“The number of poor in the Orthodox community is [not] low . . . the Orthodox represent the largest identifiable such group. But . . . Orthodox communities centered on yeshiva life–usually referred to as yeshiva communities but in this report referred to as “yeshivish”–boast a significant communal support network, in addition to classic charitable giving.
“Made up of gemachs, a Hebrew acronym of the term meaning acts of kindness, this network goes a long way toward making up for the material sacrifices made by low-income yeshiva households. Some Jewish communities have so many gemachs they have their own version of the Yellow Pages. The gemachs are families or companies that lend out items to those in need, including everything from books to wedding dresses to childcare products. To put it bluntly: the Orthodox Jewish community may have poor households, but its members possess an admirable and energetic sense of duty to one another . . .
“The Orthodox certainly face challenges as their community grows. The Haredi community’s insularity means they must work hard to ensure that guidance counselors, special-needs educators, and other forms of crucial youth development services are available to their community. And poverty is often correlated with health risks that should not be ignored. But the Orthodox are also the source of the positive trends in the study. If the goal is Jewish continuity–as of course it should be–the Orthodox are leading the way.”
- Seth Mandel “On Jewish Community and Continuity, Orthodox Lead the Way,” Commentary Magazine. Mr. Mandel’s article is based on the findings of a the Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011, a comprehensive study of the New York Jewish community conducted by the UJA.