US Jewish Population Steadily Declining: Pew Poll

Image: US Jewish Population Steadily Declining: Pew Poll

Tuesday, 01 Oct 2013 10:13 AM

By Melanie Batley

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The percentage of Americans who say they are Jewish has declined by about half as a percentage of the US population since the late 1950s, and currently stands at just under 2 percent, a new poll has found.

The Pew Research Survey on Religion and Public Life also found that the percentage of those who identify as Jewish solely by culture or ancestry rather than religion has jumped from 7 percent to 22 percent since 2000. 

"The long-term question is, what is the composition of the Jewish population going to look like in 15 or 20 years given the pattern today? Smaller and more observant?" Laurence Kotler-Berkowitz, senior director of research and analysis and director of the Berman Jewish DataBank in New York and consultant to the Pew survey, asked in The Washington Post.

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The poll found a large increase in the number of interfaith marriages which are more likely to result in children and grandchildren who are not raised as Jews. According to the report, 59 percent of Jews who married after 2005 married non-Jews, compared with 17 percent of those who wed before 1970.

"Will Jews who are not Jewish by religion and who are intermarried, will they maintain some level of connection, and what will it be? These questions are all up in the air," Kotler-Berkowitz said.

Results of the survey also show that the concept of Jewishness has shifted. According to the findings, Jews feel being Jewish is less about being part of a Jewish community, caring about Israel, and observing Jewish law, and more about remembering the Holocaust, "leading an ethical and moral life," and "being intellectually curious."

"Younger Jews are considerably less supportive of Israel's policies and less supportive of Israel, and the differences are very large. I think we're seeing a shift, not just a gap," Steven Cohen, a professor of Jewish social policy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and a consultant to the Pew poll, told the Post.

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