Lack of Participation
Pew Research Center, named after Joseph Pew, CEO of Sun Oil, recently surveyed
United States Jews.
to that survey, there are an estimated 6,800,000 people who may be labeled Jews
by one criterion or another. The survey found that the fastest-growing segment
of the Jewish community in America consists of those who say they have no
religion and are Jewish only on the basis of ancestry. Two thirds of these Jews
are not raising the children Jewish in any sense at all.
overall intermarriage rate of Jews is 58%, up from 43% in 1990 and 17% in 1970.
If Orthodox Jews are eliminated from this calculation, then the intermarriage
rate of the Jewish community is 71%. Twenty-two percent of Jews say they have no
religion, are not connected to any Jewish organizations, and are unlikely to be
raising their children Jewish. 32% of Jews born after 1980, the so-called
millennial generation, identify as Jews with no religion, compared with 19% of
baby boomers and just 7% of Jews born before 1927.
Jews are approximately 1.9% of all Americans. The reform movement is the largest
of all religious groups among American Jews. 35% of Jews who responded to the
Pew Research Center identified as Reform. Jews of no denomination are 30%,
followed by conservatives at 18% and Orthodox at 10%. Less than one third of
American Jews say they belong to a synagogue. 23% of US Jews say they attend
synagogue once or twice a month, and 76% say they attend services on the high
69% of Jews responding to the Pew research said they feel attached to Israel.
43% of such Jews say that they have visited Israel.
Jews who married other Jews, 96% are raising their children as Jews, compared to
only 45% among intermarried Jews. 71% of all Jews who married during the past
ten years intermarried.
Pew study found that 65% of American Jews live in just six states. 20% live in
New York, 14% in California, 12% in Florida, 8% in New Jersey, 5% of
Massachusetts, and 5% in Pennsylvania. Illinois, Maryland, Texas, and Ohio add
Orthodox share of the American Jewish population is growing faster than any
other denomination because Orthodox Jews tend to be younger and have larger
families than Jews generally. Furthermore, among the Orthodox only 17% fall off.
asked by Pew Research what it means to be Jewish, 73% believed that it was
remembering the Holocaust, and 69% thought it meant leading an ethical life.
birth rate among Jews is considerably lower than among the American population
generally. Jewish women aged 15 to 35 have a birth rate of 1.4, while the
American birth rate overall is 1.9.
has been a good deal of speculation as to the reasons for our high intermarriage
rate and failure to participate in Jewish organizations, and particularly in the
Jewish religion. There are those who say this has to do with the length of the
service, claiming that the Orthodox and the Conservatives have services on
Saturday which last three hours and are therefore too long.
Reform Jews, whose services are far shorter than all other denominations, have
less attendance than either the Conservatives or the Orthodox.
there are those who say that failure to attend Jewish religious services or
participate in Jewish organizations has to do with failure to provide an
excellent Jewish education. Others say that on Saturdays, sports are very
important to all Americans and that therefore the Jewish services cannot compete
with the attraction of sports. Finally
there are those who say that all America is becoming secular, so that the Jews
are merely following the majority trend. Yet, the real reason for the massive
abandonment of Judaism in America lies elsewhere.
have found that there is a lack of democracy among Conservative and Reform
congregations. Sociologists have observed that a reason for failure to
participate in synagogue events is mainly associated with the tendency of
non-Orthodox congregations to develop a small clique of self-appointed elitists
who use the congregation as an alternative status system and therefore give
nonmembers the impression that they are not wanted.
These nonmembers of Jewish synagogues have almost always visited
congregations on such occasions as bar mitzvahs and weddings and observed the
lack of democracy among conservative and reform congregations. It is this
stratification which is most responsible for the failure of our synagogues to
attract more Jews. The evidence is that Orthodox congregations, and particularly
Chabad, who have no trustees, welcome everyone. The exact opposite is true of
our Reform and Conservative congregations, which seem to exist only for a few
“shul politicians” whose principal entertainment is to fire the rabbi.