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Orthodox Syngagogues Grow in Brooklyn

Does an outer-borough trend have larger meaning?

Marc Tracy
January 11, 2010

Over the weekend, in the course of a feature-y “journal” about a fledgling Conservative synagogue in Queens, the New York Times noticed an interesting trend regarding outer-borough Jewish houses of worship:

Conservative and Reform temples have been closing or merging across Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx for decades now as younger non-Orthodox Jews moved away. There are 35 Conservative and 3 Reform synagogues left in Queens, compared with the 43 Conservative and 8 Reform ones of two decades ago … Only Orthodox houses of worship seem to be on the upswing, with 115 synagogues that have attracted not just the adult children of booming pious communities like that in Kew Gardens Hills, but also new immigrants like those from Uzbekistan.

This tendency does not necessarily indicate a larger one across the country (it’s very unlikely, for example, that any other U.S. city experiences anywhere near the influx of foreign Orthodox Jews that New York does). Still, doesn’t the same pattern feel plausible nationally? Jews on the more intense end of the observance spectrum grow yet more observant, while Jews on the less intense end stop observing altogether?

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.