“Even though Modern Orthodox still constitute the majority, the pendulum of leadership and a sense of empowerment has swung more to haredi elements,” Heilman told The Jewish Week.The MO Jews "still constitute the majority"? I have posted about the Ukeles study which made a similar claim before. I was incredulous then and am incredulous now. And in fact, the sloppiness and cluelessness of the chapter of Heilman's book, "Sliding to the Right" which seeks to support this claim, is shocking.
The chapter's purpose is to count the U.S. Haredi population. He concludes that less than one third of the Orthodox population is Haredi. Although he doesn't say this explicitly, the rest of Orthodox is presumed to be MO (he doesn't define a third group in the middle and he explicitly cites the Ukeles study cited above as support for his calculation, which concluded that the MO make up 64% of the Orthodox population in New York).
The faultiness of his approach is immediately apparent in his analysis of Metro NY's Haredi population. According to Heilman, in Brooklyn, there are 75,000 Haredim out of the aproximately 207,000 Orthodox. But when you analyze the underlying numbers, this claim is demonstrably false. The approximate number of Orthodox Jews in the three major neighborhoods in Brooklyn are as follows:
Borough Park: 60,000
He also states that there are 8,700 Lubavitcher chasidim in Crown Heights.
As anyone who has been to Borough Park knows, it is overwhelmingly Haredi. The number of MO institutions in BP can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Haredim probably make up 75% of BP. At least. Flatbush still has a sizable MO population, but it too is clearly majority Haredi. There are only a handful of MO shuls in Flatbush and only two or so MO schools. And, of course, the Orthodox of Williamsburgh are nearly exclusively Haredi.
So in these four neighborhoods alone, there are likely around 150,000 Haredim -- double Heilman's estimate for the entire Brooklyn.
In Queens, his undercount of Haredim is less severe but similarly uninformed. He simply applies 10 percent to all Queens Orthodox Jews. Including neighborhoods like Far Rockaway and Bayswater, which are majority Haredi.
And as for my neighborhood, the Five Towns: Heilman simply skips it!! The whole Nassau County, in fact. Was it just an oversight? Or does Heilman think there are NO Haredim in Nassau County?
The problem lies in part from Heilman's overly broad definition of Modern Orthodox and his overly narrow definition of Haredi. As I mentioned here and here, Heilman seems to define as MO anyone who thinks college education is a priority. Conversly, he seems to define Haredim as low income Orthodox families with many children and little or no college education who speak Yiddish at home. In other words, Bnei Brak-style Haredim.
Heilman simply ignores the fact that there is a sizable Orthodox population that is middle-class and acculturated that holds alleigance to Haredi philosophy and its Gedolim. And, yes, they think college is important, but for the sole means of training for a livelihood. For several decades, people in this category have been sending their children to CUNY colleges at night (where Heilman is a professor) while after spending their day in Haredi yeshivas like Y' Chaim Berlin or Y' TOrah V'Da'as. However, these people are decidedly not Modern Orthodox. Instead, in the words of R' Alan Brill, they are "Engaged Yeshivish."
The effect of Heilman's mistakes is to overstate the "slide to the right." I don't doubt that the "slide" is occurring, but because Heilman believes in the myth of an MO majority, the dominance of the pro-Haredi trends he spots look more perplexing. But in fact, many of these which he wrongly perceives as encroachments on Modern Orthodoxy, are actually occurring in the Haredi world.