I found a book by Faranak Margolese titled:

Off the Derech: Why Observant Jews Leave Judaism; How to Respond to the Challenge.

The topic seems interesting. I read the introduction, and skimmed some of the chapters on Google books. But, after doing that, I am a bit skeptical about the author's reliability on discussion this subject. I think that people go Off the Derech for no reason other than being lured by something that they find more interesting than what they have. I don't think it's as complex as the author attempts to present this.

I am open to viewing other opinions on this matter. But I don't want to waste my time reading something that has a weak foundation and is, essentially, a personal "rant".

Does anyone know anything about this book, and/or the author, to recommend or not recommend this book?

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    The author has a wikipedia page en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faranak_Margolese Consider too linking to the book (eg. on Amazon or the like)
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 18:21
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    Here's a review found via Google: onthemainline.blogspot.com/2006/05/…
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 18:22
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    Off topic as looking for a book review?
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 22:44
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    The reviewer linked by DoubleAA wonders why Rabbi Dessler's opinion that the yeshiva system will certainly fail some individuals and was still instituted wasn't addressed. That quote is a misleading half quote. Rabbi Dessler went on to say that anybody who cannot hack the yeshiva life should be encouraged into a kosher business life like running a store. His point was not to go to college. Not that people who don't survive in yeshivas are somehow sacrificed for the greater good.
    – user6591
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 18:15
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    @robev OMG! I really don't see how you're inferring any of that. If I assumed that my opinion was any better, I wouldn't be soliciting other people's opinions, would I? I made an assumption, and I think I've clarified that my assumption may be incorrect. I think that point is very clear.
    – DanF
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 16:03

1 Answer 1


I am a quantitative analyst and amateur social scientist. I found the book to be rather ignorant of formal methods employed in social research.

The derivations obtained from Margolese's study were a simple tabulation of results, without any real numbers to back them up. There were no formal statistical tests done or regression analyses ran. Even control variables were not included.

In terms of specific policy derivations from the data she collected: Such information is useless because there is a lack of unit measurement and formal testing. Statisticians work with numbers, but she has not provided any. (Though linear probability models can be generated with such data, such techniques were not employed.)

Bottom line

In my opinion, I think the book isn't worth the read. There aren't real practical and statistically valid policy tools to engaging or disengaging the OTD community.

  • Thanks. Useful info. Would you know anything about the topic she discusses, or, is your opinion based solely on her statistical methods used at deriving her conclusion?
    – DanF
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 13:44
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    @DanF my argument is based on the methods she employs.
    – EconJohn
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 17:57
  • I know nothing of this book, but isn't there some value brought by non-fiction books that may lack the rigor of scientific studies, but are still more than just a (possibly biased) selection of anecdotes? In other words, I see social scientists collect field data and publish books that are not statistic-driven, but are still considered good social science (Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers springs to mind). While statistics help social science become a "harder" more formal science, aren't other methods acceptable too?
    – Mike
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 2:27
  • @Mike qualitative research is an academically valid method when applied appropriately. She does do ethnographic research i'd give her that. If someone is completely uninformed about what someone is off the derech is like, then the book would be for them. However its definitely not a book which should claim to be a "response to the challenge" of the OTD phenomenon (as claimed in the title) as that statement demands policy change which requires quantitative methods if you are dealing with something which will affect a whole demographic.
    – EconJohn
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 3:52
  • @Mike If it was a book presenting a Torah hashkafa to dealing with the issue id have no problem. However once you enter the realm of research and studies it simply fails to meet my standards as an educated consumer. I'd reccomend reading this before reading anymore of theses studies on the jewish community if you are unfamiliar with qualitative methods. faculty.cbu.ca/pmacintyre/course_pages/MBA603/MBA603_files/…
    – EconJohn
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 3:54

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