Today, every religion is experiencing a decline in American believers. Specifically, Jewish leaders are seeing obstacles for the future of their faith.
In the recent survey by PEW Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” more than one in five American Jews say they are only Jewish by heritage and are passive in the religion. PEW Research Center claims the following research is the most unbiased and complete study since the National Jewish Population Survey in 2000-2001.
Findings of the study suggest secular Jews have disconnected themselves from any attachments that are related to Judaism as a religion. During the survey, the question in researchers’ minds was regarding what significance Jews have in today’s American society. Below are the intricate findings:
- 15% of Jews in America view being Jewish as a religion, while more than six in 10 Jews view being Jewish as being all about culture, lineage and identity.
- 73% of Jews view commemoration of the Holocaust as a vital part of being a Jew
- 69% say having an ethical life is the key importance of being Jew
- 56% say working for communal equality and social harmony is the main significance
- 42% of Jews in America say having a sense of humor is important about their Jewish heritage, while nearly the same percentage of Jews (43%) think caring about Israel is important to their heritage.
- 78% believe they are religious but millennials were a much lower percentage.
- Nearly 60% of American Jews marry a non-Jewish partner, however, this rate has been constant since the mid-1990s.
- 1.2 million – The population of adult American Jews that are secular Jews. Despite most of them being raised by a Jewish parent who practices the religion, they consider themselves Jewish by heritage only and do not practice. This number has dropped in comparison to the 1950s when the number of religious Jews in America was quite high.
In this study, almost 33% of American Jews born after 2000 said they did not have a religion. This fact suggests that this population is growing. “The fact that many Jews tell us that religion is not particularly important to them doesn’t mean that being Jewish is not important to them,” said Greg Smith, the Director of Religious Studies for the Pew Research Center.
In fact to some of the spiritual Jews, it is not essential for you to believe in God to be Jewish, however, one out of three say being spiritual to them is a must. With this, a high rate of secular Jews are intermarrying with non-Jews, weakening ties with the traditional Jewish community since most bring up their children in the Jewish belief system.
3,475 Jews were sampled in America from February 20 to June 13 with a margin of error for the full sample of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The overall population of Jews in America is up for debate.
Jane Eisner, Editor-in-Chief of the Jewish Daily Forward said that she was not astonished that the research points to a declining interest in Judaism. “We are a people very much defined by what we do, rather than what we believe,” she said.
Her worry is that millennials will not contribute to Jewish charities, join Jewish groups or even be concerned about Israel. As many non-religious Jews take pride in being Jewish, her great concerns are the weak ties between them and the community.