After #JewishAmerica Survey, What Do We Do?

Editorial

Look Who’s Family: Intermarried Jews are far less likely to be involved in the community. Taking steps to address that is one glaring message of the landmark Pew study on Jewish America.
getty images
Look Who’s Family: Intermarried Jews are far less likely to be involved in the community. Taking steps to address that is one glaring message of the landmark Pew study on Jewish America.

Published October 03, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The U.S. Census Bureau asks many questions in its decennial survey of Americans, but never about their religion. The bureau considered doing it once, for the 1960 census, and actually put out a test question in March 1957. To the query “What is your religion?” 3.4% of Americans 14 years and older answered “Jewish.”

After a hail of criticism, the idea of probing religious identity was dropped, and experts could only take educated guesses, especially about a segment of the population as small and complex as the Jews.

Pew Survey! Click Here! Click for more on the survey.

The guessing is over. Thanks to the Pew Research Center with support from the Neubauer Family Foundation, we can answer that question and many more with the first national, comprehensive and independent survey of American Jews to be conducted outside the organized Jewish community. To the extent that numbers don’t lie or prevaricate, this survey’s conclusions are as definitive as can be.

(Full disclosure: Jane Eisner, the Forward’s editor in chief, first suggested that Pew undertake the survey and served on its advisory panel.)

The findings point to a dramatic generational shift in identity and practice in which young Jews are increasingly likely to have no religion, despite saying they are Jewish. In doing so, they are rewriting the norms of behavior that have long characterized Jewish life, abandoning the traditional support for Jewish families, Jewish institutions and Israel and opting instead for an individualized Jewish life filled with pride and possibility, but only loosely engaged in community.

There is no persuasive way to sugarcoat these devastating findings, though some religious and communal leaders are already trying to do so. Unlike previous surveys sponsored by Jewish organizations and therefore somewhat suspect, the Pew data are unassailable. We shouldn’t argue about the facts. What we should do is argue about what they mean and how to constructively respond.

Here are some ideas:


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.