Jews Bound by Shared Beliefs Even as Markers of Faith Fade, Pew Study Shows

Denominations Shrink, Intermarriage and 'No Religion' Rises

Is Change Good? Adam Weinstein and Kimberly Smith illustrate an increasing trend of Jews marrying outside the faith. Some see that and other changes as threats to Jewish life, but a new generation seems to see it differently.
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Is Change Good? Adam Weinstein and Kimberly Smith illustrate an increasing trend of Jews marrying outside the faith. Some see that and other changes as threats to Jewish life, but a new generation seems to see it differently.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published October 01, 2013.
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Most Jews care about Israel, but many are skeptical of the Israeli government — and that skepticism is most pronounced in younger Jews.

That’s despite a Jewish lobbying apparatus in Washington, and a Jewish leadership nationally, that is far more likely to back the Israeli government than to criticize it.

“Every Israel number is much lower among young people than their grandparents,” said Steven M. Cohen, a leading sociologist of American Jewry and an adviser to Pew on the survey.

When Secretary of State John Kerry asked American Jews to help push the Israelis to agree to enter negotiations with the Palestinians last June, American Jewish leaders balked.

Only a handful of left-wing groups advocated on Kerry’s behalf. The rest demurred, telling the Forward that it wasn’t the Israelis who needed to be pushed to the table, and that the onus lies entirely on the Palestinians.

American Jews don’t seem to share that view. According to the Pew survey, only 38% of all U.S. Jews believe that the Israeli government is making a “sincere effort” to come to a peace settlement. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, that number is even lower, at just 26%.

The majority of American Jews do think that a two-state solution is possible. Most seem to oppose Israeli settlements in the West Bank, with only 17% saying that the settlements help Israeli security.

A growing number of young Jews, meanwhile, are critical of America’s relationship with Israel. A quarter of Jews aged 18 to 29 think the United States supports Israel too much. Among Jews aged 50 and older, only 5% think so.

Marrying Outside the Tribe

Intermarriage rates are high among America’s Jews, according to the new Pew survey, especially among the non-Orthodox, where more than two-thirds of recent marriages were to non-Jews.

The study presents strong evidence that intermarried Jews are far less Jewishly engaged than in-married Jews. That could have an impact on a decades-old debate over how best to handle rising intermarriage rates. While some Jewish leaders have called for accepting intermarried families into the Jewish community in a bid to keep them within the fold, others have critiqued that approach.

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