1% of Orthodox Jews Have Xmas Trees?: Learnings from Pew’s Study of American Jews

Pepe La Pew, any relation to Pew Research?


Pepe La Pew, any relation to Pew Research?

Pepe La Pew, any relation to Pew Research?

Pew Research Center released its newest study of the American Jewish community, and there are few surprises, unless perhaps you would be surprised that 22% (or 1 in 5) replied that they describe themselves as being born Jewish but currently “having no religion.”

According to the study of nearly 3,500 American Jews, which was published on October 1, 2013, American Jews overwhelmingly say they are proud to be Jewish and have a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people. The percentage of U.S. adults who say they are Jewish is a little less than 2%, and the number of Americans with direct Jewish parentage or upbringing who consider themselves Jewish, yet describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or having no particular religion, is about 0.5% of the U.S. adult population.

The study figured that there are about 4.2 million American adults who say they are Jewish by religion, representing 1.8% of the U.S. adult population. But there are roughly 5.3 million Jews (2.2% of the adult population) if the total also includes “Jews of no religion,” a group of people who say they are atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” when asked about their religion but who were raised Jewish or have a Jewish parent and who still consider themselves Jewish aside from religion. Two groups that were not counted as Jews in the report are 2.4 million adults in the “Jewish background” category – that is, people who were raised Jewish or had at least one Jewish parent, but who now either identify with a religion other than Judaism (most are Christian) or say they do NOT think of themselves as Jewish or partially Jewish, by religion or otherwise. Also, there are 1.2 million adults in the “Jewish affinity” category – people who were not raised Jewish, do not have a Jewish parent, and are not Jewish by religion but who nevertheless consider themselves Jewish in some sense (but not that they like to just eat bagels and whitefish).

93% of Jews in the aging Greatest Generation identify as Jewish on the basis of religion.
By contrast, 68% of Millennial-aged Jews identify as Jews by religion, and 32% of them describe themselves as having no religion and identify as Jewish on the basis of ancestry, ethnicity or culture (not religion).

THE FULL STUDY CAN BE FOUND AT THIS LINK.

It was not a shock that Jews who replied that they are Jews by ancestry and not by religion feel less connected to Jewish organizations and are much less likely to be raising their children Jewish. More than 90% of Jews by religion who are currently raising minor children in their home say they are raising those children Jewish or partially Jewish. In stark contrast, the survey finds that 65% of Jews of no religion say they are not raising their children Jewish or partially Jewish.

79% of married Jews of no religion have a spouse who is not Jewish,
36% of married Jews by religion have a non-Jewish spouse.
96% of married Jews with a Jewish spouse replied that they are raising their children Jewish
63% of married Jews with a non-Jewish spouse replied that they are raising their children Jewish or partly so.

Among Jewish respondents who have gotten married since 2000, nearly 60% have a non-Jewish spouse.
Among those who got married in the 1980s, about 40% have a non-Jewish spouse.
Among Jews who got married before 1970, just 17% have a non-Jewish spouse.

The Pew Research study determined that Reform Judaism continues to be the largest Jewish denominational movement in the United States. 35% of all U.S. Jews identify with the Reform movement, while 18% identify with Conservative Judaism, 10% with Orthodox Judaism and 6% with a variety of smaller groups, such as the Reconstructionist and Jewish Renewal movements. About 30% of American Jews (including 19% of Jews by religion and 65% of Jews of no religion) say they do not identify with any particular Jewish denomination.

About 50% of the survey respondents who were raised as Orthodox Jews say they are no longer Orthodox. But the falloff from Orthodoxy appears to be declining and is significantly lower among 18-to-29-year-olds (17%) than among older adults. 30% of those raised Conservative have become Reform Jews, and 28% of those raised Reform have left the ranks of Jews by religion entirely. 7% of Jews raised in the Reform movement replied that have become Conservative or Orthodox, and just 4% of those raised in Conservative Judaism have become Orthodox (the hierarchy is theirs).

70% of respondents said that they participated in a Passover seder in the past year, and 53% say they fasted for all or part of Yom Kippur in 2012. Tne years ago, in a similar – but not equal – study, 78% of Jews said they had participated in a seder in the past year, and 60% said they had fasted on Yom Kippur. The change is mostly due to the growth of Jews of No Religion.

94% of U.S. Jews (including 97% of Jews by religion and 83% of Jews of no religion) say they are proud to be Jewish. 75% of U.S. Jews (including 85% of Jews by religion and 42% of Jews of no religion) also say they have “a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people.”

69% of those surveyed say they feel either very attached (30%) or somewhat attached (39%) to Israel
43% of Jews have been to Israel, including 23% who have visited more than once.
40% of Jews say they believe the land that is now Israel was given by God to the Jewish people.
Only 38% say the Israeli government is making a sincere effort to establish peace with the Palestinians. And only 12% think Palestinian leaders are sincerely seeking peace with Israel.
Just 17% think the continued building of settlements in the West Bank is helpful to Israel’s security
And 44% say that settlement construction hurts Israel’s own security interests.

73% think that remembering the Holocaust is important to their Jewishness, and
69% replied that leading an ethical life is essential to their sense of Jewishness
56% say that working for justice and equality is essential to what being Jewish means to them.
43% replied that caring about Israel is important to their sense of Jewishness and
42% said that a good sense of humor is essential to their Jewish identity.

I invite you to read through the survey. Especially Page 80, which says that 1% of Ultra Orthodox Jewish and 3 or 4% of Modern Orthodox Jews reported that they had a Xmas tree last December.

Page 80: About a third of Jews (32%) say they had a Christmas tree in their home last year, including 27% of Jews by religion and 51% of Jews of no religion. Erecting a Christmas tree is especially common among Jews who are married to non-Jews; 71% of this group says they put up a tree last year. Compared with younger Jews, those 65 and older are somewhat less likely to have had a Christmas tree last year. And relatively few Orthodox Jews, including just 1% of UltraOrthodox Jews (and 4% of Modern Orthodox), say there was a Christmas tree in their home last year. Attending non-Jewish religious services is an infrequent occurrence for U.S. Jews; just 15% say they do this at least a few times a year.



2 Comments

  1. ROSENBERG

    10/17/2013 at 6:59 pm

    The issue is that in most Orthodox synagogues Shabbat and Yom Tov attendance pack the synagogues with multiple minyanim. Home practice and observance as a family in addition to regular service attendance sets the tone. Most Jews do not attend services because they have other priorities such as sports events, dance recitals etc. They feel it is more important for their children to be active sports participants on Shabbat than to attend regular services. How many post Bar and Bat Mitzvah students attend services on a regular basis? Many synagogues are bar and bat mitzvah mills where parents drop membership after the last bar or bat mitzvah or just do not attend except for the High Holy Days.RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG

  2. rich

    11/14/2013 at 1:44 pm

    Very little of this surprises me. I presume the Orthodox Jews with Xmas trees in their homes have people who observe that holiday in their homes, be it nannies or other domestic help, college roommates, inmates at the Otisville Minyan or nursing home residents. My own congregation runs from the talent of the once Conservative Ramah and Hillel alumni who opted for us over the USCJ shul a mile away. I think when attrition is of that magnitude, it has to be leadership generated in some fashion.

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