BMG Poskim and Roshei Yeshiva Release Letter Regarding Permissibility of Participating in 2010 Census


cencusbmglettersmall[Letter link below.] More than 120 million U.S. census forms began arriving this week in mailboxes around the country, in the government’s once-a-decade population count that will be used to divvy up congressional seats and more than $400 billion in federal aid.

At the same time, the roshei yeshiva and poskim of North America’s Largest yeshiva, Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, NJ, have signed a letter stating that it is permitted according to halacha to participate in the census and there is no concern regarding the prohibition against counting the Jewish people. (See Shemos 30:12 where the source of the issur is recorded: “When you take the count of the Bnei Yisroel to determine their numbers, each man shall give an atonement pledge for his soul to G-d, when you count them. Thus there will be no plague among them when you count them.”)

The letter is signed by the four senior poskim of Beth Medrash Govoha, Rav Yaakov Forchheimer, Rav Shmuel Meir Katz, Rav Osher Chaim Lieberman and Rav Shmuel Felder. The letter is also signed by the four roshei yeshiva, Rav Malkiel Kotler, Rav Dovid Schustal Rav Yeruchom Olshin and Rav Yisroel Neuman, and the mashgiach, Rav Matisyahu Salomon.

bmg-roshei-yeshiva-smallThe note from the poskim states that there is no comparison between the American census and the census in Israel, regarding which certain Yidden are machmir, adding that never in the past – not during the census counts of 1980, 1990 or 2000 – has there been any sort of doubt about the halachic permissibility of participating in the census. The poskim also point out the importance of the census to the town of Lakewood and the services and funding it receives.

The note from the roshei yeshiva and the mashgiach, posted below the statement of the poskim, encourages all Lakewood residents to fill out their census forms, saying that it will have a big to’eles to the community in general and individual residents as well. They also thank the dedicated askanim who are working for the tzibbur be’emaunah.

Failure to respond to the census carries a fine of up to $5,000, although that law is rarely enforced.

The 10-question form is one of the shortest in the history of the census. It asks a person’s name, address, phone number, age, race and ethnicity, gender, living arrangements and home ownership. The information is kept strictly confidential under federal law, and the Census Bureau does not share data with other agencies, including law enforcement.

As we’ve reported here on, aside from fulfilling a duty as a U.S. citizen, the census is also very beneficial to the Lakewood community. About 65 percent of Lakewood residents participated in the 2000 Census. Although that is in line with the national average, it means Lakewood received only 65 cents for every federal dollar it could have received had everybody participated.

Because April 1 is in the middle of Pesach, a time when people are away or busy with the holiday, it is important to fill out the census form and send it back in a timely manner. The form, as mentioned, is only 10 questions, and should take no longer than 10 minutes to fill out.

The population of Lakewood in the 2000 census was about 60,352. The projected population of Lakewood is 110,000. Askanim have told that they are aiming for at least 96 percent participation, which would put the population of Lakewood at 100,000. This would designate Lakewood as a city, which will attract businesses and jobs, revenue for its tax base, transportation, other infrastructure projects, and many other issues.

Click here to view the letter from the BMG poskim and roshei yeshiva.

Click below for a video on how to fill out the census:

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  1. I wonder if the shailah was actually asked. And if it was, why wasn’t it asked 10, 20, 30, … 100 years ago.

    V’hameivin yavin.

  2. It seems to me to be fine as it does not count Jews, only mixes us up with the the other “white” populations ( Hebrews /ivrim/ Benai Yisrael are considered white in the USA, so check the box 🙂 ).

    If they counted us separately as Hebrews/Jews…that would be an issue AFAIK.

  3. i just called them on the phone while i was cleaning for Pesach..and the whole thing mamish took 5 minutes..i think that its mamish a silly idea, but this is galus..

  4. Somebody thought to assur the US Census? What kind of chumrah-crazy have we become?

    Teach also halacha l’maaseh and hashkafah, not just sugyos from here and there in Gemarah.

  5. By Constitutional law you’re only required to give the number of people living in your home. That is it. All the other information is none of their business.