiva high school program  for training young men to earn a skill such as a plumber or electrician? How many MO parents would send their sons to a charedi school that has such a program or raise the funds to start such a program?

      • mycroft says:

        “Advertisements for Pesach in exotic locations vacations on every Yom Tov,  and tours all over Eastern Europe by no means confirms that we live in an age where even more members of the community have more money to spend on such expenses.”

        I have never doubted that the Orthodox community has at least 20-40% of its members who can afford luxuries.Note the prices of those trips are much more expensive than going oneself-besides the profit, one has to pay travel and fees of various leading RY who kasher the extravagant trips that are offered for the upper  middle class and  wealthy

        “We do have more educational options from K-kollel and certainly more options for those children who need different educational formats and programs. ”

        I am not aware of a tract for non disabled children who don’t have the ability to be fluent in a foreign language. Why are we wasting our time teaching Talmud to 9th graders who can’t read a siddur at a decent pace

        “How many MO communities and schools have programs together with a regular yeshiva high school program  for training young men to earn a skill such as a plumber or electrician?”

        Agreed-but the same question applies to many chareidi schools they pretend everyone can learn Gemarrah

        BTW-The Census Bureau estimated real median household income at $53,657 for 2014 and $54,462 in 2015

        I personally reject the viewpoint as immoral sometimes expressed if one can’t afford to  afford day school don’t have children . Especially if expressed by those with a number of children.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Mycroft offered the following response:


        ” I am not aware of a tract for non disabled children who don’t have the ability to be fluent in a foreign language. Why are we wasting our time teaching Talmud to 9th graders who can’t read a siddur at a decent pace
        “How many MO communities and schools have programs together with a regular yeshiva high school program  for training young men to earn a skill such as a plumber or electrician?”
        Define reading a siddur at a decent pace. There is a wonderful Charedi school in the Five Towns that offers a program that teaches young men the skills to become a plumber or electrician. The MO schools would do well to emulate such a program.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Mycroft wrote in part:

        ” have never doubted that the Orthodox community has at least 20-40% of its members who can afford luxuries.Note the prices of those trips are much more expensive than going oneself-besides the profit, one has to pay travel and fees of various leading RY who kasher the extravagant trips that are offered for the upper  middle class and  wealthy”

        Please define “luxuries”. In terms of kashering the trips I trust you meant that the particular RY or rav is a draw for the tour in question. I doubt very much that any RY or rav on such a trip is engaged in ensuring the kashrus of the same, as opposed to giving shiurim and lectures on the same. As  far as the cost factor is concerned-there is no such thing as a free lunch in our world unless you brown bag and/or pay for it yourself.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Mycroft wrote in part:

        “I personally reject the viewpoint as immoral sometimes expressed if one can’t afford to  afford day school don’t have children . Especially if expressed by those with a number of children.”

        First of all,  we expect that our spiritual leaders, especially RY and Rabbanim will be far more mdakdek bmitzvos than lay people, and that they should be compensated for the fact, whether financially or otherwise. That by no means requires any lay person to assume such dikduk bmitzvos if he or she lacks the financial wherewithwall. The Talmud in BK discusses in fairly explicit terms how much one should spend to fulfil a Mitzvas Aseh, as opposed to a Mitzvas Lo Saaseh. What you are doing IMO is importing a secular sense of morality into the discussion.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Mycroft wrote in part:

        “Why are we wasting our time teaching Talmud to 9th graders who can’t read a siddur at a decent pace

        the same question applies to many chareidi schools they pretend everyone can learn Gemarrah”

        First of all, every male is obligated to have some familiarity and knowledge on his own level with TSBP-including Gemara-simply because TSBP, which was given to Moshe Rabbeinu as part and parcel of the Luchos Shniyos,is the basis of the covenant between HaShem and Klal Yisrael.

        I don’t pretend to know who knows how to learn and who doesn’t-but if literacy is based on being able to make a leining , understand and explain a sugya and the views of the Rishonim and Acharonim, there are so many tools out there that are indicative that literacy is there-but only if you work at it. You don’t have to be baki or an ilui or have a genius level IQ to become a Lamdan or a Ben Torah or even a Gadol BaTorah-we have much evidence of that fact in the biographies of more than a few Gdolim.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Since we’re told that obesity is an epidemic, could we be eating more pizza and pasta per capita?

      • mycroft says:

        “Are you contending that the average person who lives in today’s Orthodox communities neither can afford tuition”

        The test is not the average person living in Teaneck,Lawrence,Brookline, can afford Yeshiva tuition-the test is can the average income household in the US afford to live in an Orthodox area and send his children to day school. BTW IMO it is totally immoral to say to someone who can’t afford day school for 2 children to only have one child-especially if said by Rabbonim who can afford far more children.



        “nor has children whose IQ at the levels that you mentioned?”

        I have been told that it requires a verbal IQ of at least 110 or probably close to 115 to succeed in day schools. By definition IQ is at a mean of 100 -even accepting Ashkenazic Jews have a slightly higher verbal IQ-the mean is below 110/115.

        “That requires data, not just an assumption.”

        Which data do you dispute?

        “The assumption that a Talmud Torah education is a viable option, especially in today’s atmosphere, remains a rejected option,”

        Does it remain a rejected option because the day school industrial complex has succeeded in ensuring that one will not be accepted in Orthodox circles if one does not attend day school? Or; is it that the wealthy can afford day schools and they have no interest in supporting those who are not at least upper middle class?

        “especially when there are all kinds of options of Limudei Kodesh and special ed services out there”

        I am not discussing for the amount those who would be eligible for special ed-I will discuss those with a verbal IQ of approximately 90-110-they would have no problem succeeding in a public school but are total failures in a day school. They are also very unlikely to be able to be educated for a career that will enable to earn enough to enter the Orthodox world in the US.


      • Steve Brizel says:

        Mycroft wrote in part:

        “Does it remain a rejected option because the day school industrial complex has succeeded in ensuring that one will not be accepted in Orthodox circles if one does not attend day school? Or; is it that the wealthy can afford day schools and they have no interest in supporting those who are not at least upper middle class?

        It is a rejected option because the Talmud Torah system was an abject failure in training a next generation of Torah observant Jews, especially when the average adolescent would flee from the same when given the opportunity for more attractive and competing extracurricular activities.
        “especially when there are all kinds of options of Limudei Kodesh and special ed services out there”
        I am not discussing for the amount those who would be eligible for special ed-I will discuss those with a verbal IQ of approximately 90-110-they would have no problem succeeding in a public school but are total failures in a day school. They are also very unlikely to be able to be educated for a career that will enable to earn enough to enter the Orthodox world in the US
        Why not? You can earn more than enough as a licensed plumber , contractor and/or contractor to enter the Orthodox world in the  US.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Mycroft wrote:
        “You may be happy limiting Orthodoxy that way I am not”
        Actually-it is a demographic change. You don’t like it . I see it as the loss either of some who were marginally committed but whose children could have attended yeshiva-that being the case-looking at Orthodoxy today based on the demographics of the 1950s really has very little relevance to today’s Orthodox world-MO and Charedi.

    • Charles Hall says:

      Maybe kosher pizza shops can lie. 😉 I live in the Bronx and work both in the Bronx and Brooklyn. There is no place anywhere in the Bronx, or southern Westchester County, where I can’t get a kosher pizza delivered. However, in downtown Brooklyn, it has only been in the past year that I was finally able to get kosher pizza delivered for lunch — this despite packed lunchtime minyans about every other block and a total kashrut-observant population in Brooklyn that must be at least ten times that of the Bronx and Westchester combined. Baruch HaShem a very nice family opened a kosher dairy restaurant in downtown and installed pizza ovens; I patronize them often. 🙂

  2. Lisa Liel says:

    Thank you for writing this, Rabbi Fischer.  You’re spot on.

  3. Yosef Chaim says:

    Brilliant article!

  4. jeanette friedman says:

    Let’s see. I was called a whore for talking to boys. I was beaten regularly for not getting good grades. Called an apikorus in high school for asking questions when what I was being taught didn’t seem to make sense. I was forced to marry a man who beat me during sheva brochos and was never taught in kallah class that I had to,leave right then and never go back if I wanted a get. I was an agunah for seven years and only got one because Reb Moishe made a get law for me and sent me to civil court to get my decree first so that his law could go into effect. But I am the looney tune, and you guys are sane. Yup. 50 years later and Orthodox leadership, with a handful of exceptions, hasn’t budged from it vicious, mean, lethal thinking. Drive a few more OTDs to commit suicide because of the misery, disdain, superiority, arrogance and hate you direct at students and congregants and community members you decide you don’t like.

    • Arthur says:

      Orthodox leadership = vicious, mean, lethal, beating, misery, disdain, superiority, arrogance, hate.

      C’mon, is that all you’re got?

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Are you maintaining in the age of Shalom Task Force, a very high sense of awareness of abuse and mental health related issues in the Torah observant world, Nefesh , a premuptial agreement that is used throughout the MO world,and countless Orthodox( Charedi and MO) mental health professionals that nothing has changed?

      • Charles Hall says:

        Would that the halachic prenup were used throughout the entire O world wherever prenups are legal and not just the MO world.

        (And a thank you to Rabbi Mordechai Willig for creating the halachic prenup.)

    • Rav Dov Fischer says:

      I am sorry for you, Ms. Friedman.

      My career through thirty-five years of rabbinical work and fifteen years of legal work and law school teaching has brought me into contact with many people of many backgrounds — a grand panorama of diverse cultural, religious, gender-orientation, race, and ethnic backgrounds — whose lives I have been permitted to touch in a positive way.

      If you ever get that chip off your shoulder, please contact me.  You will find a committed and sincere friend.  However, I do not do surgery, such as chip-ectomies. Perhaps an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in shoulders.


    • Sarissa G says:

      you’re singing my song, Jeanette……and I agree with your conclusion about current orthodox leadership – I cut ties when the mental, physical and emotional wounds wouldn’t heal over – I had no choice – it was me or them – life or death – I chose life and never looked  back

  5. Eliezer says:

    I agree with everything you say Rabbi Fischer. However, the post raises more questions than it gives answers. As a graduate of secular UK universities, I have seen people I know go OTD for the very reasons you describe above. The question is – what should be done about it? We rightly want to give our young a solid secular education so that they should be more ’rounded’ and stand a good chance to to succeed in the job market, but this, all too often comes at an unbearable cost of the person in question going  OTD or, at the very least,  lessening his/her level of observance. I have seen this happening to people at YU too – not everyone there is so frum. We want to demonstrate to the Charedi world that it is possible to straddle between the secular/religious worlds and yet remain steadfastly committed to our faith and produce Talmidei Chachamim. I am not convinced we have as yet managed to achieve this on a large scale. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this…..

    • Arthur says:

      Live at home or in a frum community and commute to classes.

      The 15 hours a week of classes are not free of all challenges — that is certainly a subject that has been discussed at length — but the real danger is the other 153 hours of campus living.  One can have the former with very little of the latter (except at some places like Yale).

    • Steve Brizel says:

      I would suggest that one has to be very resolute in one’s professional life to act as a Kiddush HaShem, to avoid speaking Nivul Peh, which is deemed acceptable in polite company , and to make sure that you demonstrate to your children that your spare time as much as possible that you enjoy being a Shomer Torah Umitzvos , which means that you and your spouse both emphasize Limud HaTorah in your lives and that your Shabbos and Yom Tov observance represent great chances to grow in Avodas HaShem in home, at the table , in your attire and in shul, as opposed to being 24 hours of down time. Children easily pick up what is important and valued by parents-that is why such a commitment is caught as opposed to being taught.

    • Rav Dov Fischer says:


      There is so little space for addressing the question you raise.  Many parents understandably fear that a child will abandon if sent off to a contemporary secular liberal college.  On the other hand, the same parents understandably withdraw from deciding to deny that child that college experience, feeling that the child deserves the opportunity to expand his or her mind, to be exposed to great and challenging thoughts and wisdom outside the initial parochial environment in which the parents reared the child.  “How can I deny my child the opportunity that I had?”

      A very tough one to address in few words.

      In prior generations, college did not lead to assimilation as assuredly as it does now.  First, Jews still were the Other.  In a world where the Ivy League  had anti-Jewish admissions quotas, among other “Gentleman’s Agreements,” not as many non-Jews were eager to marry or even to socialize romantically with Jews.  Moreover, even less affiliated Jews had deeper commitments to their heritage, having been closer generationally to the world of the grandparents who had come from the shtetl.  In prior eras, where America endeavored to extol a “melting pot,” the underlying sociology saw Jews identifying strongly as Jews.  Today, by contrast, no one needs to educate Jews to melt — so many have dissolved.

      There also was a different culture in America. In the 1950s, the social climate not only included leftists and Communists but also anti-Leftists and anti-Communists.  Just as today the Left blacklists conservatives from employment opportunities in the media, entertainment, and academia, so it was that the McCarthy-era Red Scare intimidated those of even a liberal bent.  In that world, there was not a seemingly 99%-homogeneity of liberalism among tenured faculty as there is today.

      Conservatism was a viable perspective.  Hollywood still made patriotic movies, movies that extolled family life, movies that respected religion.

      In prior times, colleges were more open to encouraging students to think independently.  Today, by contrast, they brainwash.  Even forty years ago, when I studied for my B.A. in political science, I was assigned to read Marx and Engels — and others who were their disciples — in course after course after course.  I never heard of Milton Freedman or Bill Buckley back then.  Once, at a medical visit at campus health, my physician started a conversation with me, and we discussed politics.  He asked what I was reading in class, and I told him.  He asked me whether I ever had read Ayn Rand.  I told him that I never even had heard of that guy.  The physician responded that Ayn Rand was not a guy but a woman.  I had never heard the word “libertarian,” and I was about to be conferred a Bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University.  Long before I heard the question “Who is John Galt?” I was wondering “Who is Ayn Rand?  Who is Milton Friedman?”

      I am glad that Jesse Watters was not around in those days to interview me.

      • Arthur says:

         “How can I deny my child the opportunity that I had?”

        I used to ask myself that feel quite conflicted.  But I read a lot about campus life today, both social and academic, and the reality seems to be that the opportunity I had simply no longer exists for the reasons you state, among others.  So it’s simply not a shaila.

  6. simon fleischer says:

    Having attended Columbia myself, and kept my kippah on throughout, it is hard to begin responding to the vast over simplifications contained here. I am sure there are cases similar to the ones described here. I am equally sure there are cases of those who leave Orthodoxy because of deep, values-based, estrangement from it’s ideological and ethical assumptions. To paint such a simplistic and one sided picture sets up the author as being no different from those he criticizes.


    On another front, I assume this article is intended only to explain why Orthodox men take off their kippot, since women are entirely unaddressed, except as moabite-like seductresses.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Perhaps you should talk to individuals who work for JLI and/or others who are involved in chizuk/kiruv. BTW, would you consider attending an Ivy League campus today where progressive indoctrination occurs in the classroom, the dorm and on the street, even where is there an ostensible Orthodox presence on campus to be a lchatchilah or bdieved or merely a judgment call beyond your area of expertise if asked?

      • simon fleischer says:

        I teach at a Modern Orthodox High School. I speak to JLI reps and others who do this work quite regularly. I see students go off to all sorts of colleges year after year.  I have visited some of them and given shiurim on their campuses at their invitation. Some find their spiritual and religious selves augmented on university campuses. Others do not. That is simply a fact. It can’t be over simplified. I, for one, became more invested in regular Jewish practices like minyan and Talmud Torah while attending a secular university. Yes, we must think deeply about our choices. But one sided Orthodox triumphalism does not constitute deep thinking.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Look at it this way-would you walk into a building that would possibly collapse on you? I can tell you from my own conversations with a JLI couple who are children of dear friends of our family that many of the MO students on their campus are barely observant and that they have in more than one instance had to literally accompany students to a local emergency room after having imbibed too much booze at a local party. I think that sending MO students after a year or two in Israel to a typical college campus today is an unacceptable spiritual risk to the neshamah of that child by the parents who want the nachas of a child with such a degree and the schools that trumpet their college acceptances in their advertising in the Jewish media. IMO,  parents , students and the high schools should engage in some frank discussion about how many neshamos are worth loosing so as to achieve the American dream.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        How about having JLI reps speak at your school? They could tell your prospective seniors what are the pluses and minuses of religious life on the campus -well beyond that which is  contained either on a Hillel website and/or the OU guide to college campuses.

    • Rav Dov Fischer says:

      I am sorry, Mr. Fleischer, that you found my thoughts vastly overly simple. Fortunately, other readers found something meaningful in my submission.

      I am impressed, though, that you found layers of deeper and hidden meaning, meaning that I never contemplated, within my vastly over simple article.


      No woman is to blame for a fellow’s decision to abandon.  Every person must bear his or her own personal responsibility for his or her actions.

      • simon fleischer says:

        I would be interested in reading an article about those who left Orthodoxy for values based or even philosophic reasons. Do such idealists exist? Does the world view suggested by your article allow space for such individuals? Or even respect for them? I knew plenty such people at Columbia. They weren’t all such weak, benighted, fools as the article suggests. They just weren’t. Some were, or course, just as some of my more religiously observant college-mates were fools. Religion doesn’t really determine that one way or the other.

        As for the misogyny– you may or may not be a misogynist. Of that, I have no idea. But the article, written seemingly exclusively to address the phenomenon of men who are attracted to non-observant women and then use philosophy as a ruse to dress up their weakness– yeah, it’s a pretty misogynistic argument.

        The problem I really have is that this article feeds the arrogance and condescension of some in the religious community. This is not where Hashem is to be found, in the hearts of those who are eager to judge their fellow Jews as weak. It just isn’t religion. It isn’t piety or holiness. It’s rather sad to me.

      • Rav Dov Fischer says:

        “As for the misogyny– you may or may not be a misogynist. Of that, I have no idea.”

        And you, Mr. Fleischer, may or may not be a misogynist.  Of that, I have no idea.


        Your turn.


        (As for your other comments — which are more reasonable, less vituperative — please see the several other comments I have posted above, some at great length, where I address exactly those thoughts.  In brief: Yes, Mr. Fleischer, some people abandon for reasons rooted in something they have come to believe.  Others because of job opportunities that come with job demands.  Some because of a compelling need to experience the world and to move beyond their own perceived parochial backgrounds.  It is a bell curve.

        (However, I keep coming back to Hillary and Bernie.  Ask a Bernie person among the Millennial generation “Why Bernie?” and she or he will give all kinds of wonderful reasons rooted in philosophy, politics, economic theory, social justice, ethics, and the like.  Next,  ask a Hillary person among the prior generation “Why Hillary?” and she or he will give all kinds of wonderful reasons rooted in philosophy, politics, economic theory, social justice, ethics, and the like.  The Millennial will not say “I support Bernie because that is what all my friends and acquaintances do.  And that’s where the guys or the women are.”  The Northeastern Quadragenarian will not say “I support Hillary because that is what all my friends and acquaintances do.  And that’s where the clients and customers and patients and business connections are.”

        So be it.  Yet the thing speaks for itself.  Res ipsa loquitur.

      • simon fleischer says:

        Of course I may be a misogynist. I just happened NOT to have written an article that is itself misogynistic. Which does seem a rather important distinction.

        If i did, accidentally, write such an article, and people told me how offended they were, I would immediately apologize. My words are, after all, my responsibility. I would take seriously the observations and feelings of my readers. I wouldn’t simply insist I wasn’t a misogynist.

        In your responses to the comments of your readers, you seem to have left behind significant aspects of your article. The article is about data reading, and why people go OTD, and misogyny, and all those things people here have pointed out. Now, based on your responses, it is only about how surveys are flawed. Could have been a much shorter article.

        Though I am interested in how you’ve also thrown in a healthy dose of anti-liberal rhetoric. Of course, here too you could have used republican Trump supporters, or Cruz, or any politician to make the same point: people lie on surveys. You chose to use Hillary and Bernie. Just as you chose to use only those who aren’t frum, not those who are. It does seem to me that these choices illustrate more about you than your responses to the comments allow. It is hard to shake the feeling that more is being said here than a simple dig at the accuracy of polls.

        Is this vituperative? Unreasonable? Well, I assume you would think so. You have had ample time to suggest your article misrepresented core aspects of your identity. Instead, you made it about politics too. So I suppose we’re just on opposite sides of a fence to high to see across and I should stop trying.

      • Dov Fischer says:

        Hi, Mr. Fleischer.
        In discussing how views of people on college campuses like Columbia and other secular-liberal college communities are impacted by the role of Groupthink and social pressure and relentless social intimidation — intimidation in the dorms, intimidation in the classrooms, and intimidation in student associations — it is fitting that I would offer as an illustration the remarkable generational dissonance between Millennials for Bernie and Quadragenarians for Hillary. If I were discussing the milieu at Liberty University or the University of Alabama, I probably would use students’ attitudes towards Ted Cruz or John McCain to make the point.
        At bottom, you are correct: Your politics and mine seem to have us casting ballots differently on Election Day. So we may agree to disagree. Nothing wrong with that. Cross-currents.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        The issue neither is piety, arrogance, condescension nor holiness.I think that R Fischer was analyzing the wreckage of of what happens when a parent’s investment of no small means in their community and school literally disappears under the crucible of the contemporary secular college atmosphere. Viewing the issue as beyond the scope of discussion as to cause and effect or underlying etiology  really does not aid parents or educators.  It is just another way of removing the issue from legitimate communal and individual concern and does not focus on why parents would allow their kids to enter such an atmosphere in the first place, and why schools would allow and at times encourage enrollment at such locales.

      • Reb Yid says:


        There’s no point in arguing with most of the posters on this board.  And you’d be waiting for Mashiach to come before most of them would ever apologize for anything they’ve written, no matter how offensive.


        Look, this poster may be a rabbi, but on the topic of surveys he’s a rank amateur with no training.  I do this work and have taught it for many years. He’s using this as a smokescreen–clearly he has a chip on his shoulder, and he thinks he knows best, period.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        All you need are good eyes to see whose kids remain frum after attending and dorming at a secular college even with a year or two in Israel.

  7. Avi6 says:

    Shockingly true depiction of college life (I can attest from about 15 years after Rabbi Fischer). I think once and for all we have to end the fallacy that because Rav J.B. Soleveitchik went to university and studied philosophy, it’s somehow a matir for everyone else. Today’s secular undergraduate colleges are places of serious spiritual sakana.

    • Bob Miller says:

      The college experience in and out of class is not what it once was.  The media (social and otherwise) environment is not what it once was.   There are many careers suitable for an Orthodox Jew, but, for many of these, there is no higher education alternative under  Orthodox auspices, despite the best efforts of YU, Touro, and the like.  Political correctness is also so pervasive and oppressive in the broader world that it is already causing some havoc in our world.  Much has been said about our duty to be a light unto the nations, but, often unavoidably, the nations are also a darkness unto us.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      I wouldn’t call it a fallacy-but rather an uninformed fantasy that merely going to college today with all of the progressive doctrination inherent is harmless to one’s commitment to Torah and Mitzvos.

  8. dr. bill says:

    I wonder if the 60’s and 70’ are reliable barometers of what is happening today.  I heard a prominent contemporary historian who went to college in the 90’s report that going to a secular college is NOT a cause for men and women leaving orthodoxy. He noted that some leave before they start college and are irreligious from the day they arrive; most of the rest leave pretty much as they arrived.  He forcefully debunked the “statistic” attributed to a rabbi from Teaneck.  (In fact attrition among MO is lower than it has been over the last century, IIRC.)  Furthermore, a fair number return, a relevant fact to a historian, less so to a Rabbi who must worry about their behavior even if only for a period.
    Given known percentages for same sex attraction, and observed levels of attrition, I would argue, without the benefits of a study, it is a major issue in MO communities.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      what evidence, academic, anecdotal  or otherwise, was this “prominent contemporary historian who went to college in the 90’s” relying on? What basis was he claiming that “attrition among MO is lower than it has been over the last century”? More to the point, I wonder if the learned historian has spoken to anyone who works for the JLI program sponsored by the OU or to anyone involved in chizuk/kiruv on college campuses before reaching his conclusion.

    • David F says:

      Do you really believe the the hook-up culture on campuses has slowed down since the 70’s? Puulleeeze! It’s far worse than it ever was and that is patently obvious to anyone who’s spent any meaningful time on college campuses as I have since 2001.

      Behavior that decent adults once frowned upon is now celebrated by the universities themselves and lifestyles that were once unthinkable now have their own designated bathrooms.

      There is nothing in what Rabbi Fischer wrote that is even mildly controversial. There may be a few who drop out for theological reasons, but for the vast majority, it’s some combo of the inconvenience of living as an Orthodox Jew with all it’s restrictions, and the desire to enjoy the bountiful pleasures available in unrestricted fashion. Of course, many were never truly Orthodox in any meaningful sense of the word. Their families affiliated with Orthodoxy and even sent them to Day School, but it’s hard to be Orthodox when you eat fish in a non-kosher restaurant growing up. I don’t consider those drop-outs. They were never truly “in”.

      • dov says:

        I B’h have the opportunity to be be on a campus and have spent many years learning , meeting and hosting MO and secular students. I think it is fairly simple , usually MO’s have different reasons for leaving.

        If they come from a household that is 100 percent frum (shomer kashrus and shabbos) and additionally frowns upon them having pre martital relations there is a reason they make that choice. Of course the yetzer hora is big, but when they know so deeply their parents care about their choices and they outwardly are going against those values there is usually a reason.

        Most are coming from homes that are not entirely shomer kashrus and shabbos. Those students carry on shabbos , eat dairy out , and rationalize that the second day of yom tov is only a rabbinic decree and therefore dont keep it. If you are calling those kids that go a bit to the left OTD i would argue that there is a very small leap between where they were and where they are. They can also get back on the path at times easier than others since they were never shown a true mitzvah observance at home. Most of there Judaism is cultural .

        There are very different types of families and people leaving MO , its hard to make a particular archatype of marry students to them. Ultimately they all end up going to the same parties . I have seen many girl coming from sem saying that they planned on being shomer negiah on campus and slowly hooking up and getting live in boyfriends (some of these girls date non jews).  its really hard to say that the party is the “sibah” , I am pretty sure it is only a “siman”, ultimately it is the MO friends and weak home environment that is what really is the cause , but again there is a sliding scale to that statement.

        I can promise you one thing. It is not the hashkafos hatorah that is leading people off or the hypocrisy of judaism . Even when students do say that, a simple conversation reveals that there leaving the fold has zero to do with an intellectual cheshbon.

  9. rob says:

    Rabbi Dov,

    Kol Hakavod for the astute and poignant analysis of the American Jewish institutional bias against Orthodoxy. It also mirrors my own observations, especially about college life. At a large state university, I knew no Orthodox Jews, but a few classmates from the “right wing” of the Conservative movement who wore kippot their freshman year and got rare permission as freshmen to live off-campus so as to keep kosher in their own apartments. By sophomore year, they usually covered kippot with baseball caps, ate fish sandwiches at McDonalds, and dated non-Jews. By junior year, kashrut, kippot, and Jewish identity and affinity were thrown to the wind. Terribly sad.

    That said, I’m not aware of any canonical definition of an “Orthodox” Jew. As you point out, the studies are inaccurate but politically useful proxies used for misallocation of communal resources. I think that even more important than choices of primary, secondary and post-secondary schooling are family practice and the communal expectations/standards of one’s chevra; choice of school tends to reflect, not influence those things.

    Assimilation has always been a problem for Judaism going back to enslavement in Egypt.  Thank G-d for Judaism has survived against all odds and for the rebuilding and growth of Torah-observant communities since the end of WW2. Judaism existed before communal resources were controlled by non-Orthodoxy, and it will also survive the collapse of non-Orthodoxy and their misallocation of communal resources by Federations.

    • larry says:

      His anecdotal evidence has been properly seasoned, being 40 years old.  The data in the survey is far too recent to be relevant.

      Intimating that the Orthodox Jews who are no longer Orthodox were either never really Orthodox or seduced oversimplifies a real problem.

  10. D.T. says:

    I may have missed it, but can you explain why your anecdotal evidence supersedes the data contained in this survey?

    • R.B. says:

      Its obvious that he is challenging that what was presented was in fact “data”, which you assume, or based on an anti-Orthodox agenda that biased the answers obtained. He didn’t claim his anecdotes supersede anything.

      • D.T. says:

        He cites anecdotal data and asks us to reject the reasons reported in the findings.

        “I have seen it. Many, many times. I lived through it all around me in college. It was like “Invasion of the Kippah Snatchers.” One by one, the pods of gorgeous alcohol-drinking skiing baton twirlers with unswervingly linear septa took over the minds of my friends. I saw it forty years ago, and I have remained deeply involved with college youths through the generations. (And, if it gives heart, I also have seen other beautiful women lead other fellows to Orthodoxy. Indeed this is the simple message of Dvarim 7:3-4.) That is the reason. Not hypocrisy and not “gender quality.””

        Why, though? What makes his anecdotes more compelling?

    • Rav Dov Fischer says:

      The data are the data.  I do not challenge data.  However, as R.B. states,  my critique focuses on the analysis.  Thus, the bird with the clipped wings does not fly.  That is fact.  The question is why.

      • D.T. says:

        Can you help me understand the distinction you’re making between “data” and “analysis?” According to the data, the top 3 reasons for leaving (44% of respondents) were “Things I read/learned, contradictions, no proof,” “Thought for myself, intellectual, preferred rationalism,” and “General doubts, loss of faith.” From what I understand, that is not analysis. It is the data.You seem to suggest that these 44% were in fact lying on the survey and the true reason they left was that, in college, they either wanted to have sex with non-Jews and get stoned or they succumbed to peer pressure. Am I reading you correctly?If so, can you explain how you reached your conclusion? I appreciate your personal experience, but is there something can be quantified? How many people have you seen make this transition? What was their level of religious belief at baseline, when entering college?Additionally, how does this analysis apply to the 36% of survey respondents without a college degree?

      • Dov Fischer says:

        Excellent post, D.T. Thank you very much for asking insightful and piercing questions.
        I accept completely that each survey respondent truly believes in her or his heart of hearts that she or he is speaking the truth to survey questioners. When they are asked “Why?” the respondents surely are answering what they believe to be the reason for the “Why?”
        However, I also am saying that many people transition towards their reasons over time.
        Ask a campus Millennial why she or he supports Bernie Sanders. Few will answer “Because all my friends do” . . . or “Because I want to be liked and accepted by my peers” . . . or “Because all my professors do.” Rather, the response will be “Because Bernie will equalize opportunity.” “Bernie will rein in Wall Street.” “Bernie is for social justice.”
        I am fully satisfied that the campus Millennial who offers those responses for Bernie really believes that those are the reasons he or she supports Bernie. However, I also suggest that, in many of those cases, the underlying support for Bernie stems from Groupthink, intense and unbearable social pressure, and campus political correctness that makes it dangerous in certain circles to advocate even for Hillary.
        Someone once told me of an insight he or she gained from a session of professional marriage counseling. The discussion in the therapist’s office centered over some intense marital dispute about the broccoli that had been served the previous night at dinner. Either the argument was that the broccoli was over-cooked or under-cooked, or maybe it was that one of the marital partners had said that she or he was sick of eating broccoli but that the other partner had forced that broccoli onto the dinner menu. I do not remember the details, but I remember what was reported to me that the therapist had said: “I don’t know whether the broccoli was over-cooked or under-cooked or whether you had said you never again want broccoli. But what I do know is that the two of you are not here in my office, paying me $150 an hour, because you are fighting over broccoli.”
        In other words, D.T., I recognize that there are many reasons that people reach decisions they do and reach conclusions they do. In the instant matter, some have abandoned because of abuse. Some because of a question of faith. The post just below this one offers a really insightful list of concerns that may impact one person or another. However, we do ourselves a maximal favor by recognizing that the reasons a person says he or she has done something or has come to believe or not believe something may not be the actual root causes underlying how that person actually came to perform that deed or to reach that belief.
        Because this subject has touched a nerve — I see no reason to write on subjects that are more fungible — I recognize that it is hard for many to buy into my article’s key premise. Instead, to my dismay, some readers prefer to superimpose their predispositions onto my words and thoughts. They are in pain, and my article touched a nerve where there already was pain.
        There is a Ms. Friedman who wrote a comment among the first of the comments. Her pain is palpable. Her actual real-life experiences unspeakable. What she describes having gone through as a young lady, the abuse and torture, and the subsequent experiences in a brutal marriage, and encountering a stone wall of cruelty, and just everything she has encountered in a lifetime. One reads her words, her experiences, and one readily grasps that hers was not a decision born of Groupthink nor of a campus culture that she did not even encounter. Rather, hers is a deeply moving, a gripping and a shocking reminder of what cruelty exists — even in pockets of our own community — and of how we sometimes devour our own.
        I have met and counseled any number of people who have been victimized by cruelty and by abusers. If we did not want such precious souls to give up on Judaism, we should have been there when they needed us. Indeed, even if we had been there when they needed us, that presence may not have been sufficient to outweigh or offset the evil they absorbed.
        I am not at liberty to discuss and expand upon other individual cases and situations of people who came my way after leaving. Their stories and accounts are shattering.
        At the same time, I also know the many other cases where people have come to me, and in the course of which we have spoken, where it eventually became clear that they had abandoned for reasons utterly divorced from the reasons they initially proffered.
        I speak of my own first-hand encounters from the 1970s because I choose not to identify specifics of others whom I have encountered from the 1990s and the 2000s and the 2010s. The abuses of the past continue in the present; now, at least, more people feel safe to come forward. The challenges of the past continue in the present. Sadly compounding the challenges, the social milieu of the campus “hook-up” culture today is far more intense than ever. And, sadly, the Groupthink and Social Conformist pressures of contemporary American society are far more intense than they were then.

      • D.T. says:

        Thank you for your response.

        “However, I also am saying that many people transition towards their reasons over time.”

        I appreciate that you believe this and that you have come to your belief based on your own experiences and perceptions. Unfortunately, in the world of data, your experience remains anecdotal. Do you have any evidence beyond the things you’ve seen to support this?

        “However, we do ourselves a maximal favor by recognizing that the reasons a person says he or she has done something or has come to believe or not believe something may not be the actual root causes underlying how that person actually came to perform that deed or to reach that belief.”

        I disagree. We do ourselves a serious disfavor is we reject the stated reasons a person does something and replace them with our own invented justifications. Which is what you are doing, unless you can provide hard evidence. Can you?

      • Dov Fischer says:

        I have thirty-five years in one field, overlapped by fifteen years in another field. A rav encounters people in many walks of life with many reasons for seeking out a rav. Sometimes those reasons include a call seeking pastoral care. In the pastoral care environment, a rav mostly listens, asks some questions, and in time offers some gentle thoughts. In asking questions to better understand, my 35-year experience has been to learn that many people begin by presenting one set of reasons why they have said or done certain things, and over time other more deep-rooted and core reasons emerge. Call it anecdotal.
        In fifteen years as an attorney, I have met many people, on both sides of the aisle, who are engaged in a conflict. The client seeks representation. Like a rav, the counsellor mostly listens, asks some questions, and in time offers some thoughts. In asking my clients questions to better understand their conflict or predicament, my 15-year experience has been to learn that many people begin by presenting one set of reasons why they have said or done certain things, and over time other more deep-rooted and core reasons emerge. And, of course, something similar emerges from the other side during deposition. Call it anecdotal.
        If someone publishes the results of 35 years’ experiences in the rabbinate and 15 years in the law, and then someone else cites to it, that citing author is regarded as citing to authority.
        I have no problem if others wish to regard my experiences as anecdotal. They are presented merely for your consideration.

      • D.T. says:

        I apologize. The specific statements I quoted may have been too broad. Out of this particular context, yes, of course, some people change their reasons over time. What I intended to ask was this:

        Can you provide hard evidence that this is true of the respondents of this particular survey or even of a population that is representative of OTD people at large? And that we have any right to reject what these specific 885 people said their reasons for leaving are?

      • Dov Fischer says:

        My evidence on the micro scale compares with theirs; it is based on self-reporting.
        On the macro scale, it is based on 35 years of privately caring pastorally for families while also serving the broader congregational community, 15 overlapping years of attorney-client experiences, seasoned by my own personal witness.
        My own personal witness draws from my own college experience, my continued and continuing ongoing personal engagement with campus undergrads and grads throughout the past thirty years, and my past twelve years as a law school professor and a Jewish faculty resource for law students.
        My experience with the law students includes not only my engagement with them during their Jewish Law Student experuiences but, in many cases, continued relationships with them afterwards.
        My experience further is impacted by my having counseled LGBTQ+ students and adults in several contexts, including law school and as colleagues in the law firm workplace.
        My experience further is impacted by my relationships and friendship/counseling roles with Jewish attorneys during the past fifteen years. When a person practices law while wearing a yarmulka openly in the Los Angeles office of JonesDay or AkinGump, as I have done during that decade of practice, the word soon spreads that “the guy is a rabbi, too.” THat may not be what happens in New York; it is what happens in La-La-Land (which, by the way, is not so “La-La” any more). Soon, legal colleagues ask for private time to talk, not as friends but as clergy-penitent. It is awkward, and sometimes I avoid, while sometimes I embrace the request.
        Bottom line: For some commenters, I have no evidence; it all is pure conjecture and anecdote. But that is my source of information.

    • DF says:

      What is data, if not a collection of anecdotal evidence assembled together?

  11. Yossi says:

    R Elchonon Wasserman points out in the beginning of Kovetz Maamarim that our philosophy usually bends to our desires. This is not remotely only a Jewish idea; Gary Chapman in the Five Languages of Love tells tenstory of a guy he was giving marriage counseling to, and the guy tells him “Its not going to work; it’s beyond repair.” Gary says “What’s her name?” “What do you mean what’s her name? Whose name?” Gary says “The other woman. Most people decide it’s beyond repair after they meet the other woman. Did you feel that way before you met her?” And indeed he was right; the guy’s marriage had been shaky and meeting this wonderful woman who he started cheating with made him “realize” that his marriage was beyond repair.

    See also a great book about willpower by Kelly Mcgonagal (forgot the name) where she has numerous examples of our poor choices influencing our philosophy and the way we explain it to ourselves. Rationalization, confirmation bias, etc.

    • Shades of Gray says:

      McGonigal’s book is “The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It “(I am currently  reading both hers and one of Gary Chapman’s books).

  12. Baal Habos says:

    “He is a brilliant Ivy League undergrad, and he is giving up everything in the world — his life, his tradition, his heritage, his eternal soul — for that?” “That is why you are giving it all up?”

    So what are you saying Rabbi Fischer? That this brilliant undergrad is knowingly giving up his life, tradition, heritage and eternal soul for THAT? Doesn’t it make more sense that he is mistaken and came to believe, for whatever reason, that Orthodoxy is not legitimate? Wouldn’t it make more sense to take this brilliant undergraduate’s words at face value and attempt to correct his misunderstanding, rather than claim he is lying and knowingly leaving for  THAT? Claiming that people leave for taivos doesn’t solve anything. Taivos have existed forever and will continue to lurk wherever we go.

    • Rav Dov Fischer says:

      Thank you, Baal Habos.

      My instant article offers Cross-Currents readers insights into how to analyze data and how to interpret published surveys, what to look for, and where to be suspicious.

      My article does not address how to bring OTD people back.  I cannot write on everything in one single article.  As someone who has devoted the entirety of his adult life to kiruv, I have done my best on the ground, in the campuses, to do more than merely to observe.  Our Shabbat home regularly includes college- and grad-student men and women sharing Shabbat meals with us, even sleeping over for Shabbat.

      The challenges are enormous.  I begin with this: When you go to shul and see a college student, go over and speak to him or her.  Invite him or her for a Shabbat meal.  Make a connection.

      • HAHA says:

        We’re not coming back.  And you clearly don’t understand why we left. It wasn’t hookups at college.

      • Rav Dov Fischer says:

        “WE’re” not coming back . . . Why WE left . . .”

        In other words, you know the reason that not only you but that everyone else who ever went OTD chose to do so?

        You could have saved the surveyors tons of time and money.  Tell them “OUR” secret.

      • simon fleischer says:

        Rabbi Fischer,

        Um, isn’t your whole article based on the premise that you know why others do what they do? I think the pot is calling the kettle black here, but I could be missing something.

      • Dov Fischer says:

        My article is not premised on my knowing why every single person does what she or he does. Rather, the article offers the reader a cautionary for reading and interpreting surveys, their data, and their analyses — particularly when the reader encounters a survey dealing with such highly charged and complex subjects as Jewish demographics, Orthodox Jewish practices, and why people do what they do.

      • Richard says:

        You’re making the same claim, no?

      • Mindy Schaper says:

        You claim to know the reason. In fact, you claim so vociferously. In fact, you wrote an entire article claiming to know why people go OTD.



      • Jake says:

        So what was it?

      • Baal Habos says:

        Rav Fischer, if you provide the wrong diagnosis then you can’t begin to suggest the proper cure. No one is claiming that that aren’t college students who get lured and trapped in the snares of immorality.  But why are some such as you so incredulous to think that MO college students (and Lakewood kolel yungehleit surfing the internet), can’t just as easily get seduced by philosophy, biblical criticism and evolutionary thought? To not address this head on, to ignore what the exit-polls are telling you, is willful blindness.

      • Dov Fischer says:

        Of course some individuals are motivated by those factors, Baal Habos. Please see my several responsive comments below to others who have suggested thoughts similar to yours.

  13. DF says:

    Dov Fischer’s points are all correct, if a little obvious. But I’m wondering why he doesn’t apply the same skepticism he (rightly) applies to surveys purporting to explain why someone left religion, to surveys asking about one’s political affiliation? Orthodox Jews are proud to be different, and we are opinionated to a fault. We have no problem saying what they think. [To the contrary, our problem is  trying to keep in in.] But the general public is not so opinionated, not so fearless in stating their views.  There are huge numbers of people who hear celebrities and read the media and have thus become too shy or too intimidated to state their conservative opinions forthrightly.  The writer/cartoonist Scott Adams has written of “the coming tsunami” of voters who agree with Trump – they are scared to say it publicly, but have no problem in a voting booth.

    No, I don’t live in a fantasy world where I think everyone secretly agrees with me. But there are way more out there than reported. The survey problems in the Jewish world exist outside of it as well.

    • Rav Dov Fischer says:

      Thank you, DF.  My article only discussed one subject.  Perhaps another day I shall discuss another subject, like the way that Political Correctness colors the way that people respond to political surveys.  In one recent example, is it not fascinating that British pollsters predicted that Remain would win, while in fact Leave won the Brexit referendum?  Likewise the unexpected Republican successes in the last mid-term, and likewise the success of Netanyahu and the Likud coalition in the last Israeli election.  In each case, pollsters predicted stronger voting for the Left than resulted.  Were respondents unable to disclose their true intents?  Somethign to think about.

  14. Elitzur says:

    LOL, “[Women] also are not required to wear external defining symbols when they begin college,” because nobody stands out when they are wearing long skirts and sleeves to their elbows during the summer!

    Only self-definition can determine how one was raised or you fall to the no true Scotsman argument. Is it not important that these people feel they have “left” Orthodoxy?


  15. Steve Brizel says:

    This is an excellent and necessarily unvarnished , blunt and intellectually honest depiction of the issue at hand. MO is deluding itself if the average MO high school grad even with a year or two gap years at a yeshiva and/or seminary can survive at the progressive indoctrination academies that are known as universities .

    • larry says:

      YU included.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Parents and children have to do due diligence as to the right place for their children. The notion that all MO high school grads belong in YU after a year or two in Israel is as equally delusional that all Charedi young men belong in BMG

    • Charles Hall says:

      I am a biostatistician, although not specifically a survey statistician. I am not familiar with local surveys of the Jewish population outside of the New York area but I am familiar with the New York area surveys and with the national surveys that seem to come out about every ten years. I have a few comments about surveys and about other issues:

      1) Accurate survey framing is very difficult with an ill-defined population like Jews. The people who do the surveys I have studied really do the best they can both in timing and location. They know that phone calls to Sabbath observant Jews don’t get answered on Shabbat. More difficult is the issue of geography. We know where he orthodox communities are, we just don’t know the size. Do you make extra phone calls into non-Jewish neighborhoods in order to find the disconnected Jew who still lives in the South Bronx decades after almost every other Jew moved out, or do you call into Riverdale where most of the synagogues are orthodox and packed every Shabbat morning? The former gets you better overall population estimates but the latter lets you better describe the community.

      2) Most surveys use self-identification as the definition of denomination. If you say you are orthodox, you are. And in the more than four decades since the first National Jewish Population Survey, the fraction of the American Jewish community who *self-identify* as orthodox has barely budged. The surveys do show that the orthodox community is much younger now than in 1971, and it is likely that the community is more observant in some areas, but the latter observation is based more on anecdote than data.

      3) The total destruction of Jewish communities in the South Bronx and of East Brooklyn should not be discounted when one questions the overall population numbers. There were hundreds of thousands of Jews and hundreds of synagogues in the Bronx who aren’t there now. A majority of the synagogues were orthodox although as Rabbi Fischer points out the level of observance may not be what we see today in, say, Riverdale, which 50 years ago had a single orthodox synagogue and today has at least eight congregations not counting many home minyans. That just doesn’t make up for losing over a hundred congregations.   I am less familiar with Brooklyn but the devastation seems to have been as great. But these examples alone may completely offset the gains in places like Lakewood, Teaneck, and other thriving communities today. Yes, kosher pizza shops don’t lie, but neither do former orthodox synagogues that are now an art museum (the former Young Israel of the Concourse building) or a boys and girls club (the former Hebrew Institute of University Heights building), or, sadly, churches (too many to name).

      • mycroft says:

        “The total destruction of Jewish communities in the South Bronx and of East Brooklyn should not be discounted when one questions the overall population numbers. There were hundreds of thousands of Jews and hundreds of synagogues in the Bronx who aren’t there now. A majority of the synagogues were orthodox although as Rabbi Fischer points out the level of observance may not be what we see today in, say, Riverdale, which 50 years ago had a single orthodox synagogue and today has at least eight congregations not counting many home minyans. That just doesn’t make up for losing over a hundred congregations”

        See Gellers book who shows how number of synagogues in metro NY area has decreased drastically since 1940.

        Compare Metro Boston-in the 40s and early 50s one had many schuls in Roxbury, Dorchester when they disappeared the increase of those in Brookline, Newton, Sharon  and other suburbsetc doesn’t come close to those lost.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        The heyday of those communities ended for two reasons-the overwhelming majority of the families in those communities concomitantly moved to CJ as they moved to suburbia as the quality of life in the Bronx and Brooklyn deteriorated and sent their next generation to public schools. The next generation of Orthodoxy lacked great numbers of shuls but had a next generation that was going to be educated within day schools from K-12, and whose children are far more literate in classical Jewish texts than their ancestors.

      • mycroft says:

        Compare the intermarriage rate in the past 20 years to those who spent K-12 in Orthodox day schools with that of the general Jewish population 85 years ago.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        That’s not the issue-the communities that you referred to ended when they ended up in the suburbs in public schools when and where most of the next generation married  Gentiles. The last generation of those who spent K-12 in day schools have been noted for having  a far greater rate for marrying Jews .What’s your point?

      • mycroft says:

        “The surveys do show that the orthodox community is much younger now than in 1971, and it is likely that the community is more observant in some areas, but the latter observation is based more on anecdote than data.”

        BTW despite predictions for decades that Israel will become much more religious the percentage of votes for the Religious parties in Knesset elections has been relatively constant.

      • Reb Yid says:

        This is work that I have participated in and have taught for many years.  While I have yet to read the methodology of this study, no doubt I would also find issues about this study as would be true of any scientific endeavor.


        That said, Dov Fischer  has a tremendous chip on his shoulder and is simply misinformed about the facts.  The social scientific and Federation worlds are not out to “get” the Orthodox community.  Much has changed since he was in college.  There  might be valid reasons to question findings, but  bias against Orthodox Jews is simply not one of them./

      • mycroft says:

        Federations have not discriminated against Orthodox for decades-for decades the head of the Council of Jewish Federations is the father of a Rav on the RIETS faculty.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        which Council of Jewish Federations in which city? Please advise.

      • larry says:

        The book “Pastrami on Rye” (winner of the 2015 National Jewish Book Award) details the decline of the New York Kosher Deli.  According to the author, there were 1,550 kosher  delis in New York in the 1930’s.  Today there are a handful.


      • Steve Brizel says:

        How many of the “kosher delis” were under any degree of reliable kashrus supervision?

  16. sb says:

    In Strive for Truth, Rav Dessler has an article entitled “There never was a true apikorus”.

    In it, he says essentially the same as the first half of your article. Apikorsus is a defense mechanism invented to allow a person to deal with the contradiction of living his life the way his soul tells him he should live, vs. how he wants to conduct himself.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Look at the comments of the Beis HaLevi to Parshas Breishis to the same effect.

    • mycroft says:

      Of course one would not expect a man like Rav Dessler to believe that one could logically reject Yahadus based on science, history, logic etc Of course Rav Dessler  has probably been responsible for more people going OTD than anyone else. His influence on looking to make a gadol and who cares about the rest-translates in MO lets be concerned about the future MD Phd and forget about the rest-=has sent the rest mechutz lamachane

      “reRav Dessler (Michtav M’Eliyahu 3:356-357): [translation copyrighted] The Frankfurt school system taught secular subjects and viewed going to university as an accepted part of education.  The price that they paid for this approach was the reduction in the number of great Torah scholars that came from their students. And even those who went on to learn in the Lithuanian and Polish yeshivas after learning secular subjects in Germany – only an extremely small number…went on to become great Torah scholars. On the other hand the advantage of this system was that only a very small number of the students ended up leaving religious observance. In spite of this minimal loss, there was a definite problem about the purity of religious faith in the Torah. Whenever there was a conflict between Torah and the sciences, they would make strange compromises. As if it was possible to have contradictory beliefs in one heart. Nevertheless almost all of them remained faithful to observing the mitzvos with dedication and self-sacrifice. And many were extremely careful to observe even the finer details of the mitzvos. In contrast the Lithuanian yeshivos focused on a single goal – to create great Torah scholars who were also G-d fearing people. To accomplish this they prohibited going to university. They realized that there was no other way to produce great Torah scholars except by concentrating all their students’ energies and desires exclusively to learning Torah. Don’t think that they didn’t realize from the beginning that this approach would ruin some who would not be able to deal with this extreme lifestyle and would consequently leave religious observance.”




  17. lacosta says:

    This was aimed at the MO sector.  Which would leave haredi/yeshivish /chabad with 100% fidelity . Which they lack.  Which temptress should we blame there? There are no co-ed dorms in yeshivas… Or else you mean haredim OTD is before18, and MO 18-21?

    Many claim there is no OTD data, and when presented data claim ignorance ….


    • Dov Fischer says:

      Yes. Agreed. Well said. I have responded to your insightful perspective in several other comments I have made to others below.

  18. Sabi A-Libee says:

    How many of my fellow commenters actually know and/or have had a heart-to-heart with someone who has gone totally OTD or is in the closet about it and is orthoprax?


    Look me up on Facebook.



    • mycroft says:

      “I wanted the mechitzah to run down the middle. By contrast, the troglodytes wanted the men in the front and the women in the back. The fight went on for six months, until I lost.”

      Assuming both mechitzot are kosher what is the issue for aRav to get involved-a non halachik issue should be what is meruzeh lecahal.

      • Dov Fischer says:

        Your statement and question indeed won the day: “It is none of your business, Rav Fischer, whether the mechitzah runs down the middle, with men on one side and women equally on the other side, or if we put the mechitzah horizontally towards the rear, with the women consigned to the back, which also is closer to the kitchen.”
        Ironically — for those in this discussion who brandish words like “Misogynist” as though it were a mere indefinite article or preposition — it was that issue that, for me at that time in my life, was my last straw. I refused to have any association, professional or personal, with that decision and with other decisions in that congregation that were consigning women to insignificance and to second-class status.
        But, yes, your point carried the day on the shul board: It is none of the rabbi’s business where we dump the women, how we relate to them, or what we think of them.

      • mycroft says:

        “Your statement and question indeed won the day: “It is none of your business, Rav Fischer, whether the mechitzah runs down the middle, with men on one side and women equally on the other side, or if we put the mechitzah horizontally towards the rear, with the women consigned to the back, which also is closer to the kitchen.”

        Different connotation than “I wanted the mechitzah to run down the middle. By contrast, the troglodytes wanted the men in the front and the women in the back.”

        I have davened in schul with mechitzot down the middle and those where the women are on the sides, back or balcony. In general it is my sociological opinion that the more traditional schuls in general do not have mechitzot down the centre.

      • Dov Fischer says:

        They wanted the women in the rear, out of the way, near the kitchen. I refused to be part of such a shul.

  19. Sara says:

    As a new graduate of one of the top universities in the US, I do agree with what R’ Fischer writes here. I lived at home and would urge any Orthodox student to do the same or find an apartment with other Orthodox students; any Orthodox student with dedication will not go for the dorms.

    But I’m disgusted by the blatant misogyny in the first “reason.” With all due respect, R’ Fischer could have more accurately framed the narrative from the perspective of the male student trying to impress a female student or friends, which is what I witnessed in some very saddening cases. Instead, it unfairly and grossly depicts women — who, in this context, were likely not raised to act otherwise at a party — as sirens out to seduce righteous, innocent men. I’d blame the attendee for going to such a party, when any college student knows exactly what college parties are like and why they’re not a good place for Orthodox students to meet supportive and like-minded peers. (Yes, ideally, all people, women included, would dress and act modestly. That’s irrelevant to this setting, where few men or women actually do.) Please stop blaming women for men making bad decisions of their own free will.

    • Rav Dov Fischer says:

      Thank you gratefully for your thoughtful comment, Sara.  I regret that you seem to have interposed your own perception of me into your reading of my article.

      Your comment offers me the opportunity to emphasize explicitly that it is not the woman — not any woman — who is to blame when a Jewish fellow abandons.  In each of the cases I have experienced, I never once have thought for a moment that the woman should be blamed for a man’s decision.  (Nor should a man be blamed for a woman’s decision, by the way.)

      Adam is not absolved by blaming Chavah.  Chavah is not absolved by blaming the serpent.

      Space here does not allow me fully to elaborate on how much I agree with you.  I even have known women who asked me to work with them to help guidse abandoning Jewish men back to their roots.

      • Tobie says:

        “I even have known women who asked me to work with them to help guidse abandoning Jewish men back to their roots.”

        Unfortunately, to my mind this depicts the same disturbing conception of women as responsible for men’s moral welfare as the opposite.

        Attitudes like this, which permeate the entire article, may explain why so many (both those who have left Orthodoxy and those like me who cling to it) are deeply troubled by the underlying attitudes in Orthodoxy towards women and gender equality, whether or not you deride us as idiotic sheep who have never heard of dukhening.


      • Dov Fischer says:

        Why read my statement in the way you do? Why integrate into my thoughts your thoughts about what my thoughts probably must be? It is a simple fact of life that people are affected by and impacted by their significant others. Of course they are. Of course they are.
        You are reading into me an assumption that, because I am a normative mainstream Orthodox rav, I necessarily must “buy into” a particular world view that you assume comes with the territory. But that is so unfair. If it were unfair to me alone, I would not respond, but that presumption is unfair to you.
        When I was younger, much younger, I carried a cultural building block that all non-Jews were my enemy. I assumed they all thought certain things about me, merely because they were non-Jewish and I a Jew. In time, I came to learn how wrong I was. My life has been richer for having moved away from such an unfair presumption.
        Women are not to “blame” for what men do. Women do not bear unique responsibility for what men do. However, certain woman do indeed impact their male significant others, even as certain men do indeed impact their female significant others.
        By carrying that presumption, you find yourself attributing to this writer a remarkable conclusion that he regards women as “idiotic sheep.” It just is a remarkable inference. I just spent part of today writing letters of recommendation for two women applying for federal judicial clerkships. Another part of the day was spent communicating with a woman who scored the highest grade I ever gave for my course in Civil Procedure.
        I just am bemused reading some of these remarkable comments that really serve as Rorschach documents.

      • Tobie says:

        I did not say that you believed women were idiotic sheep, but rather that you believed that those with issues with gender equality in Judaism were sheep, bowing to prevailing norms.

        I did not mean to imply that you think women are stupid. What I did sense, in this article at least (and as I do not, as you say, know you, I can only respond to what arises from the words you have written) is that the default ‘person’ the article is interested in is male, and females are primarily interesting for how they affect males, for good or evil, rather than as persons in their own right. Nobody disagrees that people affect others in their orbit, including significant others. But by framing the article to focus so much on male as subject and female as object of temptation, the septic created a certain tone. A tone, I believe, that is consistent with the tone of much halachic and communal discourse – male is the default and we must constantly think about the female in terms of how she affects the male. A tone that can be directly linked to the issues many have with gender equality in Orthodoxy that the article seems to cavalierly dismiss.

      • Dov Fischer says:

        Thank you for your follow-up, Tobie. I agree with you that, at a future date, a companion piece ought to be written that addresses additional thoughts from the perspective you recommend. My challenge is that, no matter what I write, today’s climate is so hotly charged with Identity Politics and Political Correctness, causing people to read motives and intentions into so much where they are not.
        My experience with women mostly has been with exceptionally intelligent women — those in my extended nuclear family, my wife’s and my closest friends, several of my most brilliant law professors, the law partners alongside whom I worked and from whom I learned, my law students, the women who attend my shul and the particular class I launched specifically for women who wanted to learn and grapple with ideas on a deeper, intensive-text-based basis, where hard subjects are discussed, advanced text is pondered, and tough questions are asked. (There was no such class like it in Orange County, California, and I saw the need. So I started it, and women drive on Sunday mornings from 45 minutes and an hour away to attend the class that runs two hours straight without a break.) Thus, all my defining encounters with women have been with brilliant people. Therefore, the “idiotic sheep” image struck a chord.
        In terms of women and attraction to or abandonment from Judaism, my career experience has been that more than 90% of all conversion applicants I have encountered have been either single unattached women or couples where the non-Jewish woman is the driving force and the man comes along. I am not employing value judgments or explanations here — and presumably someone will object to anecdotal experience of 35 years — but I merely am stating facts I have encountered during a third of a century.
        Why, on the other hand, do some women leave the path? As with men, there are many reasons — and certainly not enough space here to delineate all. I sadly have encountered several abuse victims in my career. I do not know how they endured what they experienced. Again, I come back to the earlier gripping and deeply moving and even life-altering post by Ms. Friedman. The loneliness, the intensity of suffering, the “Gaslighting,” often by an insensitive, uncaring, and unbelieving environment is beyond description. And that is why some have left. At the risk of sounding “anecdotal,” I know several such victims. And I know how they were treated when they sought protection and support.
        Others have left for many of the same reasons that men would have left. Sometimes, for ideas. Sometimes, impacted by a significant other. Sometimes a job opportunity or just a chance to get away and start life fresh and independently. Sometimes, the unbearable social pressure of the contemporary culture that demands conformity to the new order. You are correct, Tobie; there is much more to write.
        There is an irony here, and those who know me best see it most starkly. Here I was writing a particular article, and the subject is just layered with so many layers of feeling that it becomes possible for some readers to see it and to say: “Aha! There goes an Orthodox rabbi with his male-centered viewpoint.” Like the Mohn, so many impart their own flavor.
        It would be comparable to a male oncologist writing on a study dealing with five or six cancers, and opting — for whatever non-gender reason — to focus his article on prostate cancer. If, instead of publishing in the medical community, he were entering an arena as fraught with some of the layers that exist here, there would be readers writing to complain that he did not equally address cervix cancer. And, bemused, he would say only that this day he was writing about prostate cancer.
        I am one among a great, great many Centrist rabbonim — there are quite a few, and they are far better than I ever will be — who devote much of our lives to issues of gender-sensitive concern. I have written at length and made my share of enemies in my circles for speaking and writing on the plight of the mid-life single woman. (I also have acted on it, but I already have learned from some commenters here that if I actually explain how much of my life I have devoted to the issue, then it seems that I am being defensive or looking for plaudits or whatever. It is the challenge of the wrongly accused Friend of Israel who is called an “anti-Semite.” How does he or she defend — by saying that some of his or her best friends are Jewish?)
        From 1987-1990 I was rav of a shul in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. The shul grew from 10 households to 60 families, and we launched a yeshiva ketanah that had grown to three grades. So the shul needed to move to expanded facilities. Now that we finally expanded beyond a living room to real space, I wanted the mechitzah to run down the middle. By contrast, the troglodytes wanted the men in the front and the women in the back. The fight went on for six months, until I lost. I applied to and entered law school.
        When I see commenters here throw around a canard like “Misogynist,” it hits a raw nerve for me. Although I never would vote for her, I actually can empathize with how Hillary must feel as she watches a generation of college students reject her as the Old Guard and the Establishment — she, who fought in her day for a role in public life that women today take for granted.
        Thank you for prompting. I certainly am grateful for your follow-up note.

      • Tobie says:

        R’ Fischer, thank you for your thoughtful reply. I will definitely consider your response and try to re-read the article in light of your clarifications.
        At the same time, I hope that you will see the value in listening to and hearing the visceral responses that people had to the tone of the article; while some of it may have been our own presuppositions, I hope you will also consider whether there genuinely may have been something in the tone or style of the article – whether subconscious, conscious or purely unintentional – to which we were reacting.
        In the same vein, I hope that in addition to highlighting possible errors in the self-reported data, you will see the value in listening to people’s self reports. They may not be perfect, but they may well add valuable perspectives to enrich the impressions you have from your own experience.

      • Dov Fischer says:

        Agreed, Tobie — you and I have a deal!

  20. Shimmy Kogan says:

    Did it really not occur to you, Rabbi Fischer, that only a small fraction of respondents to this survey went off to college dorms? What is your theory for boys and girls who went to Touro – or Bais Ruchel, or Bais Midrash Govoha?

    • Rav Dov Fischer says:

      Hi, Mr. Kogan.

      People have a wide range of reasons for doing the things they do.  College students, non-college students.  Many people, Jewish and non-Jewish, do not even know why they do or say certain things — in a wide range of life situations — until circumstances find them entering a session of marital counseling or similar psychological counseling, when the marriage or other therapist asks: “Why did you do that?  Why did you say that?”

      Sometimes they offer the therapist all kinds of reasons and excuses.  As they say it to the therapist, who looks quizzical upon hearing it, they know they are deer caught in the headlight.  The answers and reasons they proffer do not fit.

      Part of the therapy process is learning to understand why we say what we say, why we do what we do.  Many people simply do not pause at each step along the life journey to ask:  Why I am doing this?  Why am I thinking this?

      I live in Southern California.  I love baseball.  Here, I root for both the Mets and Yankees — passionately.  I do not like the Dodgers, have no interest in them.  It is visceral, and — like the Geico commercial — it is what I do.

      But why?

      One time I found myself asked to explain it, and I never really had thought about it before.  As I started trying to explain why I root for both New York teams (haplessly these days), and disdain the Dodgers, even after 30 years of living in good weather amid an occasional 3.2 or 3.8, I realized: I got my love of baseball from my maternal Zeyde half a century ago.  He never forgave the Dodgers for leaving Brooklyn, so he hated them.  By default, he came to love the Mets when they were founded in 1962.  And that is why I disdain the Dodgers and love the Mets.

      My deeper thoughts continued: “Yeah, Dov.  But you also traitorously moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.  You did exactly what Walter O’Malley did.  Now what do you say?”

      I was bemused.  Still working on it.  But I hope Duda gets back soon and Syndergaard starts holding those runners on first.

      My point:  People do things for many reasons — many of them unwittingly.  In the instant matter,  yes, along the way there are those who were driven OTD by an abuser.  Absolutely. And perhaps someone else went OTD after reading something that changed his thinking.  Of course.  But I also know that the majority of people who do things find lofty and self-serving explanations to justify actions that often are rooted in very simple and non-lofty bases.  They like to sound noble rather than base, not only when speaking to their interviewers but especially when speaking to themselves.  So they find reasons.

      That’s all.  Just bring that awareness with you whenever you read a survey where people are asked to explain why they have made certain decisions or done certain things.  How is it that virtually every student on campus today is for Bernie?  And virtually every student who was on the same campus fifteen years now is for Hillary? Maybe they each are motivated by intellect.  And maybe by Groupthink.

      Why does someone go OTD?  Maybe because of abuse.  Or maybe because of a chance to marry into a fascinating new world, as Eilis finds when she encounters Tony in “Brooklyn.”  Some people just want to “get away.”  To get away from their parents.  To get away from their heritage.  To get away from their country.

      Ask non-observant Israeli households why they left Israel for America.  Some will say: “Because of the Orthodox hegemony over family matters.”  Some will say: “Because I hate the Orthodox / the Arabs / the Likud / the high VAT.”  And, yet, when you see that they have arrived with a 17-year-old son and a 16-year-old son, you kind-of learn to infer why they opted for yeridah and why now.  But they will not tell you that reason — because they are ashamed to say it or even to admit it to themselves.

      Maybe a non-college once-frum guy or lady left because she or he was offered a fabulous high-paying job opportunity that requires weekend travel or that regularly compels eating at non-Kosher restaurants or attending weekend retreats outside the Shabbat universe.

      Just know that surveys of Orthodox Jews, our numbers, our reasons are more complex than the simplicity of “Eleven percent gave up Shmirat Shabbat because of . . . “

      • simon fleischer says:

        Do religiously observant Jews also dress up their self-serving motivations in highbrow sounding rhetoric? Are they keeping mitzvot for shallow, selfish, insipid reasons? Or is it just the non-observant who lie to themselves and in turn others? It seems like this argument can go in both directions.


      • Dov Fischer says:

        Yes, Mr. Fleischer. Certainly, there can be people from each camp who can fall into that description.

      • Hannah says:

        ‘Just know that surveys of Orthodox Jews, our numbers, our reasons are more complex than the simplicity of “Eleven percent gave up Shmirat Shabbat because of . . . “’

        Yes,  very complex, I’m sure. So very complex that you don’t seem to have any compunctions about ignoring the data points put in front of you, consigning full blame to only two factors that apply to only a limited percentage of survey respondents, and assuming that you can psychoanalyze people without meeting them once. Also, it’s not “our reasons”- it’s my reasons (not my personally, I’m actually still frum), his reasons, her reasons- each highly specific, each possibly as convoluted as your projected reasons, who knows, each maybe a lot more true to the data, and each individually yes, very complex. By boilingit down to the two bullet points you’ve shown yourself to be tone deaf to the very complexity you speak of.

      • Eli Blum says:

        Rabbi Fisher:

        So you just don’t believe any survey that asks a “why” type question, as there are always underlying reasons unknown, unrealized or unsaid by the respondent. Why don’t you just say so? It isn’t a “flawed survey”, it is “all surveys asking “why” are by definition flawed”.

      • Dov Fischer says:

        No, Mr. Blum. Of course a survey that asks “Why?” can have great value. However, our reading should be informed by the awareness that not everyone’s response accurately states what really underlay the critical core decision, act, belief, or attitude being discussed.
        Thank you for asking an incisive question.

      • Eli Blum says:

        Rabbi Fisher:

        Thank you for your response (and calling me Mr., an appropriate title :)). Perhaps you should change the title to “Random thoughts to help interpret the recent survey…”, as you agree above there is no “flaw” in the survey itself, but you wish to provide additional points to think about when analyzing the conclusions of the survey.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I am a lifelong Yankee fan. You can talk to a Met fan of similar fashion and you will see that their parents may have been Brooklyn Dodger or NY Giant fans. Yankee fans have survived  Redsox fans who think that because the Curse of the Bambino ended in 2004 that Boston is somehow the home office of baseball and that Pappy Ortiz , one drug test away from being banned, is a Hall of Fame player who should be Lhavdil mentioned in the same breath as the Core Four and Met fans who won a pennant but lost a Series to a far more fundamentally sound KC Royal team, and now assume their team is on the cup of a dynasty with stars out and young pitchers now at risk of winding up on the extended DL . R Fischer is making a similar point-everyone who goes OTD may have a reason,  but there are underlying causes that must be explored .

  21. Eli Blum says:

    Even if you were right (and you are just speculating), the “college effect” would only apply to half of the MO population (males), which is about 13% of those included in survey. Even if they were all excluded, the results could not have been significantly different.

    How about the Yeshivish, Chassidish, Chabad, etc.? If they have the same issues as stated in the survey, it corroborates the other responses as being accurate, as opposed to everyone OTD going off because of the uncontrollable libido of College girls.

    I will agree with you though that two additional pieces of information would have been useful: Age of the respondent, and at what age you became OTD.  That being said, we always hope for complete data, never get it, and try to draw conclusions as best as we can from what we’ve got.

  22. Yehuda Cohen says:

    As one of those who participated in the poll I find the authors outtake as defensive and dismissive in light of his concerns of the ramifications of this initiative. Intimately knowing many others who also participated, the questions were not hedged nor contrived to weigh results and in my assessment answers given were honest and reflective of our unique position as those raised in an insular community who found our truths outside the fold. As difficult as this may be to those who still embrace Ultra Orthodox and Orthodox tenets as the sole ray of truth in an enlightened world it is pithy to disregard the voices of those who came forward to share thier experiences. Coming from a similar position as the author I could understand his concern but instead of brushing realities under the carpet the Orthodox world would be better suited to embrace these realities and address the chronic issues which were clearly brought forth.

    • larry says:

      extremely well said. I wish the author had focused on respecting and welcoming those who left the fold than regaling us with college anecdotes.

      • Rav Dov Fischer says:

        How do you know that the author does not respect and welcome those who left the fold?

        Do you know how the author has spent his entire career?  Do you know the financial sacrifices the author made, giving up a $250,000-a-year position at a major law firm a decade ago, so that he could return to rabbonus and do kiruv work?

        Do you counsel young people and people of other ages regarding their religious questions, concerns, and identity issues?

        If I wanted to “regal[e] with college anecdotes,” I would write a book or publish them on Slate or Huffington.

        You owe me an apology — whoever you are.


      • mycroft says:


        “Do you know the financial sacrifices the author made, giving up a $250,000-a-year position at a major law firm a decade ago, so that he could return to rabbonus and do kiruv work”

        Not doubting you-but in general when one hears such claims  it is often the case person was an associate at a major law firm who realized in an up and out environment that they were not on a partnership track. Corporate America is filled with refugees from law firms in that position as are academic and Jewish organizations.

        Argue the case wo the self promotion-ideas should rise and fall on the logic and data presented-it should be irrelevant who is arguing the issue.


      • larry says:

        We obviously should not doubt a Rabbi.  Rabbi Fischer’s choice to serve the Jewish community is commendable on every level.

        But once we accept one person’s altruistic reason for leaving the legal profession, despite your assertion that often people leave the profession due to a career ceiling, should we not also accept other people at their word that they left Orthodoxy for intellectual reasons and not because of hedonistic reasons?

      • Dov Fischer says:

        My sense is that if you choose to believe that I left my litigation practice for reasons other than my passion to return to rabbonus, that’s OK. Believe about me as you like. You do not have to prove anything about yourself to me, and we share a mutuality there.
        Moreover, I would join with you, in full agreement, in a statement that says: “When people tell others conducting a survey the reason they left one professional field for another, sometimes they accurately are reporting their actual core motivations for having transitioned, and sometimes they are reporting reasons that are far more noble than the real reasons they actually left.”
        For example, there are many reasons an attorney leaves the law practice. Some are more patently obvious, some less so. Some reasons are more noble, some less so. Some even are self-serving.
        If this were not “Cross-Currents” focusing on Judaism but “Cross-Examination” focusing on law practice, and we were discussing a survey where former attorneys report they left the legal field to pursue art, the clergy, to help the destitute overseas, or other noble reasons, I would say that several attorneys indeed may have abandoned the practice for just such reasons. Absolutely. Indeed. I even know some and count some among dear life friends because birds of a feather flock together.
        I would add, however, that we readers of the survey should not discount the unspoken reasons that a great many others may have left in fact: billable-hours requirements, long hours, abusive partners, client issues, fear of speaking in a courtroom, poor writing skills, denied promotions, etc.
        That is how it goes: When you read a survey asking people “Why?”, know that some people tell it exactly as it is, and some people attribute noble and self-serving motives that may not always be accurate.

      • larry says:

        I will apologize if you can show where in your article you respect and welcome those who left the fold.  Your article intimates that people left the fold to marry gentiles and participate in their hedonistic weed smoking lifestyle.  You then suggest that these people lie about their reasons for  leaving Orthodoxy.  I do not think you discussed your kiruv work anywhere in this article.

        I did not write that you do not respect people and welcome people who left the fold.  I wrote that your article does not focus on welcoming and respecting people who left the fold.


      • Dov Fischer says:

        No need to apologize.
        My article addressed the way to read a survey. It noted that things are not always as they seem, especially when Jews, particularly Orthodox Jews, are being surveyed. Sometimes data-gathering can be faulty because of nuances unique to the Orthodox Jewish community. Sometimes analyses can be faulty.
        In the course of my article, I draw on thirty-five years of experience, meeting and counseling people of various ages and backgrounds. I opted specifically to speak of my own campus experiences of forty years ago because I did not want to say anything that would more directly comment on those closer in time whom I have met. To the degree that I discussed the culture of the 1970s campus — the impact of significant others and the role of social pressure and Groupthink — those phenomena are many times more intense now.
        Many indeed have left the fold to expand their social opportunities with non-Orthodox potential love interests. Many have left because of the peer pressures, social pressures, and Groupthink of contemporary American society, where the pressures to conform one’s speech, one’s thinking, and one’s deepest beliefs to the accepted beliefs of the Age are extraordinarily intense.
        People frequently make decisions based on less noble factors, but over time evolve to find and attribute more noble bases for their decisions. I offer the example of the Israeli families who move to America from Israel when their sons reach age 17 or 16. In time, when they are asked a few years later why they came here, they speak of a desire for greater economic opportunity or less taxation or an antipathy towards the Chief Rabbinate. And, yes, there are those who actually do come for those reasons. And, yes, the ones who did not come for those reasons, but who now say they came for those reasons, really believe what they are saying now. Nevertheless, that is not the real underlying reason that they came.
        By discerning underlying reasons, shorn of their subsequent rationales, we do ourselves a maximized communal service, because we then can focus on addressing what needs to be addressed.
        I keep coming back to the much-earlier post of Ms. Jeanette Friedman. How did the community allow her to sustain what she did in veritable isolation? Why was she so alone? How could she have been the target of what she faced in her youth, then at her wedding sheva brakhot, then when seeking a Gett? Where was the community for her?
        By understanding and grasping her experience — and we all know all-too-well that she, tragically, is one among others whom we let down as a community — that potentially points us on a road to seeking a solution, or actually many solutions. If we do that — if we act so that the universe of Ms. Friedman’s experiences become a thing of the past — then we change our world. It does not change her experiences and what she encountered, and what was perpetrated against her, but it means that we march forward and we learn and we dedicate and we give her voice resonance.
        That is why it is important to nail down real reasons, and not merely the reasons that are told to survey-takers after the facts. Again, no respondent is “lying” to the surveyor. The respondent truly believes what she or he is saying is the reason that she or he left. In some of those cases, yes that indeed is the reason. But in other situations, that is not the reason. That is my point.
        On the issue of ethics, I invite you to read this: http://rabbidov.com/the-price-of-freedom-2
        On one issue of kiruv, I invite you to read this: http://rabbidov.com/to-be-alone
        On another, this: http://rabbidov.com/mitzvah-resolution

      • Lakewood Yungerman says:

        I’m a Yungerman in Lakewood, happily married to a very frum Yeshivishe girl. I am OTD, because after reading Failed Messiah, I began to ask questions about the truths of what I was taught. I searched, and found, science. I no longer believe in the Torah.

        I continue to remain happily married. I don’t seek any other women. My wife has learned to accept me for who I am. It is difficult for me to continue to keep Mitzvos, as I don’t believe they are Divine, but other than that, I continue to live a frum lifestyle.

        I was not included in this survey.

      • Chochom b'mah nishtaneh says:

        I am suspect of anyone who would like to taken seriously after saying his decision was based on what he read on Failed Messiah.

      • mycroft says:

        Chochom b’mah nishtaneh

        I am suspect of anyone who would like to taken seriously after saying his decision was based on what he read on Failed Messiah”

        Like or dislike the former owner of that blog-dislike his motives-but he had a reputation of accuracy in what he wrote.

      • Chochom b'mah nishtaneh says:

        A reputation of honesty?  By whom, a cadre of liars?

        Nothing he wrote was honest nor accurate.


      • Yehuda Cohen says:

        Larry, thank you for your open minded and thoughtful comment. Unfortunately that is a sparse attribute amongst many who still embrace the Orthodox worldview. More often than not once challanged many Orthodox withdraw further into insular thinking, demur from replying or sometimes simply become emotional in thier response.

      • Dov Fischer says:

        Well, Mr. Cohen, at least you do not generalize emotionally or reflect insular thinking.

      • larry says:

        I realize a common attitude is to denigrate the formerly Orthodox in order to bolster one’s own convictions or to avert perceived shame that a loved one has rejected Orthodoxy.  My Rosh Yeshiva recommends that a family continue to love and remain close to a relatives who no longer keep the mitzvot.  I have a chavruta who is no longer observant but one day wanted to return to learning Talmud.  For years I have learned books about middot such as Sefer Chafetz Chaim, Ahavat Chessed and Hilchot Dayot with secular Jews.  Just because one is not Orthodox, it does not preclude one from being erlich.  The world remains in desperate need of loving kindness, mercy and modesty.

      • Dov Fischer says:

        I am glad you have written this, Larry. I agree with you a hundred percent, and I am glad for the opportunity to articulate common ground with you, particularly on a most important corollary of my article: where do we go from here?
        We leave the door open. We accept and we welcome.

  23. Chana says:

    Perhaps a large chunk of youth do go OTD because of the reasons you lay out, but that does not discount the fact that many also go OTD because they are “pushed” off the derech due to various abuses within the Orthodox community. Where I come from (ultra ortho community) I was forbidden to go to college because of the environment you described. However, my departure from the derech was set off by rabbinic abuse. I was very frum. I no longer am. I am one of those who took the survey.

    I went through a similar type of abuse as this: http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2016/06/21/an-unfortunate-announcement/

    • Rav Dov Fischer says:

      I believe you, Chana.

      This will sound quirky and phony, but I lose sleep some nights because of people who have left Orthodoxy after having been abused.  I understand why they acted as they did.  I believe their reasons.

      Going back to the Baruch Lanner days, when I immediately went on the record publicly to defend people when others were accusing the accusers of spreading loshon horo and hotza’at shem ra, I have done what little I have been able to do to reach out to victims.

      I even know one person who was a veritable “Zelig/Forrest Gump” of abuse.  This person incomprehensibly actually encountered four different infamous abusers during different times in her life.  I have counseled as I could, and I believe that the same  just and loving G-d Who sees the soul of the baby or child or adult snuffed by the German or Polish or other East European or Vichy Nazi, and Whose scales know how to bring eternal equity to the souls of those victims, also can bring eternal equity to the souls of those who have abandoned because of encounters with abusers.

      Thank you for writing, Chana.  I hope that someday an outlier experience will help you come back.  Regardless, I understand and I mourn your loss.

      • mycroft says:

        “This will sound quirky and phony, but I lose sleep some nights because of people who have left Orthodoxy after having been abused.”

        Probably even more have left Yahadus not for sexual abuse but mechanech abuse-mechanchim administrators who get their enjoyment out of pushing our weak away from Yahadus-they really believe in a Social Darwinism of Yahadus-“my way or the highway”equals student taking superhighway from Yahadus

      • mycroft says:

        “Going back to the Baruch Lanner days”

        The real scandal is not what he did but his activites were tolerated for decades because he was charismatic.

      • Dov Fischer says:

        Both: That the charisma bought tolerance . . . and what he did.

      • mycroft says:

        Probably agree-scandal is that due to his success in attracting teenagers to an institution-the institution tolerated his behavior for decades.

      • Dov Fischer says:

        Not only a Jewish community scandal — but a Jewish community crime.
        I personally know victims whose lives were destroyed. And, yes, that is a reason that some left Yahadut.
        For those who believed that his charisma outweighed the complaints, they have to answer.

  24. anon says:

    If you look at the quotes in the full version of the survey, it’s obvious that most of the reasons for going off are a combination of lots of factors. Some respondents said it was purely intellectual, some said the intellectual came first and then other factors, some said the other factors came first but they only actually left after they found intellectual issues, and still others said it was purely emotional. I’m not sure why the survey makes things out to be straightforward and simplistic.

    That said, I don’t know why R’ Fischer makes it sound simplistic either. Perhaps he doesn’t mean it to sound like this, but his article certainly comes across sounding like, “people only go OTD because of ta’avos”, along the lines of R’ Elchonon in Kovetz Ma’amarim that others have pointed to. This is patently false.

    I am a fully practicing Jew. I eat only kosher, I am happily and faithfully married to a wonderful Jewish wife, I send my kids to very frum schools. I am satisfied with this lifestyle. But I don’t believe any of it. And I know of others like me – people who don’t “follow their ta’avos”, yet have lost their faith for purely intellectual reasons. Clearly we, at least, have not gone off because of ta’avos (except perhaps intellectual ta’avos, but that’s not what we’re discussing here).

    So it seems at least plausible that some people go OTD for intellectual reasons. But if it’s plausible, why not take people at their word when they say that was the main or at least part of the reason they left?

    Similarly, there are lots of believing, knowledgeable Jews who explicitly state that they don’t have a good reason to believe other than a leap of faith. But if so, it seems entirely plausible that others will decide not to have that leap of faith and will leave because they haven’t found a good reason to believe. They may be wrong, but I see no reason not to take them at their word that this is why they’re leaving.

    And that’s just in the Jewish world. In the goyishe world there are thousands of extremely intelligent people who don’t believe in G-d for (they say) intellectual reasons. Yet they don’t have any obvious ta’avah reasons to say this – in today’s world they’d be allowed the same ta’avos whether they believed or not. So, once again, we see that it’s extremely plausible for people to be (mis)led to disbelief for intellectual reasons, so once again I see no reason to doubt the study’s claim that lots of people leave for reasons other than ta’avah.

    • YS says:

      I completely agree with this. I would add that Rabbi Fischer completely plays down the other side of the coin, namely that the vast majority of the people who remain frum do so because of their own set of ‘taivos’ – desire to not rock the boat, desire for the belief that your system has all the answers and is completely correct and true, desire to keep your friends and family, desire to get shidduchim for the kids etc.

    • Avi says:

      You don’t believe the analysis because college women are too enticing, therefore, when surveyed, any intellectual reasons they offer are just a psychological cover-up. OK. Certainly plausible, at least in some cases. But:

      How do you explain all the people in this survey who were raised Ultra-Orthodox, where going to college equals OTD in the first place? IOW, they were OTD before they ever got anywhere near a siren blond just waiting to hook up with an ex-Chasid. Check the methodology; this group is a large portion of the survey.

      How do you explain all the women who go OTD? Are they, too, seduced by drunk college wymen?

      How do you explain Orthoprax men and women who go OTD after their college years and stay within the community without indulging in blondes or cheeseburgers? If you ask them, they will tell you that they left “belief” for intellectual reasons and they stay “observant” for emotional/family reasons — do you believe them?

      There is no question that intellectual rationalization plays at lease some part in OTD. For some it’s: “I don’t like this, therefore I don’t believe in it.” Fix the reasons they don’t like Orthodox Judaism, and you should be able to keep them in – even if they go to college. For others, it’s “I don’t believe in this, so why keep doing it?” or even “I don’t believe in this, but I’ll do some of it for the parents/wife/kids/community.” For them, either come up with better arguments for faith, or wish them the best and hope they come back. Telling them that they left for hormonal reasons just insults their intelligence and, frankly, may drive them away forever by giving them emotional reasons to hate frumkeit when that wasn’t originally the problem.

    • Monty says:

      Whenever people talk about how they live the frum lifestyle but don’t believe in it, I feel the need to ask this question:

      If one of your children opted out ch”v, how would you react?

  25. Tal Benschar says:

    Just last week, the electorate in Great Britain voted to leave the European Union. Right up until the last minute, every poll showed that the “remain” position was going to win handily, and one of the leaders of the “leave” position even conceded that they had lost.  Then everyone woke up and found out otherwise.  And that’s a relatively simply issue that has a binary choice – leave or remain.
    The accuracy of a survey on a much more complex issue of why people leave Orthodoxy (if indeed they were Orthodox to begin with) is even more unreliable.  People lie to pollsters, and as R. Fischer points out, they even lie to themselves about the reasons for their behavior.

    • larry says:

      Prove to me that someone lied in this poll. Just because someone has 40 year old anecdotal evidence it does not make them correct.  As an attorney Rabbi Fischer knows full well that he presented a load of heresay and conjecture none of which proves a thing.

    • David Ohsie says:

      “Right up until the last minute, every poll showed that the “remain” position was going to win handily”.

      This is completely untrue. In fact polls a week before “leave” ahead, and the latest polls had “remain” ahead by far less than the % of undecideds.   Besides which there are lots of errors inherent in such polls, true sampling of the people who will actually vote being perhaps the biggest.

      See for yourself here: http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2016-brexit-watch/

      • Tal Benschar says:

        David — the day before the vote, all of the leading news outlets were reporting that Brexit was going to be voted down the next day.  And Nigel Farage conceded defeat on the eve of the election.  Clearly, many polls were simply wrong in their predictions.

        <i> Besides which there are lots of errors inherent in such polls, true sampling of the people who will actually vote being perhaps the biggest.</i> — That just points out another weakness in polls, sampling errors.  R. Fischer made such a point in his article.  


      • Richard says:

        More likely people had biases that held them back from believing what the polls said. If you actually would look at the polling data, you would see that David Ohsie is correct. This is similar to the Trump phenomenon – the polls consistently showed him ahead, but people didn’t think it possible for non-poll reasons.

      • David Ohsie says:

        Tal, you changed your argument, but it is still ineffective.  If you falsely believe a poll accurately puts you ahead by 4%, then you will be very confident of a win, while the result was 52% vs 48%.  Even if you chalk that entirely up to people be embarrassed to say “leave” (for which there is no evidence), that gives you 4% of the populace giving the wrong answer to please the pollster.

        Other source of error are either inapplicable (incorrect likely voter model) or don’t specifically bias the results one way or the other.  The poll may or may not be accurate, but to tell, you have to actually look at it and analyze it rather that simply dismissing it out of hand as something that cannot possibly tell you anything.


    • mycroft says:

      Polls tend to be very accurate in terms of giving a close idea how people will vote-obviously in a close election being off by a 2% can be crucial-but that is not relevant to the issues being discussed here. For an analysis of accuracy of US polls in the 2012 election see


    • lacosta says:

      what benefit is there for the O power structure to call for data if any data that is disconcerting will be discounted?     Is the point to be like the molestation crisis to deny deny deny and blame the victim?  How can one create vaccines if one wishes to blame ‘bad humors’ as the cause of maladies?

      Is the feeling to be that a certain amount of ‘ wastage’ is inevitable and unpreventable?  And therefore whatever OTD’s have to say is irrelevant?

  26. Hershel says:

    The more things change, the more they remain the same. I spent 1965 – 1975 in undergraduate and graduate schools. Then it was on to the secular world with, obviously even more choices. To whit (the women described in the following but only three of such anecdotes were not the hotties of the essay, but pleasant enough):

    Senior year, undergraduate, library based, study group for an especially difficult course: one young lady became enamored of me and kept inviting me to her apartment for additional study. I never went.

    There was a most attractive fellow student. All the males swarmed her like drones, except me. So of course, I represented a challenge. She was most friendly to me, the only yarmelka in the program. I was friendly back but that was all.

    At a professional conference, a committee woman I had come to know from previous meetings hit on me, in front of my wife no less! Nothing more need be said.

    Why do I bring up these failed sirens? I think it mostly had to do with my upbringing and Centrist Ortho education. By the time a person is about 18 y/o, their core values must certainly be in place. Thus, just perhaps the MO education, then and now, is just not up to instilling the solid foundation needed to fend off competing values (sic) coming from a variety of academic and attractive sources. Similarly, just perhaps an extremist Charedie education is just so stifling that the seeds of rebellion are already planted, long before ‘Simcha’ heads of to college and/or the secular world of work.

    The Charedie Rabbis in my youth had no confidence in what the Centrist Rabbis provided me and so they called my parents, warning them against sending me to college (college a four-letter word to them, then and now). They were wrong. Pretty much everyone I grew up and went to school with, remained quite observant and raised observant children. Indeed, some are even talmedei chachomim in their own right, all while practicing their secular professions. Seemingly, nothing has actually changed.

    Those raised Charedie either stay in yeshivas/seminaries (no college and little probability of financial independence in the secular world of work)  or go OTD at some point with all the attendant stress and strain. Those raised MO go off to college, likely ill-prepared to face down all the temptations and progressive academics Rabbi Fischer describes.

    So stated, a solution emerges. It’s all about the education and exposures young minds perceive and absorb before college. I know, easier said then done. However, you cannot solve a problem until after it is properly recognized and described.

  27. jeanette friedman says:

    Right, and those who practice Yiddishkeit by hitting their children,  with teachers who insult them, who make fun of them, who throw them out of class from first grade on.. people who practice Yiddishkeit by literally telling women they are useless and need to submit to their wife battering husbands because he is the boss, those who practice Yiddishkeit by telling little kids that it’s a mitzvah for them to be sexually abused, never mind the intellectual problems… but women? We have been labeled whores since the day we were born by many frum men–who happen to despise women.

    You Rabbi Pinky, are exactly the kind of guy who would push someone on the edge to do themselves in. That must make you proud. Very Proud.

    Do the world a favor and do some teshuva. Ask God about your arrogance.

    • Dov Fischer says:

      You have been through a great deal of pain and sorrow, Ms. Friedman, imposed by people who violated fundamentals of our Torah, our culture, and our world. The pain of your experiences comes out with your every sentence. I wish I could have been there to be of succor. I do not know how to persuade you that we are not all misogynists and that, quite the contrary, we are good people. If I were to document for you how many women I have helped through my career — women I mentored and guided professionally in their legal careers, with whom I shared networks and promoted careers and opportunities to break glass ceilings; women whom I assisted in obtaining gittin or other forms of justice which was their right — I doubt that it would relieve your pain or change your perspective. So I will leave it at that.

  28. David Ohsie says:

    I appreciate this post for pointing out the interesting survey.  However there seems to be little in they way of actual analysis of the survey results:

    1) Yes, people lie on surveys.  Then the author goes on to describe one particular scenario: Modox men leaving for women at college.  But this hardly applies to the 61% who identified as Yeshivish, Chasidic, or Chabad, nor to the 26% of Modox who report “leading a double life”.  Or to those modox who went OTD while married (e.g. “I had to transition while still married to a very spiritual and God fearing husband.”  “I may not have gotten married to the wrong man because I felt I had to be married to be worth anything.”)

    2) On the issue misidentifying orthodox, it find it unlikely that a non-orthodox would identify as Yeshivish, Chasidic, or Chabad (or even Modox for that matter).  So I don’t see the relevance to that criticism here to the overwhelming majority of respondents.

    3) The author doubts that the finding that people leave due “to such reasons as their pursuit of gender equality”.  Yet the survey says that only 3% of men cited “Role and status of women” as their reason for change while 20% of women did.  Is it really hard to believe that women might want to leave a society where, for example, they aren’t allowed to drive?  Or even where they are not given the opportunity equivalent religious education to men?

    4) The top reasons given by men are “Things I read/learned, contradictions, no proof – 21% • Thought for myself, intellectual, preferred rationalism – 16% • General doubts, loss of faith – 14%”.  Given the large portion of Orthodox, (some even who post on this blog), who support the notion that one can’t believe in both modern science and Torah, is this really surprising?

    I would suggest that the author instead do an analysis of the data and provide his own conclusion rather than dancing around the results with anecdotes that don’t even relate to the survey.

    • Dov Fischer says:

      Your thoughts are well conceived, Mr. Ohsie. I have responded at some length to similar thoughts below in earlier comments.
      Again, briefly: Some people who abandon do so for reasons that are based on people they have met. Others based on Groupthink. Some based on job opportunities. Some based on ideas they truly have wrestled with. Some because of abuse. Some because of a desire to experience a new world. Many just go weakly with the flow — as with Millennials for Bernie and Quadragenarians for Hillary.

      A great many people do things for noble reasons, and many others for reasons less noble. However, when asked to explain why they have acted, all proffer noble reasons. I give the example of the families who leave Israel for America when their boys reach age 17 or 16. They say they moved because of social reasons or religious reasons. However, it is hard to miss the fact that they left coincidentally when their sons reached age 17 and 16. The noble reasons are fascinating, but the real reasons sometimes are rooted in the boys’ ages.

  29. Leeba W says:

    So instead of addressing the serious and growing problems with Orthodoxy you call OTD people liars? I wish I were surprised but I’m not. Burying your head in the sand won’t change the truth. Meeting an attractive person on campus doesn’t change a person’s fundamental beliefs. The idea that belief melts away in the face of temptation is simply false. Most people are not that shallow or easily swayed. Will they indulge? Perhaps. But they won’t leave Orthodoxy all together under those circumstances – it’s almost always far deeper. Look around you and see how much of Orthodoxy is focused on the length of a woman’s skirt and issuing ever stricter edicts. Think about whether you are offering your young people real, satisfying answers or just telling them they’re chutzpadig for having a brain and to sit down and be quiet. Consider the possibility that the thousands of OTD people may actually have a point. Or don’t. People like you are part of why I’m happy to no longer be Orthodox.

    • Shua Cohen says:

      Your response is an excellent paradigm for many who have left “Orthodoxy,” namely, “I became disillusioned with ‘the system’ so I’m no longer an observant Jew.” Allow me to explain.

      To the extent that “the system” has raised and educated a generation (both in homes and yeshivas) with a textually oriented pedagogy, one that fairly ignores “G-d,” you are correct that “the system” is deficient. One may chastise Donniel Hartman for “putting G-d second,’ but in truth, during my yeshiva years, I hardly learned about G-d at all. Talmud gemara k’neged kulam pretty much eliminated any examination of personal struggles with basic emunah, the nature of G-d and one’s relationship with Him.

      I have come to a place where I, too, am disillusioned with organized chareidi/yeshivish “religion” (for all of the intellectual, philosophical and political reasons that you allude to and are downplayed by the rationalizers). But, in the end, I am still left with a struggle with G-d, and what He requires of me — rather than what the increasingly chumrah-spouting “system” requires of me to be accepted by the community. I can relatively easily reject the imploding “Orthodox establishment” — but how does that get me off the hook with G-d (should He, indeed, exist)?

      You, Leeba W., clearly state that you are “happy not be be Orthodox” because of PEOPLE! Huh?…what’s that got to do with your relationship with G-d? What do frail and imperfect Jewish human beings got to do with fulfilling mitzvot? If, at the end of 120 years, you discover that G-d exists and Torah is true, are you seriously going to claim to the Bais Din Shel Ma’alah: “I rejected Torah because I was turned off by people like Dov Fischer.” Sadly, that sounds more like a hissy fit than any deep, theological reckoning about the existance of a Ribbono Shel Olam. Dov Fischer is not G-d, just as the fool who issued a psak forbidding girls over 5 to ride bicycles is (thank G-d) not G-d! And you know it! So, sadly, I don’t think you’ll get very far with an argument that blames “the system” for your abandonment of Torah on YOUR day of reckoning [(if G-d truly exists, of course ;-)]

    • Rav Dov Fischer says:

      Hi, Leeba.

      Please see my response below to Shimmy Kogan.  Every rule has exceptions. No one rule fits all sizes.  However, my underlying points stand unrefuted because they are patently obvious.  Again, to apply the same principle while helping you remove the discussion from an area that clearly touches you personally, consider the family that moves to America from Israel.

      Ask non-observant Israeli households why they left Israel for America.  Some will say: “Because of the Orthodox hegemony over family matters.”  Some will say: “Because I hate the Orthodox / the Arabs / the Likud / the high VAT.”  And, yet, when you see that they have arrived with a 17-year-old son and a 16-year-old son, you kind-of learn to infer why they opted for yeridah and why now.  But they will not tell you that reason — because they are ashamed to say it or even to admit it to themselves.

      That is a point you may wish to consider.  That is the underlying principle at play.

      For you to write “Meeting an attractive person on campus doesn’t change a person’s fundamental beliefs. The idea that belief melts away in the face of temptation is simply false. Most people are not that shallow or easily swayed.” may sound ideal.  Like you, I would love for people to be deep, trenchant, strong.

      But that simply is not the way of the world.  There is a reason for Dvarim 7:3-4.  We see this every single day.  (And, by the way, we also see it the other way — where (i) a non-observant man marries a non-Jewish woman; (ii) the woman opts to convert to Judaism and to become shomeret mitzvot; and (iii) the same man who had married exogamously now becomes the shomer mitzvot that his parents never were.)

      When you write “People like you are part of why I’m happy to no longer be Orthodox,” I feel sorry for you.  What pain you must live with!  You do not know me.  You do not know what “people like me” are.  You do not know my thoughts, my feelings, my concerns, my challenges, my fears, my successes.  And yet you can write something that all-consuming and over the top.

      I wish you only the best, and I hope you someday encounter an outloier experience that helps you overcome that hate-rooted chip on your shoulder.

  30. Y. Ben-David says:

    The argument that the prime reason people give up religious observance is that deep down they want to indulge their ta’avot (desires) and they create a philosophy to then justify their non-observance intellectually sounds simply too glib to me. I have met people who survived the Holocaust and gave up observance (I have also met those who maintained observance in spite of their experiences). Do you think really that we can say to them “you are using the Holocaust to justify your pursuit of ta’avot”? Really? I know many pious Jews, full of yir’at shamayim who are troubled by the Holocaust, troubled by seeing good people suffer, troubled by “theological problems” like trying to understand the Akeidat Yitzhak.  These people are sticking with it. But there are people who are equally intellectually honest who can’t resolve these problems and end up chucking it all.

    Most Jews from observant backgrounds, including Jews from prominent Rabbinic families and famous Hasidic Courts abandoned Jewish observance in the second half of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century.  At that time most Jews faced problems like poverty, endemic antisemitism and intellectual challenges like the supposed contradictions between science and Torah and they found that the Torah leadership had great difficulties, with some exceptions, in giving young Jews good explanations as how to grapple with these problems.  I can’t accept that this massive falling away happened because of their “ta’avlot” or suddenly most Jewish mothers gave birth to a couple of generations of “reshaim”.  Saying that “it is inherently obvious that the Torah is true, so if someone doesn’t accept it it must be because of his “ta’avot” or that he was misled by some “rasha” doesn’t work because others religions use exactly the same argument for their own religion. People are going to continue to ask questions, people are going to continue to grasp with difficulties with understanding the Torah and people are going to continue to try to find the proper way for the Jew in the world and it is up to the Torah leadership to come up with the right answers to satisfy this natural questioning people have.

  31. Mindy Schaper says:

    As someone who runs the programming for Project Makom, a new organizaton helping people with chareidi backgrounds find their place in Orthodoxy, I find the accusation that people abandon religion due to attractive women/defeat to the larger culture offensive.

    I won’t speak for those coming from a Modern Orthodox community, since that is not where I come from nor do I deal with that all day, but the many Makom members who I am privileged to know, as well as my own life story coming from a (modern) Chassidish family in Boro Park, bely your attributions.

    The people with whom I speak for hours move away from the community for the reasons listed in the survey. No more, no less.

    How can you disregard pages and pages of choices and verbal testimony? I majored in psychology and took several statistics classes. I understand how poorly constructed research can produce illegitimate responses. But is this brief survey so offensive to you that you entirely discredit anything it says?

    It entirely concurs with my experience with disaffected people. And I deal with people who *want* to remain religious, and who also experience the same alienating factors listed in the survey.

    It’s incredibly disrespectful to accuse people who have been through and go through existential struggles, intellectual struggles, struggles with their families and communities that the reason they do it all is because of group think or pretty women. It may be a small factor, but for most people I have seen, the factors listed in the survey ring true.

    • Dov Fischer says:

      I concur with a great deal of what you write, Ms. Schaper.

    • avi says:

      Ms. Schaper, the answer indeed is that comparing the modox and chassidic communities is apples and oranges.

  32. Tzvi Deutsch says:

    Just as you saw the anecdotal evidence of yeshivah’s popping up everywhere and new pizza stores opening, I have seen much anecdotal evidence of the facts portrayed in the survey this article references. If anything, this survey largely confirms much of what I have known for many years through my own personal experience.

    While I am observant now, I was not for a number of years. I find your insinuation that myself and others like me leave behind a tradition of 3,000 years for a roll in the hay to be highly demeaning and a reflection on your own biases rather than on the facts. If you consider the repercussions of leaving a loving home, an accepting community, generations of tradition, to throw it all away, to destroy your good relationships with family just to have some fun, you have to be crazy, or have nothing to lose.

    When I left, I had nothing to lose. I did not feel safe. I did not feel I had a loving family. I did not have any real connection to the tradition beyond habit and fear. I was sad, depressed. Life wasn’t very hopeful. (My perspective at the time rather than the facts are what mattered to me then). I left because I wanted to be happy, because I knew there had to be something better. To suggest that a beautiful girl who smokes a joint and takes you to bed is somehow any solution for happiness, that somehow you know it isn’t, but all of us out here, we are just clueless, is at the very least extremely condescending. In fact, I first achieved some measure of happiness and peace as a secular person.

    And yes, they are leaving in droves. I don’t need any surveys to tell me this. In my pretty regular yeshivish family of ten, there are 3 defectors (not including myself as I have returned to observance), and there were many families in the neighborhood that were affected. I think 10% is a conservative estimate for people raised orthodox who leave. And those are just the ones who leave openly, not the “double-lifers”. If you count the people who go through the motions and dress the part but have no real connection or joy in observance, I would not be surprised if the numbers were over 50%.

    Your suggestion that the reasons offered in this survey are just liberal talking points completely misses the point. No one just leaves because of any of those reasons. People leave because they are miserable, inside. At that point, there are any number of reasonable complaints and justifications. And just try asking those questions in a frum school like “If a woman can be a heart surgeon, why can’t she be trusted to testify in a Jewish court?”. Questions like that are enough to start the alienation and rejection process, but rest assured that by the time they throw away the external religious garb, they were disconnected emotionally for a long time, and it wasn’t because of a pretty girl or a joint.

    I know I may take some heat for suggesting that most people who go OTD do so primarily and initially because of emotional reasons, but I believe that to be the case. And to get the heart of the matter, whenever anyone provides an intellectual reason for having left observance, ask them if they were happy and well adjusted when they left, and when they raised their intellectual objections, before they left or after. I have yet to meet someone who is OTD who had a smooth ride (at home, in school), and then came up with a few good questions, then left observance. That is the lens through which these different survey responses have to be looked through. Instead of attacking the survey, try and understand it.

    You can stay within the community and have women and smoke joints. I have certainly come across some who are on that on that path. You don’t need to cut your payos off for a momentary indulgence. People actively leave the community when they feel rejected, hurt, unwelcome, misunderstood, when they have felt lots of pain. And that problem will only increase as the definition of the “Derech” stays as narrow as it is. Want less people to leave? Stop shoving them into boxes. Let them find their own way without judging them. And stop pretending this isn’t an issue.

    • Dov Fischer says:

      Thank you for your very poignant and passionate contribution to this discussion, Mr. Deutsch. Thank you very sincerely and gratefully. In your next-to-last paragraph, you write exceptionally powerfully and insightfully:
      “I know I may take some heat for suggesting that most people who go OTD do so primarily and initially because of emotional reasons, but I believe that to be the case. And to get the heart of the matter, whenever anyone provides an intellectual reason for having left observance, ask them if they were happy and well adjusted when they left, and when they raised their intellectual objections, before they left or after. I have yet to meet someone who is OTD who had a smooth ride (at home, in school), and then came up with a few good questions, then left observance.”
      You should not take heat for writing that. It is true.

  33. Tzuri says:

    First of all, this is a very well thought out and well written article. Though I do not agree with many of the conclusions, I truly see the point of view that the conclusions come from and acknowledge it’s validity from within the mindset. That being said, I am currently a Modern Orthodox student at a secular university, where I have happily spent the past two years.  If my school (which is not Colombia, or even an Ivy-League institution) is any indication, times have changed quite a bit since 1971. My school is known for being a party school. On top of that, it has quite a big party-culture. But it also has one of the most vibrant Modern Orthodox communities that I have experienced. Yes, things nearly identical to what is described in this article happen, but the vast majority of those who I know have managed to stay frum very easily. There is no fear to publicly wear our kippot on campus. There is also a fully functioning kosher cafeteria and meal plan, all-Jewish housing with males and females separated on opposite sides of the building, off-campus houses that are exclusively kosher and shomer Shabbat, two and sometimes three Orthodox minyanim (both meeting three times a day), and two fully functioning batei midrash with plenty of Orthodox rebbaim and students to learn with. If one is within the frum social circles, it is very hard to leave the derech (that’s not to say it isn’t possible if you try). The same is true for many other secular universities that I am familiar with. If a person wants to go OTD, they will do that no matter where they are, even if they are at a place like YU and Tuoro. If a person wants to stay frum, it is very easy to do it at a lot of secular universities today, though granted there are also a lot of secular universities that are basically asking you to go OTD. One must make the right decision where to go. In my own experience, in between my classes, I was able to get an average of about 6 hours of learning in my daily schedule. Depending on my work load it would sometimes be more and sometimes be less. While going to a secular university can definitely lead to what is described in the beginning of this article, my personal experience (which I am still experiencing) has taught me that staying frum on campus is far from impossible. For the sake of full-disclosure, I am also a member of an all-Jewish fraternity and have been to many parties like what is described. For me, that life just doesn’t have the same appeal as being in the beit midrash, learning gemara with a good chevruta.

  34. sb says:

    To Leeba W and others who are taking umbrage at being called “Liars”, get over it. As I pointed out in another post, this article is very consistent with Rav Dessler. In his essay “The roots of mussar” Rav Dessler says mussar is predicated on the acceptance of the fact that we all lie to ourselves. That is, in matters of religion,ethics,right and wrong, we are biased to choose that which is easiest, or that which fits with what we want to do, or that which feels more natural. We all lie to ourselves to justify what we want to do.

    So the flaw in this survey, is that the reasons are just justifications and rationalizations.

    Recently a friend came to me to confide on some personal issues. He is going through a rough time in his marriage, and since I am divorced and remarried he wanted some advice. During the conversation he admitted that hashkofically he had changed his views to a belief in Spinoza’s god. During our conversation I didn’t even address that issue, because I understood it’s roots. When you are going through a tragedy (in my case a divorce) you spend a lot of time crying and praying. And when it seems like nothing you do is helping, it’s only natural to feel as if there isn’t a God (or to lash out at religion). I reached this crossroads during my tragedy, but I choose to strengthen my emunah, and since then I have seen amazing hatzlocho in my life. It may be simplistic but sometimes the answer from God is different from what we think is good from us.

    So, If you are OTD and annoyed by this article, at least recognize that there may be a little truth to the idea that you are rationalizing.

  35. Sarah says:

    This could have been a fine article, were it titled “One man’s thoughts, based on his personal experience and characteristics, on One reason why a small subset of frum Jews (MO males in liberal colleges) go OTD”.

    I completely agree with the initial premise about the inherent risks and frequent misrepresentations in drawing conclusions from statistics, and I looked forward to an article that would dissect some of the purported (by the author) fallacious reasoning used to come up with the conclusions of the survey.  Instead I found an article that uses cutesy anecdotes and personal experience to “prove” the authors point that ta’ava is the primary reason that someone may go OTD.   As one of “the female pursuasion” I was also not impressed that the author chose to focus exclusively on MO males in college… and then extrapolate those ideas to the entire spectrum of frum Jews. This article in effect denies the effects abuse, mental illness, poverty, intellectual dissonance,  poor parenting, incompetent leadership, personal tragedy, a narrowing set of norms, an increasing set of “membership” rules, full secular opportunity versus very limited religious opportunity for women, leadership that punishes victims and protects perpetrators , communities that take pride in exclusion instead of inclusion, and other factors have on leading frum Jews OTD.  Does the author not recognize that many teens leave the derech before ever stepping foot in a college environment?  That there are those who go OTD later in life, and often leave behind a family and community?  That women may go OTD for very different reasons than men?  What about those who aren’t officially “OTD” but are orthoprax – can we conclude that they’ve stopped believing for the sake of ta’ava, when they will never indulge in said ta’avos?

    There is no doubt that ta’avos, specifically those sexual in nature, are a strong factor in leading some OTD.  And it is also true that some of those who leave for this reason will clothe their desires with intellectual or practical rationales.  But it is by far not the only, or most common, reason that frum Jews (remember, this body is comprised of males and females, old and young, MO, yeshivish and chassidish, of a wide-range of backgrounds and experiences) leave the fold. It is unfair to those who have left , and also unhelpful to those who try to bring them home, to portray it as such.

    (On a side note, your portrayal of women as evil seductresses is false, misleading, and demeaning, even when you attempt to temper that portrayal afterwards. Please keep this in mind for the future.)

    • Dov Fischer says:

      Sarah, thank you for your very well conceived post, expanding greatly beyond my contribution . . . and valuably.

      (Again, women are not evil seductresses. The article merely notes, as does D’varim 7:3-4, that people can impact greatly on the values and beliefs of their significant others. It is true of men impacting their female significant others. It is true of women impacting their significant others. It just is.)

      • Nathan says:

        Its all very good to blame lusts for the defection of the young, but ultimately this line of argument is self serving to the Frum World (which conveiniently uses this thinking because it is in line with its own need for self justification…Talk about desires perverting one’s thinking!) We love to blame the defector for defecting. That allows the Frum Community and its institutions and laders to wash their hands of the problem. “Our presentation of the Torah shows its great wisdom relative to what e wrold has to offer! Our Mesorah is inspiring! Emuna is simple! We are all doing a great job! The people who abandon The Derech are just blinded by their lusts and internal dishonesty!” In reality it doesn’t matter whether they leave because of  some inedequacy in the spiritual life of the community, or because lust perverts their thinking. If our community can’t produce young people who can handle the challenges of life (including their own lusts, desires and yearnings for what the big world offers) then we are in serious trouble and we need to do something about it. Unlesss, of course if we want to let ourselves off the hook and blame the young people themselves, which ammounts to saying it could’t have been helped. Or perhaps the secret agenda is to keep young people from going to college, to trap them in a bubble of isolationism, because we think that will somehow save them from lusts, yearnings and the desire to know what is beyong the walls. Although this approach is inherent to the “swing to the right,” I do not believe it will it will be effective.

      • Dov Fischer says:

        Your thoughts are valuable, Nathan. I did not address any of these matters in my article. Rather, I wrote about something else.

      • Nathan says:

        Thanks for saying so. My we all merit success and the fulfillment of our good intentions.

  36. Joe Hill says:

    Rabbi Fischer,


    This is a well written, well presented and on-target article. Thank you for writing this blockbuster article full of points at the perfect time.


    Yasher Koach


  37. Lonna says:

    What the author appears to be saying, obfuscated under a great deal of anecdotal judgmentalism, is that there is often a reason people start to question their beliefs. And  that reason may be external to the belief system.

    He posits that ta’avah is the reason, and that intelligent  people will give up their family, their community, their culture, and everything else they know in life for pleasures.

    This is an old Jewish belief, as it has been said many times in the past 3,000 years that nobody goes off the derech unless their yetzer hara overwhelms them.

    As an OTD person I would agree, but with a slight change of angle.

    Nobody starts questioning unless they first given the impetus.

    For example, if your rabbi turns out to be a molester,  you may question the faith in the rabbinate that you were raised with. You may wonder if today’s rabbis are any different than those in the past. This brings you to question the foundation of Orthodoxy, which is belief in the rabbinical system of Judaism.

    If you ask a halachic question “why is this not okay” and the answer turns out to be “well we don’t do it” you may look into the evolution of halacha, and be disturbed by how common practice has typically taken precedence over halachic concepts (except the one about minhag becoming halacha). You may begin to doubt the practices of the community you were raised in.

    I could give more examples, but I think I make my point. It is true that there are complex, underlying reasons  why people begin to question. But the fact is, once they started to question, they found a shortage of answers. And this is what is reflected in the survey.

    If orthodoxy wants to address its OTD problem, it needs to stop being defensive and offensive, and start listening and responding.



    • chaim7356 says:


      I think Dov was referring to the huge attrition rates that take place during the collegiate years. None of these students are worried about their rabbi being a molester, and none of them suddenly have epiphanies on the college campus about the why’s and why not’s of halacha. The environment they encounter on campus presents a challenge to their belief system, and it does so 24/7, endlessly. Some kids can handle it, but the majority cannot.


      • dr. bill says:

        I have not seen hard data.  however, i have been led to believe that if you place attendees at a secular college in three buckets:1) abandon traditional practice soon after arriving, hardly the result of their yet to happen college experience, 2) abandon traditional practice at some later point in their college experience, where the college environment is likely a factor, and 3) leave pretty much as they arrived – 2) is the least significant bucket.  i know there is much claimed by various individuals in opposition, but until I see hard data, i will continue to believe what i am told by reliable sources.

  38. Shmuel Landesman says:

    Rabbi Fischer:

    Thank you for your excellent and correct analysis.

  39. Ilana Houten says:

    Mr. Fischer,

    After reading your uniquely myopic interpretation of the data from this survey it has become readily apparent that you missed your calling as a comedian.

    I left the frum community because of cognitive dissonance. Taiveh wasn’t an issue – unless one counts a yearning for sanity.


    • Dov Fischer says:

      I am sorry you left the frum community, Ms. Houten. I hope that someone someday will come your way with the answers, the insights, the character that is worthy — and will present Torah Judaism in a way that makes it appealing to you again.

    • The College Rabbi says:

      Ms. Houten,

      After reading your comment I am curious to what this “cognitive dissonance” actually is.   Cognitive dissonance alone does not produce the anger and hostility percolating through your comment.  For example, when I was 14 I considered myself a socialist.  At some point during college I came to the conclusion that Socialism was an untenable position and I have since embraced free market principles, and have changed my voting patterns to reflect that.  I’m not angry at socialists though.  I don’t make snide comments at them or engage in ad hominem attack on them.

      Clearly something more personal took place that you’re omitting from the conversation.  While it is not our business what that is or was, it is disingenuous to pretend that whatever happened didn’t factor into your decision.  Those of us who are part of the Orthodox world see it as one of the last bastions of sanity in the world, so I am curious where you have found yourself that you believe to be in less need of professional help.

  40. Ruvieruvie says:

    Rabbi Fischer writes: “Why does someone go OTD?  Maybe because of abuse.  Or maybe because of a chance to marry into a fascinating new world, as Eilis finds when she encounters Tony in “Brooklyn.”  Some people just want to “get away.”  To get away from their parents.  To get away from their heritage.  To get away from their country.”

    I hope this is not a list in order of what most likely % because there seems to be personal bias and a lack of understanding (of course there is always survey bias but that is why you have a margin of error). What is missing (besides the obvious major reasons in the survey which you are dismissing)? Low 30% of all respondents do not believe in GOD – the rest is commentary.


    • Steve Brizel says:

      Are you the author of the annexed linked article?/kavvanah.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/being-a-supportive-parent-to-child-who-leaves-orthodoxy-ruvie/

      • Hi, Steve. Nice to see your name here.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Hi Mark ( a/ka Moish) from our days when we used to daven in his shul when we visited my in laws in my wife’s home town for yom Tov-How do your push and pull factors correlate with the well known elements of family, community and education that have been discussed by prior authors on this subject?

      • Ruvieruvie says:


      • Steve Brizel says:

        Ruvieruvie wrote in part:

        “there seems to be personal bias and a lack of understanding”

        Not sure what you mean here. IOW, one would think that a parent who put a large chunk of $ into tuition for K-12 and possibly for a year or two in Israel would feel like a failure if their kid simply walked away from being a Shomer Torah UMitzvos. I think that the real issue is that of whether a parent feels as if he or she has a personal investment in their child’s religious development and seeing that child and grandchildren as the means of transmitting Torah to the next generation as opposed to merely providing the child with a nice Jewish education and the requisite secular education and then letting their child make their own decision as to their goal in life of being observant or not.  IMO, this is the key decision that parents, together with their children, communities and educational institutions have to work on so as to see true Yiddishe nachas from their children.

      • Ruvieruvie says:


        All parents – tat I know of – feel that they have a personal investment in their children’s education. No one I know is letting their children make their own decision – that is not what jewish education is about as you know. Regardless, children become non religious even with the best intentions of parents in many of the cases I am familiar with. What I am surprise is the deafness of communal responsibility. As to this post – there is a lot to be side and unpack why this is incorrect analysis even though some valid critique. Item 3 especially.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I read your post initially on Dr Brill’s blog, to which no comments were permitted, and IIRC, you urged the reader not to use the term OTD and to avoid passing judgment inasmuch the choice was made by an adult. I can only suggest that values are caught by children, as opposed to being accepted when taught by adults. Rabbi Fischer and other authors on this issue have written that family priorities and goals as well as attitudes towards Torah and Mitzvos play no small role.  ( Yes-Mycroft-teens can assert their independence-but if they had respect for the values in their home as expressed by parents and as to what are priorities in their parents’ lives-there is a far stronger possibility that the child will follow in the ways of their parents. After all,  while the assertion of independence is natural by adolescents, parents can help insure that such a process is consistent with the transmission of Torah values to the next generation.) I think that the proper communal response is to engage in Cheshbon Hanefesh as to what went wrong because we are all responsible for each other as a community and individuals.

      • mycroft says:


        i don’t watch YES often but this afternoon Stephen a Smith was a guest on a show when a PO tried to blame parents for how kids turned out- he was vehement parents have responsibilities but to pretend that they have influence on their teenagers is ludicrous. A frum Prof of Social Work once told me that  normalteenagers from about 12-23 as part of separation essentially try out being reverse of their parents- many after 23 or so believe that their parents were right .

      • mycroft says:

        “I think that the real issue is that of whether a parent feels as if he or she has a personal investment in their child’s religious development and seeing that child and grandchildren as the means of transmitting Torah to the next generation as opposed to merely providing the child with a nice Jewish education and the requisite secular education and then letting their child make their own decision as to their goal in life of being observant or not”

        As if teenagers all follow their parents and don’t try and asert their independence.

  41. Behnam Dayanim says:

    So… it’s all about sex?  This has to be one of the most dismissive, patronizing and demeaning articles I’ve seen – of both men and women. There is no doubt that college-aged men and women are driven in large measure by a number of motivations, some thoughtful and deep-seated but many far more superficial.  Nonetheless, to dismiss the validly held concerns of many regarding gender equality and related issues in this way is disappointing.  (And, for the record, I attended Yeshiva University, married a Stern College grad and continue to identify with Modern Orthodoxy.)

  42. In the response to the comment that about half of the respondents left for intellectual reasons, the survey did not show that.
    We divided the reasons given for leaving the community into:Push Factors – Internal conditions, perceptions or awareness that people dislike and that therefore “push” them away from their community, such as the role/status of women and community hypocrisy/double standards; andPull Factors – External conditions or sources of awareness that are attractive to people and therefore “pull” them out the community, such as scientific knowledge or reading things that contradict beliefs.A few of the reasons given could not be definitively categorized, and are labeled as “indeterminate.”
    The Push Factors exerted more of an influence overall on people leaving their community …. 55% to 33%, with 12% indeterminate. Thus, we concluded that, at some level, the community is pushing people out more than the people themselves are seeking to leave.

    • Dov Fischer says:

      The survey is a noble effort. I warmly congratulate the effort. For rabbonim like me, who work in kiruv, the information could be profoundly useful and deeply valuable because the more we understand and learn about the causes, the better we are able to address problems and work toward solutions. Indeed, such a survey can be valuable across the board, for laity, too.
      The survey’s flaw is in failing to distinguish for the reader in its “findings” between (i) the reasons self-reported by people for abandoning, versus (ii) the actual reasons people abandoned.
      On a wide variety of subjects where people have abandoned something, many people will say or self-report that they were “pushed” out — whether discussing why they abandoned Judaism, the school math team, the book they were going to write, the little league baseball team, the law firm or law career, living in Israel, or so many, many other things — when, in fact, the actual reason or reasons they left may have been profoundly different, and often less noble in inception.
      If the study actually could be done in a way where the expensive hard work of investigating the background and actual reasons of each abandoning person could be determined authoritatively, that would be valuable.
      The irony here is reading the survey’s defenders engage in defensively backing a survey that, at its core, is rooted in unscientific anecdote, where the survey merely is gathering the self-reports — some accurate, some false and self-serving, but all simply self-reported by those who abandoned.
      The survey should say: “Here are the reasons that people who have abandoned claim are the reasons they abandoned. Some respondents’ answers may be assumed to be true and accurate. Other respondents’ answers may be assumed to be self-serving reasons, more noble and quite different from the actual reasons they abandoned, even where those respondents today believe they are self-reporting accurately. Such lesser noble reasons for abandoning may include but not be limited to the role of their being impacted unduly by Significant Others, by social pressures to conform to the Spirit of the Age, by desires to maximize income, by personal long-term conflicts with family members, by the desire just to try a different life that seems to offer them more opportunities to travel and to experience entertainment on weekends, by the role of Groupthink, and — for those at college or graduate school — the additional impacts caused by pressure from classmates, dorm mates, and professors, and by other factors that may sound less noble but that may have been the actual reasons that certain people abandoned.

      • Thank you, Rabbi Dov,

        The question as to why people left their community was open-ended. Essentially, we wanted people to tell us in their own words why they made the decisions they did. We received oner 80,000 words of what I believe is honest, insightful and often poignant reflection. Out goal is to hear these people’s voices …. please support that effort by not casting aspersions. (What you suggest, that someone authoritative check out each person’s story to really figure out why they left, is … well, to be euphemistic, I’ll just say it’s ‘impractical.”)

      • Dov Fischer says:

        Sure, I totally get it. And the survey did a fine job in gathering anecdotal responses from respondents who chose to proffer their self-reported anecdotal reasons. The survey gives insight into what people, who are asked to self-report why they did something, choose to report as their reasons. However, it does not take a rav of 35 years and a litigator of 15 years to know that people, when asked why they did or said something, often give reasons that are self-serving and that do not accurately convey why they actually did something or said something. This is just the way of people, of all people — Jewish, non-Jewish; men, women; in the context of religion, employment, and virtually every aspect of life.
        Some people are deeply self-aware, and they feel comfortable sharing their self-awareness. Others are different.
        Even a rank amateur knows that, when Israelis with 17-year-old boys and 16-year-old boys move their families to America and are surveyed as to why they abandoned, they will give reasons attributing their move to religious, social, financial, and similar considerations. And there even may be some accuracy to those factors having played secondary reinforcing reasons. However, even rank amateurs know that something else is going on — why they did not move earlier but did move when the boys reached their teens.
        When today’s Millennials are asked why they support Bernie Sanders, they will speak of social justice, equality, breaking up the banks and Wall Street, and similar things. Yet, even rank amateurs cannot help but notice that Quadragenarians with similar goals and concerns tend to line up behind Hillary and shudder at the thought of Bernie. So we ask: how explain the dissonance? The act of self-reporting ultimately is anecdotal and, in a great many cases, even can be self-serving.
        Among the most powerful influences in people reaching decisions to do, to say, and to believe things are the impact of their Significant Others and the general social pressures of their environments that lead to the sociological phenomenon of Groupthink. On yet another level, Woodward and Bernstein taught an earlier generation to “follow the money.” In the present context, many people find extraordinary economic opportunities closed to them when they strictly follow halakha. As they make minor compromises, doors open. Sometimes those opened doors lead to new compromises to open more doors.
        In the instant survey, the focus emphasizes “push-pull” factors. The survey does not seem to employ such classic mechanisms as asking people to grade relative factors covering a broad range of realistic possibilities on scales of 1-5 or 1-10. Even if it did — which it did not — the survey ultimately is purely anecdotal because, as you understandably and correctly write, an undertaking to get at the actual facts and actual reasons would be impracticable.
        I totally respect and applaud your effort to help all of us understand why some abandon. We need that information. With that information, our Torah community will be focused with clear challenges to address and attempt to resolve communal matters as they inhere in America circa 2016. For example, let’s just hypothesize that a survey could document that a certain percentage of young Orthodox Jews in their late 20s and early 30s have moved away from certain communal adhesion because they are blown away by the financial cost they will be facing in putting their future several kids through 12 years of yeshiva and summer camp, then we have to address that with a new urgency. If the reason is partly because of social pressures and romantic and related influences on the college campus, then perhaps we need to take a new look at the way our yeshiva high schools promote college education — and how our yeshiva high school curricula prepare teens for that world.
        The Pew Study gave us lots of valuable data, and your study would have been a very valuable contribution beyond that raw data. Your study certainly has value for its anecdotal approach, as if to say: “Here are the reasons that many who have abandoned self-report as the reasons they abandoned. We have no idea what percentage of these responses reflect actual reasons that people have abandoned. We certainly would not expect many to tell us that the reason they abandoned was because of a boyfriend, a girlfriend, or the chance that abandoning offered them to fit in with broadly expanded social circles of new fascinating men and women who never otherwise would have been accessible to them. We would not expect many to self-report that they were brainwashed by their social-sciences professors or by a campus climate where 90 percent of the population all are expected to believe the same things, say the same things, vote the same way, wear the same clothes, and isolate socially those whose viewpoints differ from the Accepted Truth. We would not expect many to self-report that, in the face of the social and other surrounding pressures, they were too weak to stand their ground and to stand like an Avraham Ha-Ivri, alone on one side of the divide when the rest of the world stands on the other side. We would not expect many to self-report other reasons that may have contributed, like job opportunities and the like. Given that disclaimer, we offer the public an insight into what many such individuals truly have come to believe, over time, are the reasons they abandoned. Towards that end, we have set up the dichotomy of push-pull factors without exploring a third angle: inner needs, of all varieties, conscious or not.”
        Nonetheless, despite its flaws, I absolutely concur that the survey was undertaken with excellent intentions and without a preordained agenda. And I respect that the more scientific, less anecdotal effort would have been impracticable given the realities.

    • mycroft says:

      “Thus, we concluded that, at some level, the community is pushing people out more than the people themselves are seeking to leave.”

      Especially the non elites are pushed out. They aren’t wanted

  43. Yechiel Berkowitz says:

    As someone who has seen happily married well adjusted people leave orthodoxy for intellectual reasons, I feel you do a deep disservice to characterize the motivations so superficially. The yeshiva world, with its perpetual disdain for science and rationalism, its constant magical thinking as demonstrated by the constant barrage of medrashim presented to children as ideas to be taken at face value, its constant stress on hiskatnu hadoros and daas torah without context, is a very significant factor in people’s decision to abandon observance. I say this as an orthodox individual.  Your approach is pedantic, and does nothing but further delay addressing critical deficiencies in our educational system.

    • R.B. says:

      R’ Fischer’s comments relate to MO going OTD, not those in the yeshivishe world.

  44. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft wrote in part:

    “That Orthodoxy which you always make fun of supplied much of those who attended YU through the at least the 60s.”

    That is historically incorrect. The undergraduate  students who attended RIETS and EMC ( now IBC) were all day school and yeshiva high school ( MTA, Flatbush, etc ) products, as opposed to products of Talmud Torahs. JSS was primarily highly motivated BTs and a few students with weak yeshiva backgrounds who were willing to start from scratch.


  45. Steve Brizel says:

    .Mycroft wrote:
    “limiting ones availability to the elites will increase the vigor-but I never learned in my days at Yeshiva that Yahadus should be limited to the elites-either those who have a lot of income or can make leining on a ksos.”
    Whoever said anything of the sort? It is neither elitist to have a lot of income nor to be able to make a leining on a primary source. Having a lot of money depends on your ability to earn money and hard work. Being able to make a leining is hardly limited to Bakiim and Iluim but is a skill that takes time, energy, willpower and some intelligence and is a core element of the mitzvah of Talmud Torah. Moreover, I think IMO that if you know someone who is looking for work, he or she will get a tuition break without even having to ask for the same for a tuition committee. OTOH, claiming that a Talmud Torah can produce Bnei and Bnos Torah in the US for successive generations is IMO a ludicrous proposition.

  46. Prefernottosay says:

    I posted this in a similar topic in the YWN coffee room.  For what its worth, here are my thoughts:

    I was never really on the derech, but I strongly considered it and often miss the community. Indeed, I lurk here sometimes, listen to Jewish music and drop in on a chabad from time to time. I miss the life and the comfort and peace it brings, which I only had a brief window into and seriously considered at times in my life.

    My own personal experience is this: My parents were twice a year jews but sent me to Hebrew Academy and I went there until 12th grade (from Kindergarten). I am now a lawyer who excelled in law school and I also excelled at Gemara at Hebrew Academy since the skill set needed to interpret and argue halacha and american law are very similar.

    Early on the rabbis picked up on my skill and tried to convince me to go to YU, etc…

    I actually did consider being religious and for a while kept kosher in college (not what you guys would consider kosher, but applying a meikil standard, kosher).

    To me, the largest reason I ended up not being religious is my discovery of the scale of issues that I had not known about and that Zev Farber has been chastised for pointing out.

    Rambam figured out a long time ago that there were people who were going to question “Zev Farber issues,” some of which I saw as a young adult on my own without looking.

    I am leaving examples out of this post for fear that if I list them, it will get censored, but they exist all over the internet. And I know that there are answers, but without listing issues, suffice it to say some are troubling to me, and became so before I met my now wife.

    For whatever reason, todays orthodox community has decided to just ignore the questions. And the chareidi community has banned the internet in hopes that their community wont discover them (except that I discovered enough on my own without the internet..

    In any case, I believe the burying head in sand tactic is a mistake. I believe Rambam’s approach was better. Acknowledge the questions and try the best to answer them, especially now that anyone with google can find them.

    Anyway, my sunday rant. And here is a secret. R’ Fisher if he knew my life story would say I fit neatly into his hypothesis. I married a jewish girl who came from a conservadox Young Israel family, but who does not really believe or want to practice. Had I married someone more religious, perhaps things would have been different. But I do not know.

    So I think that R’ Fisher is right and wrong. People no doubt respond to surrounding environment, etc… And I also have no doubt that there are people who will be negatively affected by college. But treating that as the only issue is short sighted and ignores other problems, and of course there can never be solutions to ignored problems.

    Anyway, I am quite certain that the chicken here was my struggling, and the egg was my wife, not vice versa, but who knows, maybe I am lying to myself. Just in case I am not, I believe the orthodox community should start addressing these issues head on in the formative years because you don’t have to be modern orthodox to see these issues. Just my .02

    • JustAnotherYid says:

      Prefernottosay- I wrote a whole response to your comment, but it got lost in transit. In short, I believe your comment is undeniable support of Rabbi Fischer’s belief that many surveyed may not truly be from Orthodox families and yet state they are. Thank you for proving to me something that I questioned on the article prior to you comment.

  47. mark says:

    I rarely read these articles, and even less frequently comment on them, but here is my (anecdote based) perspective on the issue from a Yeshivish/Black hat perspective: My brother went OTD around age 22 after having been raised orthodox and having attended beis medrash in Israel for a year or 2. The truth is that he was on his way OTD long before that but neither he nor we really new with certainty that he would go that way. He was always a difficult kid, a troublemaker who loved to challenge authority but more than anything loved having a good time. As he got closer to going OTD, he started trying to read philosophy books and quoted from them as often as possible to try to sound like a thinker. The truth was that he wasn’t a thinker, that he didn’t have the intellectual capacity to truly think on his own, only to regurgitate what he read. I clearly remember instances of him quoting philosophers but mispronouncing their words.

    It was clear to me in his situation that fun was the chicken and philosophy was the egg. After spending 7-10 years OTD, he is now a ‘believer’ in the Jewish Renewal movement under David Ingber. He is also a die-hard Bernie supporter. We speak occasionally but we have so little in common in terms of how we think that there are fewer and fewer ‘safe’ topics to discuss as time goes on. I still daven for him and I still love him.

    He is one of many friends/family that have gone OTD in a similar false fashion, blaming the community’s hypocrisy or a search for greater truth, while it is pretty clear that the real draw is physical desire, and intellectual/physical laziness. While not every one of them follows that pattern, the overwhelming majority do. That doesn’t mean that we (those who remain) are absolved of resolving the existing hypocrisy in our community and addressing well-known issues that need to be addressed. Nor does it mean that we have found the right flavor of yiddishkeit to touch every soul with warmth, comfort, excitement, and fulfillment. My point is only that the article rengs true for the Yeshivish OTD epidemic as well.


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