Much has been made of the differences between Israel and her Diaspora in the U.S. over the past few years. However, the Jewish Community Study of New York 2011 released earlier this month shows a New York Jewish community that has the same demographic trends as its cousin in Israel.
Orthodox Jews make up around 40 percent of the community, with the Russian Jews making up 10 percent. A staggering 70 percent of children are Orthodox, with the hasidim making up 37 percent of the total of Jewish kids in the New York area.
The Orthodox trends in New York track at even greater rates than in Israel. The Metzilah Center projects that by 2028 a third of all Jewish children in Israel will be haredi; the hasidim have already exceeded that in New York.
There are many different lessons one can take from the 2011 community study. Yet in this crazy election season the question to focus on for now is this: Will the Orthodox Jewish vote go against the community’s economic interests and toward Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney due to his social conservatism?
The famous wealthy Jewish vote, with its unbreakable ties to the Democratic base, has always been an outlier when it came to economic voting. Though higher up in the socio-economic scale, the Jewish vote has been solidly Democratic, even if it would at times ask for them to pay more in tax and redistribute more of their wealth to welfare.
Though much has been made about the “Israel” factor in this election, polling of the Jewish vote shows that the majority of Jews in the U.S. still vote on domestic issues rather than on a single piece of foreign policy. The Orthodox world is no different, with many non- or anti-Zionist voices within it.
Though many of the Orthodox communities feel social affiliates with that of the modern day Republican party, their reliance on community programs that need government grants in order to run puts them at odds with the small government agenda. The Orthodox community has risen to make up 42 percent of the Jewish poor. Poverty has risen 86 percent in Jewish households since the last survey was done. Will they vote Republican even though all economic indicators should place them solidly in the Democratic base?
We will have to wait and see the results of the election. But as the Jewish vote is picked apart, remember not to see Israel as the only dominant factor in a community increasingly diverse in its make up.
Joel Braunold is a Bnei Akiva alumnus and a former staff member of OneVoice Europe who is currently studying at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.