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As indicated in our front-page news story, the first major Jewish population survey in ten years has turned up troubling statistics.

While there has hardly been time to fully digest and debate the just-released report by the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, and though some serious definitional and methodological issues will have to be clarified – the Pew Center applied a very broad definition of Jewishness for the purposes of the survey – the results are sobering.

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Readers are advised to read the front-page story for some of the depressing numbers. The survey reports that rapid assimilation has been sweeping group of American – except for the Orthodox. Indeed, adherence to Orthodox tradition clearly emerges as the key factor in terms of avoiding assimilation.

According to the survey, the intermarriage rate is now at 71 percent for non-Orthodox Jews; less than one-third of American Jews say they belong to a synagogue and just 23 percent of U.S. Jews say they attend a house of worship at least once or twice a month (compared with 62 percent of Christians); one-fourth do not believe in God; and one-third had a Christmas tree in their home last year.

It’s ironic that adherence to Jewish ritual was long seen by many outside the Orthodox camp as a universal turnoff for young Jews, and humanitarian and charitable works were urged as viable substitutes for observance of mitzvot. As the Pew survey shows, that notion has not worked out at all – in fact, it seems to have tragically backfired.

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