One of the most important recent changes in American Jewish life has been the gradual mainstreaming of Chabad Hasidim. After years of reaching a constituency consisting mainly of college students, Israelis, those on the fringes of Jewish communal life, and Orthodox Jews living in remote places, Chabad is increasingly playing an important role in the lives of affiliated Jews other than the Orthodox. Shmuel Rosner writes:
[The majority of] Chabad participants in Miami are not “Israeli” or “Orthodox.” In other words: do not fall for the common prejudice about Chabad’s constituency. According to [a recent Miami survey], 25 percent of them are indeed Orthodox, but 32 percent are Conservative, and 19 percent are Reform (23 percent are “just Jewish”—more in line with common thinking). This means that more than half of the participants in Chabad activities come from a progressive Jewish background (you can add to that the 1-percent Reconstructionist). Think about it this way: a movement that is in many ways a part of the ultra-Orthodox world is able to attract Jews that are supposedly the archrivals of ultra-Orthodoxy. Of course, that is the genius of Chabad—without giving up on being ultra-Orthodox, it is able to convince other Jews that it is not really ultra-Orthodox.
More about: American Jewry, Chabad, Hasidism, Miami, Orthodoxy