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Do Statistics Tell The Real Story? Reflections on U.S. Jewry

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When I questioned one of the chief researchers about these peculiar findings, he responded: “You think those findings are bizarre? How about the 5 percent of those who reported themselves to be atheist Jews yet responded positively to the statement, ‘I believe in God with absolute certainty?’ “

If one is interested in numbers, statistics, and percentages, then the Pew survey is a gold mine for speculation about the condition of American Jewry at this point in time. But if one is, as I definitely am, interested in human beings with all their faults and all their glory, then help me find those Orthodox Jews, Modern or Ultra, with Christmas trees in their living rooms last year. Join me in interviewing the Ultra-Orthodox Jew with his beard and peyos, or the Modern Orthodox Jew with his kippah serugah, who regularly attends services at the local mosque or cathedral.

An interview with them would certainly be fascinating and would teach us a lot more than percentages and graphs and charts about the realities of Jews and Judaism in the United States in this day and age.

Assuming, of course, that such people really do exist and that their responses were not simply erroneous.

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This past autumn the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project released the findings of its survey of American Jews. “A Portrait of Jewish Americans” immediately won the attention of a good number of American Jews and became the focus of considerable media coverage.

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