13 thoughts on “New Pew Poll on U.S. Jewish Identity – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. Apologies, perhaps, but I am a goy and fail to see what the hand wringing is about. Not being one of God’s chosen, I have never believed in the so-called Jewish people. It is a religion pure and simple. The irony for me is that it would seem that the ashkenazi Jews are the descendants of converts, perhaps originating in Khazaria. yest they claim some link with the sands of Palestine. Similarly, the Muslims of Palestine are in all probability descendants of the original Jews from the area who chose conversion to Islam rather than being put to the sword during the Arab invasion. So we have Israelis who are descendants of converts discriminating and worse against the Arabs who are descendants of the original Jews.
    As for what is happening in the US, do we hear similar soul searching about Presbyterians, or Catholics? So much ill in the world has been born of religion. If people become more secular in the religious beliefs but still adhere to the ethics, I say good.

    1. Just some thoughts:
      There certainly is similar soul-searching among Christian denominations in Europe, who face similar or higher rates of secularization. American Christianity seems to be out of step with this trend, but perhaps American Jews are more ‘European’.

      I recall having read that the strongest factor predicting how religious a population will be is to look at insecurity. In societies with a high level of insecurity people are proportionally more religious. (Also people who have experienced war are more religious.) If true, the European type social system, where (until now at least) your medical bills and basic food and housing were guaranteed may have enhanced secularization.

      What I see is that when people stop believing actively in a certain religion (after their family has been part of this religion for as long as they can remember), their feeling of ‘association’ with this religion still lingers on for a generation or two. But if you belong to a majority religion, there it stops.

      I think it may be different if you are a religious minority surrounded by people of another faith. Like Copts in Egypt for instance. I think Copts who become atheist will continue to identify as ‘Copt’ despite of this. And I also think that their descendants will continue to feel for a number of generations that they are still somehow ‘Coptic’ even if they never embrace the religion seriously again. In a society where they face little discrimination that feeling of belonging would fade sooner than in an intolerant society.
      The Pew results make me think that American Jews may be like Copts who have been living in a tolerant society for a couple of generations.

  2. Which you be willing to post your responses to the poll questions?

    I know you are very busy with your work, but I think it might offer a really fascinating window for your readers as to where you land on these questions.

    Any chance you might consider doing that? (Even just a few of the questions if the whole poll is too time-consuming)

  3. Has any swift survey of US opinion on the Syria war/peace issue reported on where various strands of US Jews stood or stand on that? If so, pls give me citation/ URL. Thanks. Shalom, AW

  4. Richard, You write: “The bad news is that Jews are less and less interested in being Jewish.”

    Of course, “good” and “bad” as to news (or anything else) is in the eye of the beholder, but why is THIS bad news? Bad for whom? I’d say, for instance, that my main “umbilicus” to “being Jewish” (apart from some relatives) is my concern for Palestine (and my concern for the re-ordering of Jewish opinion away from Israel-my-country-right-or-wrong-ism). In short, not much “Jewish” there, and certainly neither “religion” nor “concern for the well-being of the Jewish people” (apart from a wish for the moral adn ethical repair/tikkun of the so-called and soi-dissant “Jewish People”. I intermarried , that is, I married a Palestinian Quaker. Best thing that ever happened to me.

    When the content of “being Jewish” is broadly minimized (and distorted) to be no more and nop other than support for Israel (including all its crimes — as I see many of its actions), then better NOT to maintain an interest in “being Jewish”.

  5. I think this poll is a bearer of really good news. perhaps the conclusion to draw on the decline of whatever is labeled “Jewish identity” is a direct result of the obvious cognitive dissonance: it is not possible to have any credible values at all (much less social conscience or commitment to justice) if one continues to pledge an allegiance to a thuggish state in the Middle east. Some see value in israel. I see mostly the opposite of what we humans label as “values”. Israel, though it has some good people (hey, I know 5 personally and heard of at least 100 more. Wow!), is, spiritually, one of the most backward, reactionary states in the world today. Don’t point to its sky scrappers and fabulous high tech. Or to the all-out commercialized celebrations of invented and recreated “Jewish” holidays. look at the day to day reality; the crudity of daily life, the all out commitment to the most materialistic of values, the inability to regard oneself as a human equal to others in the world, idiotic notions of chosen-ness, pathetic in their all-exclusiveness. Most importantly, the utter arrogance of the know-it-alls who profess to some inately acquired “superiority” while actually knowing very little. I find the majority of israeli ignorant of history (other than their own spoon-fed, make-believe one), totally incurious about other people, full of misconceptions about just about anything, incapable of empathy with others, except the empathy of the overlord, uncaring about histories and places in the world, except in so far as they are compared to themselves – and found perpetually wanting, and generally rather cynical and limited in their personal aspirations and notions about the greater humanity.

    Of course, to know all I said above, one kind of has to be willing to listen to people talk in their original language, usually the only one they have any real command of – hebrew. Perhaps stroll through some facebooks, see what they comment on, what people find interesting. In israeli facebooks, people (some, not all) can be surprisingly honest and revealing. after all, it’s all in the family.

    I wish the poll asked more about what the young Jews considered important in their lives. perhaps tribalism wasn’t so high on the list and an allegiance to a rinky-dinky foreign power hell-bent on domination of others, was not, as they say, so attractive. And if the “Jewish state” is such a sad sight to behold, spiritually speaking, and Judaism became all wrapped up in it, what to make of that “judaism”? what’s left of it other than some theoretical “jewish values” that are, at their core, no different than the better Christian values (not speaking now of the conservative denominations in either grouping)? and frankly, can any country in the world be further away – in practice and in deed – than anything that could pass as “jewish values”?

    So the jewish people in the US are dumping the baggage in increasing numbers. marrying to others not jewish, is called – voting with your feet. Like wise -providing no jewish upbringing. It’s hard enough to try and salvage an American being.

    These are some first thoughts (sorry for the length. Unintended). Now I’ll go and think about it some more.

  6. RE: “One of the statistics that shocked me was that while 2% of American adults identified as Jewish in this poll, in the late 1950s 4% of respondents identified as Jewish. As I read it, that means that we’ve totally lost a large number of Jews over the past 50-odd years. . .” ~ R.S.

    MY QUESTIONS: How many of these Jews lost by the U.S. since the late 1950s made aliya to Israel? As to Jewish Israelis who have come to the U.S. from Israel since the late 1950s, is it possible that they are mostly the more secular, non-practicing type? In other words, since the late 1950s, have Americans who most strongly identify as Jews tended to move to Israel, while the Israelis who least strongly identify as Jews tended to move to U.S.?
    Enquiring minds mimes want to know!”

    1. Americans who most strongly identify as Jews have not tended to move to Israel in large numbers. There have been less than 100,000 who have done so over the past 60 years.

      1. I can second what Bob Mann is saying. based on my own personal knowledge, I did not know more than one single individual American who actually moved to israel until the late 70’s. And that individual was a more religious man who was hoping to find a bride.

        Unfortunately the vast majority of Americans who did move to israel were of the religious nationalist variety, as the settlement enterprise amply proves. there was a smattering of individuals who happen to have married israelis, and a few who became idealistically attached for one reason or anpother. Kind of like the Australian ben Zygier – there wewre those who became fascinated with the ultra-military ethos and bought into that fake macho mentality.

        But Dickerson brings up a very good point too that didn’t even occur to me till now. During the same period of time – from the early 70’s through today, legions of israelis moved to the US. By some counts, there are between 750,000 and 1M of them. They would by and large be the secular/cultural types. IF some were reached by the survey, they are likely to so identify. These would be the ones mostly married to jewish spouses and have a strong attachment to Israel. What that says is that the survey results may be skewed even more than realized:

        1. The 6.6 M Jews would include a large number of ex-Israelis. That means that, to use Richard’s comparison, not only did the original American jewish segment not gain in numbers, they actually lost absolute numbers quite a bit, and the total is kind of propped up by the israeli emigres.

        2. The survey answers that show decline in Jewish identification among the secular/cultural identified would be even more deeply skewed, if not for the growing number of ex-Israelis. An aside: many of the children of the ex-Israelis do indeed intermarry in America. Some spouses convert; the majority do not. Their children would be raised “sort of” jewish, perhaps with emphasis on the israel attachment.

        Interim conclusion: American jewry must urgently encourage reverse aliya from israel to save its dwindling numbers.

  7. I’m glad to see any diminution of “I am X”, X coming usually from the accident of birth. Strip away all affiliations with nation or religion or what have you and look at what behavior a person engages in regarding others. No matter how laudable one may think a system of established beliefs, what one practices is all that counts. Live the life you would have others emulate, one that has no requirements or expectations of professed identity, but values only what is actually done.

    1. That seems a contradiction to me. What one practices comes
      from a part of one’s identity. It doesn’t have to be nation,
      religion, or state, but *some* belief system is always there,
      whether or not it’s “established” in a wider context. And the
      accidents of birth and upbringing are inescapably part and parcel
      of it, though not necessarily in a simplistic or deterministic
      manner. Richard’s Jewish values are worlds apart from Meir Kahane’s
      Jewish values, but both are/were undoubtedly Jewish. So you have to
      be wary drawing your identity, your justifications from any system
      larger than yourself, because it always represents more than you
      bargained for. A plea for “rootless cosmopolitanism”, as it was
      called in another era, doesn’t follow, however.

  8. Condemnation of Diaspora Jews

    (YnetNews) – As humans it is their right to live wherever they please, but as Jews they have a problem. Judaism rejects the legitimacy of “life in exile” and, over time, does not allow it to persist. Jewish life outside the State of Israel is a paradox that eliminates itself. Prior to the inception of Israel, the Diaspora Jews could pledge that they would make aliyah along with the messiah, but the messiah has yet to arrive, the promise was broken, and now comes the punishment. When Jews live a lie, the son marries a shiksa and the daughter marries a sheigetz.

    Maimonides called it the “magnificent shemad (forced conversion),” meaning a non-violent Holocaust. Of course, this time we cannot blame the goyim, only the Jews who prefer to live far away from here rather than participate in the Zionist adventure. We in Israel can’t do much to change this preference. The political correctness of 2013 is preventing our leaders from condemning the exile-by-choice phenomenon. Finance Minister Yair Lapid did well when he at least denounced the emigration from Israel. Perhaps he should have refrained from referring to the Holocaust in order to make his point, but it is very good that he spoke publicly about the weak character of those who leave Israel.

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