There was, unfortunately, considerable sociological naivete in the Jewish Standard’s reporting and comments on the recent Pew Research Center report on American Jews. In his October 4 essay, “Observations on Orthodox Jews in the Pew,” Rabbi Alan Brill uncritically accepts the statistical data without seriously questioning the statistical and sociological validity of the study as regards both demographic and religious behavior.
Does it really make sense to accept the Pew finding that 15 percent of charedi Jews attend non-Jewish services several times a year? Is it realistic to find chasidic Jews in churches and mosques several times a year? Do 24 percent of charedi Jews really handle money on Shabbat?
The critical issue here is the matter of obtaining a valid sample – the people who were interviewed and who responded to the questions. Charedi Jews are known for their reticence about cooperating with journalists and survey researchers particularly if the interviewers are not Yiddish speakers and unknown to the community. Consequently, the number of Orthodox and charedi Jews interviewed and counted is deeply problematic, and no conclusions about these Jews can be made at this time. Brill’s conclusions, drawn from the study, consequently are deeply flawed.