For decades, the core of American Jewish support for Israel lay in what was once the communal mainstream: upper-middle class, non-Orthodox Jews. But evidence suggests that this support is rapidly declining even as the numbers of non-Orthodox Jews are also shrinking. Taking into account demographic and opinion surveys, Owen Alterman argues that Israel should recalibrate its outreach to American Jews to appeal to two groups whose numbers are on the rise, and whose support for Israel is greater than often assumed. (Article begins at p. 43.)
While decades of intermarriage and assimilation have eroded the established core of American Jewry, they have also produced millions of Americans who do not self-identify as Jews but who have a familial or other affinity to Judaism. . . . The 2013 Pew study identifies and defines two distinct groups of Americans who themselves are not Jewish but who have a particular link to Judaism. The first is the “Jewish background” group: Americans with a Jewish parent who do not (or no longer) identify as Jews. The second is the “Jewish affinity” group: non-Jews without a Jewish parent who nonetheless see themselves as linked to Judaism in some way. The links to Judaism are varied, ranging from those citing that “Jesus was Jewish” to those citing a Jewish spouse or Jewish grandparents. . . .
Taken together, these “Jewish background” and “Jewish affinity” sectors are enormous, [and] show a reasonably strong connection to Judaism and Jewish institutions, which sets them apart from non-Jewish Americans. . . . The sectors also show a strong emotional connection to Israel. A large proportion . . . believes that the United States is “not supportive enough” of Israel. Significantly, [this proportion] is actually greater than [that of the non-Orthodox] communal core holding this belief.
Similarly, Alterman continues, the ultra-Orthodox are often assumed both to be unsupportive of Israel and to have limited financial resources, but neither assumption is true across the board.