October 1st, 2013
09:52 AM ET
Study: American Jews losing their religion
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - The number of nonreligious Jews is rising in the United States, with more than one in five saying they are not affiliated with any faith, according to a new survey.
While similar trends affect almost every American religion, Jewish leaders say the new survey spotlights several unique obstacles for the future of their faith.
According to the survey, conducted by Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project, non-religious Jews are less likely to care deeply about Israel, donate to Jewish charities, marry Jewish spouses and join Jewish organizations.
Pew says their study sought to explore the question, "What does being Jewish in America mean today?" The answer is quite complicated.
Just 15% of American Jews say that being Jewish is mainly a religious matter, according to Pew's survey. By contrast, more than six in 10 say Jewishness is about culture, ancestry and identity.
The most essential parts of being Jewish, according to American Jews, are remembering the Holocaust (73%), leading an ethical life (69%) and working for social justice and peace (56%).
Almost as many American Jews say that having good sense of humor (42%) is as important to their Jewish identity as caring about Israel (43%).
Even among religious Jews, most say it's not necessary to believe in God to be Jewish, and less than one in three say religion is very important to their lives.
Nearly all American Jews - religious and secular - say they are proud to be Jewish.
"The fact that many Jews tell us that religion is not particularly important to them doesn't mean that being Jewish is not important to them," said Greg Smith, director of religious surveys for the Pew Research Center.
The most essential parts of being Jewish, according to the survey, are remembering the Holocaust (73%), leading an ethical life (69%) and working for social justice and peace (56%).
Overall, the majority of Jews (78%) call themselves religious, but the survey showed much lower rates of religious affiliation among millennials, one of several trends that trouble Jewish leaders.
Nearly a third of American Jews born after 2000 answered "none" when asked about their religious affiliation, suggesting that Jewish "nones" are not only a large group, they're growing, Smith said.
The rise of Jewish "nones" tracks with wider trends in the American population, where about a third of millennials don't affiliate with organized religion.
The nonpartisan Pew Research Center says its survey is the most comprehensive since the National Jewish Population Survey in 2000-2001.
Pew surveyed 3,475 Jews from across the country from February 20 to June 13, with a margin of error for the full sample of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The study declines to offer a definitive estimate of the size of the American Jewish population, a matter of heated debate in recent years.
Instead, Pew offered several tallies of American Jews, depending on different definitions of Jewish identity.
Approximately 4.2 million American adults - 1.8% of the overall population - identify as Jewish by religion. In the 1950s, the percentage of religious Jews in the United States was nearly twice as high, according to Pew.
Meanwhile, about 1.2 million adult Americans now identify as secular or cultural Jews - they were raised Jewish, had a Jewish parent and still consider themselves Jewish, even though they don't practice the religion, according to Pew.
Secular Jews are much more likely to marry outside the faith, according to Pew, a trend that has worried Jewish leaders in recent years.
Nearly 60% of American Jews who have married since 2000 have a non-Jewish spouse, according to Pew.
Intermarried Jews, like secular Jews, are much less likely to raise their children in the Jewish faith and have weaker ties to the Jewish community, says Pew's report.
But, in a silver lining for Jewish leaders, intermarriage rates have leveled off, Smith said, holding steady at 60% since the mid-1990s.
Jane Eisner, editor-in-chief of the Jewish Daily Forward, said she is not surprised that the study found relatively low interest in Jewish religious beliefs.
"We are a people very much defined by what we do, rather than what we believe," she said.
But Eisner said she is concerned that millennials are less likely to donate to Jewish charities, care strongly about Israel or belong to Jewish groups.
"It's great that these non-religious Jews feel pride in being Jewish," Eisner said. "What worries me is their tenuous ties to the community."
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
I certainly fall in the non-religious Jew category, but I don't call myself a cultural Jew. I co-opt a term coined by a friend; I'm a "gastronomic Jew". Give me a good corned beef sandwich on rye...they way you can only get it in New York.
I'm trying to read the comments here but I'm in the dark and in pain and it's hard to see. You never write. I'm all alone here and all the other kids went to Harvard and you? You don't even go to synogogue...oy!
Only for the new members of this blog:
Some added reasons why Jews are viewing Judaism in a different light: :
origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.
New Torah For Modern Minds
“Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. (prob•a•bly
Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell).
The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.
Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.
The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."
Thanks for posting this...very interesting article!
he has been copying and pasting this for months, maybe longer. come on try something new or real or better yet true.
Now, if we can just lose our parasitic relationship with Israel...
if we can just lose our parasitic relationship with religion...
Wow! Hitler and Abu Nedal would say in refernce to you "Now that's my kind of Jew."
Self loathing much?
I married an agnostic Jewish person and we decided to raise our kids Jewish and even joined a Reform synagogue, but the dues and tuition for Hebrew lessons is expensive. We make what contributions we can afford but don't feel comfortable always asking for discounts. It seems it is always something in this economy year after year if it isn't a huge recession it is a government shut down. Religious affiliation is a kind of unaffordable extra. But we have tight connections with our extended families and celebrate holidays– all of them Christian, Jewish and American–with ferocious love and tradition.
Christians were labeled atheists by the romans for not believing in the roman gods.
"Doubters" flocked to Baghdad when it was the cultural center of the world before the rise of islam.
Nonbelief has flourished.
The only difference is, you are an atheist in relation to almost every other god out there. I just go one further.
"but don't feel comfortable always asking for discounts."
I wouldn't feel comfortable following a religion where they ask for any money let alone have to give sales and discounts on faith and religious services and religious schooling. What a sham. And shame.
"...the dues and tuition for Hebrew lessons is expensive. We make what contributions we can afford but don't feel comfortable always asking for discounts."
Hence the need for the lessons. Oy!
Interesting: in Luke 18:8, Jesus Christ prophesied about this loss of faith just before He comes. At that time, atheism was a rare bird and no trend helped Him to read what would happen after 2,000 years.
Interesting – you seem to have picked one small passage and ignored the many times there was a loss of faith throughout the bible.
It is great you have your faith but the bible as we know it today was created by a Congress of Cardinals centuries ago. Writings about the man known as Jesus didn't even get put to paper until 60 years or so after his reported demise. No archaeological proof a Jesus ever even existed other than in the bible. But, in fairness, many other major world religious writings weren't written until decades after their reported deaths. Supposedly, they had disciples who has photographic recall. But google the Bible or go to the library. The modern day bible was written by men.
Well, you're in luck then, because the baby Jesus is on his way to save the day!
"Interesting: in Luke 18:8, Jesus Christ prophesied about this loss of faith just before He comes. At that time, atheism was a rare bird and no trend helped Him to read what would happen after 2,000 years."
Atheism was a rare bird? Really?
You do know that most of the earths inhabitants didn't follow your alleged god-man nor had they even heard of it.
Typical Christian myopic perspective.
"Jesus Christ prophesied about this loss of faith just before He comes. " – Bible reader
Jesus said this and Jesus said that. Every quote attributed to Jesus was hearsay at best and simply fabricated at worst. No person, who wrote about Jesus, actually ever met him. Everything Jesus "said" has to be taken with a grain of salt about the size of the iceberg that sunk the Ti-tanic.
Not only that, but anything he might actually have said would have been spoken in Aramaic, and all the Gospels were written in Greek, so right away we are dealing with translations. Who knows what his original words might have been?
That's Hayim in the corner,
There's Melech in the spotlight
Losing his religion...
Based out of nearly 4,000 people? The article is misleading, The Lubavitcher movement has nearly one million Jewish people, including those who attend only on major holidays. The Jewish faith had lasted 1,000s and 1000's of years; the trend isn't downwards but in fact near stalemate-moving upwards. NYC and FL alone have more than 1 Million Jews identifying with Judaism. Worldwide, is a whole other story. Lubavitcher is in every country, and is only growing stronger.
That always seems to by the case in the myopic reporting of the media. Being a Catholic myself they would have you believe that the church is nearly dead. But in most parts of the world it's growing. Even in the U.S. over 100,000 people join every year. Yes, people leave as well. That's always been true. Things ebb and flow as they have for centuries. As much as the KKK in the past and the liberals of today don't want to believe it, we Catholics and Jews will be here well after they're making fertilizer for the flowers.
Way to go equating liberals with the KKK you pompous a$$
What has the KKK done to deserve this?
I was wondering about that too...the Lubavitcher movement is very active in the US...even down here in Texas! Weird...
With a little luck and perseverance by the non-religious and rational community we can get the rest of the U.S. to drop their subscription to iron age mythology as well.
All it takes for an Abrahamic cultist (Christian, Jew, Muslim) to ruin other peoples lives is for rational people to do nothing.
Religion is generally regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. Modern people are finally becoming wiser.
Very well said.
Bingo. Amazing it took this long, right?
Thank you, Information Age. Thank you!
Most modern people now these days they carry IPHONE!!!!!!!
"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful." – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
slowly but surely and kicking and screaming... ignorance is bliss and who wants to give that up...
The Chosen people.
Can't get any more racist than that
Except, the Choosing People, I suppose.
What is that supposed to mean?
There is a difference between thought and action.
With your critical thinking skills, how did you come to to determine the words "Chosen People" came to mean something racist? How were you able to divine its meaning? Chosen People could very well mean chosen to suffer, or chosen to endure,or a lot of other interpretations. Are you that insecure that you think it means 'Better than you?'
Uh, well, this denotation of "Chosen" has a specific meaning, according to ancient Hebrew writings:
According to the traditional Jewish interpretation of the Bible, Israel's character as the chosen people is unconditional, as it says in Deuteronomy 14:2,
"For you are a holy people to YHWH your God, and God has chosen you to be his treasured people from all the nations that are on the face of the earth."
The Torah also says,
"Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto me from all the peoples, for all the earth is mine" (Exodus 19:5).
God promises that he will never exchange his people with any other:
"And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you." (Genesis 17:7).
Other Torah verses about chosenness,
"And you shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6).
"The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people; for you were the fewest of all people; but because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your ancestors." (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).
It's not just some hazy definition of the term. They defined themselves as being "God's" favorites.
None of these examples from the Bible refer to Jews superiorty over any other people. To make such a claim displays supreme ignorance of the Biblical narrative.
These passages actually refer to the "chosen" mission, purpose, and standard of behavior that Jews are supposed to serve and hold themselves up to.
"Choseness" means chosen to bear a responsibility as in setting a good example for the world with regard to human ethical beahvior..
It also means being witnesses to the fact that there is a God. No more, No less.
This bar is set very high with this regard to this "job" or "responsibilty" which is why it is so hard to be a good Jew.
You misquoted Deuteronomy 14:2.
I don't worship that god. My God is The Lord. Some jackwagon put a fake name in some fake scrolls.
From a completely technical standpoint – creating any distinction like this could be considered racist, but probably not in the way it is used by most people.
You have the richest history of all peoples on planet earth, but you also had to endure the most pain.
We stand with you and hope you will come to know God and feel His love and presence in your lives.
–With the love of Christ.
@Grafted Olive Branch II,
We respect you and hope that you eventually come to your senses and abandon belief in the supernatural.
You may want to worry about your own faculties and take good care of it before talking to others about it!
"but you also had to endure the most pain."
I'm not sure about that. Didn't he create pain in the first place? And in your belief, are there not supposedly bad people burning in a fiery pit for eternity as we speak? Wouldn't that be worse than a few days of abuse and then Crucifixion? Far more people on earth have endured far more pain and suffering that your Christ ever did.
So what is your point? You think the suffering is what Jesus is about? Or are you just mad that you have suffered?
.... pinned up like a bad gymnast...
I AM your Christ. Now what are you gonna do?
Though the mythology continues to wane in importance, the cultural and ethnic facets of Judaism are as strong as ever – sometimes to a fault.
As a personal example, I was in a live-in relationship with a Jewish Princess some years back. Though she was not religious at all, she presented me to her parents as a "gay roommate" in order for her to avoid the fallout that would've resulted from admitting to them that she was dating a goy.
From what I observed during our time together, there seemed to be an tacit understanding amongst her peers that they would marry and breed only with other Jewish people in order to preserve the purity of their race.
That applies to any religion for that matter, Christian, Muslim etc.
Parent want their children married to someone within their faith, Christian, Muslim or otherwise.
By your own words, your personal experience. This does not speak for the facts. The fact is that people self- identified as Jewish are marrying outside the religion at record rates.
You lived with this young woman and you obviously knew nothing about her. As a Jewish parent, I do want my sons to marry other Jews...marriage is difficult enough without adding the additional burden of religious differences. Any disagreement between the two of you could result in you faulting her for being a Jew...that's not acceptable nor will it ever be tolerated again. I'm not observant and neither are my two sons but our allegiance, our pride, and our absolute loyalty to other Jews and Israel is sky high. I love my country, America...but I keep in mind that the only reason that American Jews are relatively happy in the US is because of our incomparable achievements and our money. I can't forget that during WW2, the US turned a ship full of German Jewish refugees running from hitler back to Germany and to their certain death. At that time, American Jews had very little influence and we just kept our heads down and continued working hard and getting more and more educated. Our achievements are unquestionable...our intelligence, creativity, and ethics are monumental. But in back of the mind of every Jew alive, there's the constant feeling that everything could change in a very short time interval and we could suffer the same fate as our ancestors during WW2. Anyone who doubts that should watch "The Winds of War" with the eyes of a Jew.
Fault her for being a Jew? What?
Whatever arguments we had, our respective cultural backgrounds never entered into it.
We had no religious differences. Theologically, she was a naturalist like me.
It was becuase of her that I moved to the most ethnically diverse city in the world – a place where ethnic divisions don't account for much and nobody bats an eye at cross-cultural, multi-racial marriages.
When my parents were married some 40 years ago, neither of their churches would perform the ceremony because it was their opinion that marriages between those of different faiths are doomed to fail – and yet they're still together.
Yet you derisively refer to her as a "Jewish Princess", a negative stereotype. Hmmmm.
She was a privileged, narcissistic only child.
The term (one with which I was not familiar until it was said to me by her cultural cohorts) is an accurate description.
" Our achievements are unquestionable...our intelligence, creativity, and ethics are monumental."
Sweeping generalizations about any group live in people's minds, not reality. Jewish people do not have the corner on any of these qualities, and just like any other group you may define (Christians, Muslims, Gays, Women...keep going), to refer to an entire group as possessing any one quality is absurd. This is where problems start. Judge people individually and quit assigning stereotypical characteristics to an entire group of people . You were supposed to learn that in kindergarten. If, in fact, you really are Jewish, you are adding to the problem. And do not think that complimentary stereotypes ( intelligence, creativity, and ethics) are okay. They are nonsensical just like derogatory stereotypes.
Marriage rules are foundational in any culture. People tend to marry within their culture and many cultures have rules against marrying outsiders. My wife's family is Greek and mine is Jewish. She, her sister, and her cousins all married xenos (outsiders). We're all treated as outsiders to some extent, perhaps the one guy that converted to Greek Orthodoxy, a bit less, but he's still xenos. If it's a bit worse with me because I'm Jewish, it's a marginal difference. I have friends who placed cultural affinity above religious affinity (they'd rather marry someone else of Italian descent who was not Catholic than an non-Italian who was Catholic).
we are a people, a religion and a culture
Until CNN figures out that being 'Jewish' can be either a racial classification OR a religious classification, this article is meaningless.
Being Jewish cannot be a racial classification, as Jews come in all colors from all continents. Yes, there are Black Jews here in the states and in Africa.
So what about the man I once met in college who was from Israel, but did not believe in god.
He was a jewish atheist.
There are tens if not hundreds of thousands of jewish atheists, myself included,
No, he was an Israeli Athiest.
Israel = Jacob. Another way of writing Israeli Athiest is "Jacob's Athiest". After all, the name "Israel" came from somewhere, didn't it? So, if this man belonged to Jacob, he is a Jew. (They were led into Egypt by Jacob's youngest brother, Joseph, and led out of Egypt about 400 years later, by Moses.) Sounds like you people are starting to understand that the earth belongs to The Lord, and all who dwell therein...
Rob – Israel = Jacob... LOL really?
How about this one Israel = people of El. e.i. the people that follow the god El.
Yeah, Israel = Jacob. What planet do YOU live on? In MY bible, God renamed Jacob as Israel. If you look around, you might find that a whole lotta land is named after people. It's almost as though the meek inherit the earth and we are their inheritance or something. Who'd-a-thunk it?
Whoops! I meant Jacob's youngest son, who would be Judah's youngest brother... Joseph.
Until you can figure out that there's a big difference between ethnicity and race, your response is worthless.
I see what you are driving at, Alias, but what is the difference?
(Begin sarcasm) What, it's not just Christianity? ALL religions are losing observing members? Who knew?! (End sarcasm)
Did this "news" really surprise anyone?
Of course not.
II Chronicles 2:17
2 Chronicles 7:14
christians don't have original thoughts, just bronze age regurgitations ...
I wish everyone would stop with the bronze age references. The old testament was written well into the Iron Age and the new testment was written almost at the end of the Iron age.
Um ..... no.
What date do you out on te Iron age?
Quote biblical scripture all you want but unless you believe the in the bible, your scripture is no more than a interesting quote.
“Praise be to you, Lord,
the God of our father Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.
1 Chronicles 29:10-13