11/14/2013 - Jewish identity in America is changing, with an increasing number of Jews saying they are not religious, marrying outside the faith, and not raising their children Jewish.
The findings come from the first major survey of American Jews in more than a decade, conducted by the Pew Research Center. It finds that Jews in the United States overwhelmingly say they are proud to be Jewish and have a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people, but that the percentage of adults in the United States who call themselves Jewish has declined by about half since the late 1950s and is currently less than 2 percent. The number of Americans with direct Jewish ancestry or upbringing who consider themselves Jewish but also describe themselves as atheist, agnostic, or having no particular religion is rising, the survey says, and is now about 0.5 percent of the U.S. adult population. More than 1 in 5 Jews—22 percent—describe themselves as having no religion.
Ninety-three percent of Jews from the World War II generation describe themselves as Jewish on the basis of religion. By contrast, slightly fewer than 7 in 10 Jews in the youngest generation of U.S. adults, known as the millennials, identify as Jews by religion, and 32 percent say they have no religion and identify as Jewish based on ancestry, ethnicity, or culture.
“Differences by generation are very stark,” says Alan Cooperman, deputy director of Pew’s religion and public life project. “Older Jews are Jews by religion. Younger Jews are Jews of no religion.”
The shift reflects what is happening in the broader U.S. public. Pew surveys find that Americans as a whole are shunning any religious affiliation. The 22 percent of Jews who say they have no religion is similar to the 20 percent of the overall public who answer “none” when asked about religious affiliation, and the 32 percent of Jews ages 18-29 who say they have no religion is the same as the percentage of all millennials who say “none.”
The survey finds that when Jews of no religion are compared with religious Jews, they “are not only less religious but also much less connected to Jewish organizations and much less likely to be raising their children Jewish.”
For more information, go to pewresearch.org/jewish-americans.