Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Breaking News

1M American Jews Seek Identity Outside Shul

Some 1 million American Jews – or one in 6 – are actively seeking Jewish expression and engagement outside of synagogue life, according to a new study.

The results of a study released by the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring break down the notion that American Jews either are affiliated with synagogues or have a Jewish identity that revolves around Jewish humor and food with little active connection to Jewish ritual and living.

The poll was conducted between April 19 and May 3 by IPSOS, with Steven M. Cohen and Samuel J. Abrams as the leading researchers. Results were weighted to reflect the American Jewish population by factors such as age, gender, geography and marital status. Among the respondents were 1,000 by Internet.

The respondents overall tended to describe themselves as “cultural” and “spiritual.” Many said they believed in God and still prayed but shied away from congregational life. They showed numerous signs of Jewish engagement, tended to be attached to Israel and placed particular emphasis on economic justice and social equality, according to the study.

As many as 40 percent of the respondents were under the age of 35, nearly three in five fasted on Yom Kippur (approximately three in four of those congregationally affiliated do so) and 46 percent “at least sometimes” have a Friday night Shabbat meal with family and friends. Also, 56 percent said they were “very attached to Israel,” which is larger than any other non-Orthodox group.

Nearly half of the respondents – 49 percent – are married; 18 percent are intermarried. About half, 51 percent, identified as liberals.

In the past, self-defined cultural Jews had a “very passive approach” to Jewish life, Ann Toback, national director of the Workmen’s Circle, said in a news release. The study’s results, she added, show them to be “engaged with Jewish values” and wanting to be part of the Jewish community, “although often outside of a congregation.”

Madelon Braun, president of the Workmen’s Circle, said the poll demonstrates “a real need for a Jewish home for those who do not seek a congregational affiliation.”

A message from our editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren

We're building on 127 years of independent journalism to help you develop deeper connections to what it means to be Jewish today.

With so much at stake for the Jewish people right now — war, rising antisemitism, a high-stakes U.S. presidential election — American Jews depend on the Forward's perspective, integrity and courage.

—  Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.