web analytics
April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



What Pew Means For Us


Front-Page-112213

Share Button

Two months ago, the Pew Research Center issued a comprehensive study of American Jews and ever since the American Jewish community has been debating the findings. I have contributed my share to this debate, which concerns matters of critical importance.

Pew is regarded as the outstanding center for demographic or population research in the U.S. Its work is highly professional and covers a vast range of subjects. For good reason, its data are carefully scrutinized by government agencies and the media, as well as in academia. We know more about socio-economic trends in this country as a consequence of the objectivity and careful preparation that go into each Pew project.

There is much that is commendable in the report on American Jews. In a sense, the main finding is that as a people we are far less religious than used to be the case and that the process of secularization is dynamic, meaning that when the next major population survey comes around, perhaps in a decade or less, the findings will show American Jewry more removed from any sense of religiosity than it was in 2013.

As one illustration, although for nearly a quarter of a century (or ever since the National Jewish Population Survey of 1990) we have been aware of a frighteningly high rate of intermarriage, Pew documents that outside of Orthodox life the rate for recently married American Jews is now in the seventy percent range. The consequences are enormous and while they may not be felt immediately or even in the near future, ultimately they will take an enormous toll – this despite the pseudo-scholarship of those who somehow view the data as good tidings.

A determined effort is underway to put a good face on the bad news. It is claimed that intermarriage is not as harmful to Jewish continuity as we Orthodox and some others claim. The online magazine Tablet posted an essay last week titled “New Analysis of Pew Data: Children of Intermarriage Increasingly Identify as Jews.” The article informs us that “Pew’s own data show that the growth of the unaffiliated population is the result of the unexpected tendency of most young adults with intermarried parents to identify as Jewish. Instead of a growing population of young adults raised in Jewish households opting out, there appears to be a trend of young adults raised in non-Jewish or partly Jewish households opting in.”

This is bad history, bad sociology, bad demography and a frightening distortion of Judaism. But precisely because intermarriage has spread – and spread it has, as well, to many who are influential in Jewish life – there is an impulse to sugarcoat the bad news. This impulse first took root after NJPS 1990. As the rate of intermarriage has grown, so too has grown the impulse to define intermarriage as not necessarily bad or perhaps even good news.

Pew claims that there are about 6.5 million American Jews, a figure that is considerably higher than what the National Jewish Population Survey showed a decade ago but also somewhat lower than what other demographers, particularly at Brandeis University, have claimed about American Jewry. The disparity in estimates – and that’s what they are for all of the scientism that accompanies our population reports – arises in large measure from the question of who to count as a Jew or, perhaps more precisely, who may be regarded as a Jew in a household that is identified as Jewish. Intermarriage obviously comes into the equation, as does the vexatious question of whether to include persons who were born Jewish but who say that they are not.

It needs to be underscored that for purposes of population research, one Jewish parent – whether the father or mother – is sufficient to establish Jewish identity, provided that the individual self-identities as Jewish. Although it is not in the published report, Pew’s research indicates that there are 2.1 million Americans who have had one or two Jewish parents and yet are not included in the statistics of American Jewry, either because they say they are Christian or adhere to another religion or that they have no religion and do not consider themselves Jewish. This is an astonishing number that is certain to grow.

Share Button

About the Author: Dr. Marvin Schick is president of the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School. He has been actively engaged in Jewish communal life for more than sixty years.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “What Pew Means For Us”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
ancient skull discovered Gush Etzion
Hikers Find Human Skull and Bones in Gush Etzion Cave
Latest Indepth Stories
matza

If itis a mitzva to eat matza all Pesach, then why is there no berakha attached to it?

Masked Palestinian Authority Arabs hurl blocks at Israel Police during and after "worship" at Temple Mount mosque. (archive photo)

When we are united with unconditional love, no stone will be raised against us by our enemies.

Haredim riot after draft-dodger is arrested.

The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.

Bitton-041814

The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.

Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.

“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

It’s finally happened. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan reported on her blog that “many readers…wrote to object to an [April 2] article…on the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” claiming “[they] found the headline misleading and the article itself lacking in context.” Ms. Sullivan provided one such letter, quoted the […]

Nor did it seem relevant that according to widely circulated media reports, Rev. Sharpton was caught on an FBI surveillance video discussing possible drug sales with an FBI agent.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

When the state was established, gedolim went to Ben-Gurion and asked him not to draft women and, later, yeshiva bachrim.

More Articles from Marvin Schick
Front-Page-040414

We now are in the season of advocacy of preschool, referring specifically to the education of children who are four years old.

Front-Page-112213

Two months ago, the Pew Research Center issued a comprehensive study of American Jews and ever since the American Jewish community has been debating the findings. I have contributed my share to this debate, which concerns matters of critical importance.

As the Torah teaches, poverty will never be eradicated, nor will our obligation to assist those in need.

As we commemorate the fiftieth yahrzeit this Friday, the second day of Kislev, of Rav Aaron Kotler – the greatest Jew, in the opinion of even many of his fellow Torah luminaries, ever to set foot on North American soil – we are obligated to reflect on his achievements and the lessons he taught.

A major sociological characteristic and consequence of modernity is the tendency for people to join together in associations that express a common goal or interest or a shared experience. The United States has been a nation of joiners from day one and perhaps even before independence was declared. Alexis de Tocqueville described this tendency in Democracy in America, the epic prophetic work published a century and three-quarters ago.

There is constant talk of a tuition crisis, of the growing number of yeshiva and day school parents – and potential parents – who say that full tuition or anything close to it is beyond their financial reach.

It often seems that it’s always open season on teachers, that they are available for target practice in the form of harsh criticism or verbal and written abuse from current parents, former parents, current students, former students, administrators, lay leaders and, in the case of public education, public officials and the media.

My first visit to Israel in the summer of 1959 coincided to an extent with the trip by Rabbi Aharon Kotler, the great rosh yeshiva of Lakewood, who came to give shiurim at Yeshiva Eitz Chaim in Jerusalem and to campaign for Agudath Israel in the Knesset elections, as he had done previously in the decade.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/what-pew-means-for-us/2013/11/24/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: