Contemporary Jewry

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 113–126

Israelis in New York

  • Paul Ritterband
Research Note


This paper deals with three issues: numbers of Israelis, secular social characteristics of Israelis, and Jewishness of Israelis. With respect to the first and third of these issues, the findings presented here are greatly at variance with popular perceptions. There are many fewer Israelis than is usually estimated, and they are far more traditionally religious than is usually thought. Why the discrepancies between popular judgment and data-based estimates is itself an interesting question.

American Jewish estimators no doubt remember meeting Israelis more than they remember encountering local Jews. The purportedly ubiquitous Israeli taxi driver in New York turns out to be a myth (see Korazim and Freedman in this section). Those who exist are simply more likely to be remembered by their New York Jewish passengers. Israeli estimators make a moral point when they present their numbers. Those who do not succumb to the lure of the golden exile are morally superior. Their superiority grows with the growth in the number ofyordim.

On the question of Jewishness, here, too, I propose selective misperception. The Orthodox Israelis settle in Orthodox communities in New York. In many ways, Boro Park and B'nai Brak have more to do with one another than either has with its secular conationals. The Orthodox Israelis do not become part of the community of “uprooted” Israelis who seek ways of remaihing Israelis while yet abroad. The Orthodox Israelis, by virtue of their integration into the local Orthodox network, do not seek services and other resources from the larger Jewish community. Thus they remain invisible to the “secular” Jewish agencies and “secular” observers. The visible Israelis are the secular Israelis, but their number and proportion are both exaggerated.


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Copyright information

© Springer 1986

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  • Paul Ritterband

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