The Bad News from the Latest Survey of American Jewry Doesn’t Only Concern the Non-Orthodox

Nov. 29 2021

Recently the Pew Research Center released its latest major demographic study of U.S. Jews. (See Mosaic’s in-depth discussion of the 2013 survey here.) Some of the news is familiar: the rapid growth of the Orthodox, who make 3 percent of those older than sixty-five but 17 percent of those between eighteen and twenty-nine; the rapid decline of the liberal denominations; and the expanding proportion of “Jews of no religion.” But Jacob J. Schacter, a historian and an Orthodox rabbi, sees above all reasons for worry:

Some pundits have been optimistic about the results of the study because it “is evidence of the innovative and ever-changing ways Jewish religion is practiced, not grounds for panic.” While I welcome different ways Jews connect to their Jewishness, I am concerned for two reasons. First, the study showed that many, even self-identifying, Jews are not at all involved in any way “Jewish religion is practiced,” even most broadly [defined]. Fully one-third of those who were raised Jewish are not Jewish today, either because they identify with a religion other that Judaism (19 percent consider themselves Christian) or because they do not currently identify themselves as Jews in any way.

I also wonder how meaningful even practices identified as religious can ultimately be absent any non-negotiable commitment to the notion of mitzvah, or commandedness, a concept more and more problematic in a contemporary world governed by personal autonomy and individual choice.

But most disturbing and upsetting to me is the finding in this study that 33 percent of Jews raised as Orthodox do not continue to identify with Orthodoxy as adults. . . . I personally am aware of a number of such cases and in each one of them the parents of these children are wonderful and positive role models; they have done all they could possibly do to raise their children as committed and observant Jews. But, communally, we [Orthodox Jews] need to devote much more attention to this [problem] than we have been giving it until now.

At the link below, find further analysis of the Pew study by Erica Brown, Eric Fingerhut, Efrem Goldberg, and Steven Weil.

Read more at Jewish Action

More about: American Jewry, Demography, Orthodoxy, Pew Survey


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount