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The interpretations and applications I've seen here have been much more strict than I am familiar with from my experience with my Jewish friends. Out of curiosity, is there any sense of what portion of people here are Orthodox, Reform, non-practicing, atheist (I know I'm not the only one), etc?

I'm not asking for personal information that might be misused, just wondering if there is any way to get a rough estimate of how the stats break down.

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    I doubt that this is answerable with numbers. The best anyone could provide is a qualitative impression. – Isaac Moses Aug 20 '15 at 14:25
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    By "people here" do you mean those who have posted in the past [time period], those who have posted ever, those who have read the site in the past [time period], those who have read the site ever, or something else? Or would any of those be interesting to you? (That's fine too.) – msh210 Aug 20 '15 at 14:25
  • @msh210 - Any of the above, but I think the most frequent users would be a good place to start. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Aug 20 '15 at 14:26
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    Note that regardless of the demographics of individual posters, the point of view of answers on Mi Yodeya is expected to be Judaism. Thus, wherever the question is along the lines of "What does Judaism say about this?" (as is true of most, but not all questions here), ideal answers would quote from authoritative Jewish sources, whether they're posted by rabbis, Hindus, or atheists. The core expert population that we target (like good SE sites) as most likely to be able to provide such answers is "those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition". – Isaac Moses Aug 20 '15 at 14:45
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    @WadCheber I think (have heard, etc.) there is something in the site's constitution that says answers should represent Orthodox views. Really, the site title should be "Orthodox Judaism." Things you'd hear from Conservative and Reform Jews (that is, "non-religious" Jews) would definitely be more relaxed. – SAH Sep 18 '15 at 20:11
  • @SAH There is nothing in the site's "constitution" to that effect. You must have misheard. – Double AA Dec 8 '15 at 22:49
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I think that Joel Spolsky correctly identifies the tendency here:

I do think that the vast majority of the participants come from an orthodox background and relate to the questions here in an orthodox way. That is not because of a conscientious decision by the members of the site to exclude Jews from non-orthodox traditions, it's just a demographic fact. ... When you look at the "professional Jew" category, the reality is that it is dominated by the orthodox. This site reflects that.

  • I have never heard the term "professional Jew" before, but I like it. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Aug 20 '15 at 18:48
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    @WadCheber I believe I can claim credit for coining the phrase for SE's purposes in the "Announcement message" (this was before there was Area 51 Discuss) dated "Nov 14 '10 at 4:36" on the Area 51 proposal that led to this site's creation. The idea is to define the analog for Judaism (other than rabbis, specifically) of the expert population, which engages daily and professionally with a given topic, that SE sites, generally, are targeted at. – Isaac Moses Aug 20 '15 at 19:36
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Answers to halacha questions quote halachic literature. The vast majority of the halachic literature comes from more than 150ish years ago, and so it comes from an orthodox (small "o") perspective due to the fact that non-orthodox streams of Judaism didn't exist that long ago. Of course there were always less-observant Jews, but they were not trying to justify their practices halachically.

It is only recently that Conservative Judaism (among others) was created and started to attempt to provide halachic justifications for more liberal practices. This site does not often rely on these sources because they are usually seen as utilizing flawed reasoning. We don't have any policy against posting such answers, although they often receive negative votes due to their (often blatant) misinterpretations of halacha.

But in many cases, I suspect that the less "strict" interpretations and applications that you have seen from your Jewish friends doesn't come from misapplied halachic reasoning, but rather doesn't have any halachic justification at all. I don't know your friends, so I don't know this to definitely be the case; however, I know many Jews for whom strict adherence to halacha is not important. They may or may not be aware that their actions violate Jewish practice, but they do them anyway. Such actions are unlikely to be endorsed on Mi Yodeya where we attempt to provide factual, sourced answers to questions.

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    "non-orthodox streams of Judaism didn't exist" "more than 150ish years ago"? Karaites, Sabbatarians, .... – msh210 Aug 23 '15 at 13:22
  • I'm still confused about the idea of conservative Judaism being liberal. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Aug 28 '15 at 1:29
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    @WadCheber Conservative Judaism (big 'C') was created in response to the Reform Movement. They are more conservative than Reform, but they are often called (including by themselves) "liberal" as opposed to orthodox. – Daniel Aug 28 '15 at 1:36
  • Why did you say "small 'o'"? Is it incorrect to say "Orthodox"? – HaLailah HaZeh Feb 27 '17 at 5:26
  • @HaLailah Orthodox with a big "O" is a term for a loosely-organized group of Jews that follows traditional Judaism as opposed to other big-letter Jewish movements such as Reform and Conservative. Small 'o' orthodoxy essentially just means traditional Jewish belief. While the latter can be used to refer to Jewish practice in any time period, the former didn't really exist as a thing until it was created in response to liberal Judaism. – Daniel Feb 27 '17 at 14:22

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