Pew Research Report on American Jews

[Editor's note: The Pew Research Center provides unbiased reports on many aspects of American life. l wish it had asked some more probing questions: 

  1. What percentage of Jews who do not see themselves as identified with Judaism as a religion, how many of them see their ethical values as having a foundation in Jewish ethical values (e.g. the Torah's command to share food with "the stranger" or to "love the stranger" or to love your neighbor as yourself? 
  2. Do you support the present way the Israeli government deals with 
    • Israeli citizens who are Palestinian 
    • Palestinians living under Israeli rule in the West Bank  
    • Palestinians living in Gaza  
    • Palestinians living in refugee camps in surrounding Arab states   
  3. Would you support 
    • Israel helping Palestinians to create an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel and committed to peaceful relationships with Israel or
    • Israel incorporating West Bank Palestinians into Israeli citizenship with full voting rights in electing the Knesset and Prime Minister
  4. Do you believe that Palestinians need a UN force to protect them from human rights violations by West Bank Israeli settlers?
  5. Do you believe that the ultra-orthodox in Israel should no longer be exempt from serving in the IDF and have their study of Torah financially supported by the Israeli government and support from the Jews of the United States?
  6. Do you believe that financial support for Israel from the US government should be dependent on Israel's treatment of the human right of Palestinians and Israeli minorities? or do you believe that only a full scale Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is necessary to change Israel's treatment of Palestinians? or do you believe that BDS will only strengthen the fear of Israelis that "the world is against us" and thus strengthen the Israeli right-wing? 
  7. Do you believe that Israel's claim to be "a Jewish state" imperils its right to exist, or do you believe that in this respect it is no more illegitimate than other countries that proclaim themselves a Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, or other religious affiliation and de facto give special rights to their group?  
  8. If you are in an interfaith relationship or marriage, has that had the consequence of 
    • Strengthening your relationship to your Judaism or Jewish identity or weakening it or problematizing it? 
    • Making it harder to feel accepted by fellow Jews, made you more welcome by Jews excited to have new people learning about Judaism or Jewishness, or had no particular impact on your life
    • Making issues around child-rearing and passing on to children the aspects of your Jewishness or Judaism that you wish to pass on difficult to resolve or exciting to explore? 

OK, this is the kind of info I wish Pew would explore, but after having spoken to people who worked with Pew in the past, I realize that these questions are highly unlikely to be explored by them. Nevertheless, I feel grateful to Pew for what they do explore and think that some of the information they've developed is important to know.
-- Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor,Tikkun   Rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com]


Jewish Americans in 2020

U.S. Jews are culturally engaged, increasingly diverse, politically polarized and worried about anti-Semitism

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 11, 2021) – What does it mean to be Jewish in America? A new Pew Research Center survey finds that many Jewish Americans participate, at least occasionally, both in some traditional religious practices – like going to a synagogue, or attending a Passover Seder – and in some contemporary Jewish cultural activities, like baking challah, watching Israeli movies or reading Jewish news online. Among young Jewish adults, however, two sharply divergent expressions of Jewishness appear to be gaining ground – one involving religion deeply enmeshed in every aspect of life, and the other involving little or no religion at all.

Overall, about a quarter of U.S. Jewish adults (27%) do not identify with the Jewish religion: They consider themselves to be Jewish ethnically, culturally or by family background and have a Jewish parent or were raised Jewish, but they answer a question about their current religion by describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” rather than as Jewish. Among Jewish adults under 30, four-in-ten describe themselves this way (40%).

At the same time, Orthodox Jews are much more numerous among younger Jewish adults than among older Jews. Among Jews ages 18 to 29, 17% self-identify as Orthodox, compared with just 3% of Jews 65 and older. And fully one-in-ten U.S. Jewish adults under the age of 30 are Haredim, or ultra-Orthodox (11%), compared with 1% of Jews 65 and older.

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Meanwhile, the two branches of Judaism that long predominated in the United States have less of a hold on young Jews than on their elders. Roughly four-in-ten Jewish adults under 30 identify with either Reform (29%) or Conservative Judaism (8%), compared with seven-in-ten Jews ages 65 and older.

In other words, the youngest U.S. Jews count among their ranks both relatively large numbers of traditionally observant, Orthodox Jews and an even larger group of people who see themselves as Jewish for cultural, ethnic or family reasons but do not identify with Judaism – as a religion – at all. Many people in both groups participate, at least occasionally, in the same cultural activities, such as cooking traditional Jewish foods, visiting Jewish historical sites and listening to Jewish or Israeli music. Yet the survey finds that most people in the latter group (Jews of no religion) feel they have not much or nothing at all in common with the former group (Orthodox Jews).

Additional key findings include:

Politically, U.S. Jews on the whole tilt strongly liberal and tend to support the Democratic party. When the new survey was fielded, from late fall 2019 through late spring 2020, 71% said they were Democrats or leaned Democratic. But Orthodox Jews are a notable exception: 75% were Republicans or leaned Republican.

The size of the Jewish population has been fairly stable in percentage terms, while rising in absolute numbers, roughly in line with the total U.S. population. Pew Research Center estimates that as of 2020, 2.4% of U.S. adults are Jewish. In the Center’s first major survey of U.S. Jews in 2013, by comparison, the estimate was 2.2%. In absolute numbers, the 2020 Jewish population estimate is approximately 7.5 million, including 5.8 million adults and 1.8 million children (rounded to the closest 100,000). The 2013 estimate was 6.7 million, including 5.3 million adults and 1.3 million children.

The study finds that about half of all U.S. Jews (54%) belong to the two long-dominant branches of American Judaism: 37% identify as Reform and 17% as Conservative. Those figures are essentially unchanged from 2013, when a total of 54% identified with either the Reform movement (35%) or Conservative Judaism (18%).

While there are some signs of religious divergence and political polarization among U.S. Jews, the survey also finds large areas of consensus. For instance, more than eight-in-ten U.S. Jews say they feel at least some sense of belonging to the Jewish people, and three-quarters say that “being Jewish” is either very or somewhat important to them.

In general, Jews are far less religious than American adults as a whole, at least by conventional measures of religious observance in Pew Research Center surveys. For example, just one-in-five Jews (21%) say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 41% of U.S. adults overall. And 12% of Jewish Americans say they attend religious services weekly or more often, versus 27% among the general public.

There is also evidence that the U.S. Jewish population is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. Overall, 92% of Jewish adults identify as White (non-Hispanic), and 8% identify with all other categories combined. But among Jews ages 18 to 29, that figure rises to 15%. Already, 17% of U.S. Jews surveyed live in households in which at least one child or adult is Black, Hispanic, Asian, some other (non-White) race or ethnicity, or multiracial.

Although in many ways the U.S. Jewish population is flourishing, concerns about anti-Semitism have risen among American Jews. Three-quarters say there is more anti-Semitism in the United States than there was five years ago, and roughly half (53%) say that “as a Jewish person in the United States” they feel less safe than they did five years ago.

Young U.S. Jews are less emotionally attached to Israel than older ones. As of 2020, half of Jewish adults under age 30 describe themselves as very or somewhat emotionally attached to Israel (48%), compared with two-thirds of Jews ages 65 and older. In addition, among Jews 50 and older, 51% say that caring about Israel is essential to what being Jewish means to them, and an additional 37% say it’s important but not essential; just 10% say that caring about Israel is not important to them.

Rates of intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews are higher among Jews who have married in recent years than among those who married decades ago, a pattern broadly similar to what the 2013 survey found. But there has been no discernible rise in intermarriage rates since 2013.

These are among the key findings of Pew Research Center’s new survey of U.S. Jews, conducted from Nov. 19, 2019, to June 3, 2020, among 4,718 Jews across the country who were identified through 68,398 completed screening interviews conducted by mail and online. The margin of sampling error for the 4,718 net Jewish respondents is plus or minus 3.0 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence. For more information on how the survey was conducted, see the Methodology.

This report was made possible by The Pew Charitable Trusts, which received generous support from the Neubauer Family Foundation.

For more information about the study or to arrange an interview with the lead researchers, Senior Researcher Dr. Becka A. Alper and Director of Religion Research Alan Cooperman, please email Anna Schiller at aschiller@pewresearch.org

To read the report, click here: https://www.pewforum.org/2021/05/11/jewish-americans-in-2020

To explore the findings through an interactive data tool, click here: https://www.pewresearch.org/interactives/interactive-how-do-you-compare-with-jewish-americans-in-2020

A brief summary of the key findings can be found here: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/05/11/10-key-findings-about-jewish-americans/

Methodology: https://www.pewforum.org/2021/05/11/appendix-a-survey-methodology-4

Survey topline: https://www.pewforum.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2021/04/PF_05.11.21.Jewish_Survey_Topline.pdf

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