By Molly Meisels, Editor in Chief and Talya Hyman, Managing Editor
On Monday, September 2, the YU Observer Editor in Chief and Managing Editor invited students from the Beren and Wilf campuses to participate in a survey about their individual religious identities, and how that translates to their overall religious contentment at Yeshiva University. The survey was distributed via sstuds and ystuds, and additional links to the survey were posted on Facebook. Students had until Wednesday, September 4 at 11:59 p.m. to complete the online questionnaire. The following data was gathered from the 412 respondents, 58% of them from the Beren Campus and 42% from the Wilf Campus.
Students were provided with a list of 11 religious identification categories from which to self-identify, as well as with an “other” category if students did not wish to identify with any of the given groups. Each religious category was left open-ended and undefined, and the editors did not request explanations of students’ interpretations. The survey sample indicated that a total of 61% of survey participants from both Beren and Wilf religiously identify as “Modern Orthodox,” the highest total identification from all of the given categories. There is a 9.2% difference in Modern Orthodox identification between the two campuses. 64.7% of Beren students self-identify as Modern Orthodox compared to 55.5% of Wilf students. “Orthodox” tallied in as the second highest category, with 26% of the student population identifying as such. 5% more men on the Wilf Campus self-identify as Orthodox than women on the Beren Campus.
From both Beren and Wilf, the other self-identification categories which received totals above 1% were “Just Jewish,” “Chasidic,” “Traditional,” and “Conservative.” These groups comprise 7.4% of all responses. 1.7% of Beren students identify as “Just Jewish,” and 3.5% of Wilf respondents do as well. The numbers flip for the “Traditional” category. Whereas .6% of the Wilf respondents self-identify as “Traditional,” 3.4% of the Beren respondents answered the same. In regards to “Chasidic,” 2.3% of the Wilf Campus identify with this category, compared to the .8% representation on the Beren Campus. We note that another 2.3% of the student body identify as “Secular,” “Chareidi,” “Chabad,” and “Reconstructionist.”
4.1% of students took advantage of the “other” option by filling in their own religious category. 8% of Wilf respondents did not identify with any of the provided 11 categories, in comparison to 4.2% of Beren respondents. Students wrote-in their own categories, such as, “Dati L’Umi/Ideal Modern Orthodox,” “Frum Modern Orthodox,” “Modern Orthodox Machmir,” “Religious Modern Orthodox,” “Unsure at the Moment,” “I feel like I am a blend,” and “ ‘The only box you can put me in is my coffin’ – quoted from Rav Blachman.”
The editors also asked other questions to build upon the self-identification categories, such as, “Do you feel like YU represents you religiously?” and “Are you content with religious life at YU?” Once again, these questions were purposefully left ambiguous.
Out of the 412 respondents, 53.6% of students say that they do feel religiously represented by YU, while 16.7% say that they do not feel represented, and 17.2% responded that they do not know. The percentages by campus are nearly identical, with only over 1% separating them. (The data indicates that Wilf students do feel more religiously represented by YU.) However, the responses by religious identification are not similar. While 67.2% of self-identifying Modern Orthodox students feel represented religiously by YU, 55.1% of Orthodox students feel the same, followed by 40% of the Just Jewish students, 44.4% of the Traditional students, and 20.8% of the “others.”
These numbers rise regarding students’ religious contentment at YU. “Content” was left open to individual interpretation. 74.8% of total respondents are content with religiosity at YU. There is only a 1.4% difference between Beren and Wilf in this regard. The results from all the other groups put responses at above 70% for contentment, besides for the “other” group, in which 54.8% of respondents are content with religion on campus.
Editors’ Note: We did not ask students to explain their interpretations of any particular question, as we wanted the data to speak for itself. YU’s diversity is therefore reflected in the participants’ responses. This piece is the first in the YU Observer’s series about students’ religiosity identification and contentment at YU.
Photo: Learning in the YU Beit Midrash