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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."

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Judaism • Polls • Trends

soundoff (1,967 Responses)
  1. Dian Billiott

    Glad I've found your website, really quality info here.

    http://www.googleimages.us

    November 15, 2013 at 12:58 am |
  2. Joel

    I certainly am not losing my religion. In fact, I feel closer to G-d than ever before. I also have received Yeshua as Messiah and Savior and now know the peace of G-d that passes all understanding. Shalom

    November 6, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • counselor39@hotmail.com

      Offensive. Disgusting.

      November 6, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
  3. Oxymorons-R-us

    Glad to see the Jews are finally losing their religion.

    Hindus, Muslims and Christ followers would do well to follow suit.

    Human infancy is ending, the gods of Man must go with it.

    Toddler stage is going to be a bit*h.

    No souls, no deities, no after lives...just this one. Be good. Be well.

    November 5, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
  4. Josh

    Believing that Yeshua/Jesus is Messiah does not make one less Jewish by any means. I feel completly fulfilled having received my Messiah. This idea that Jews who believe in Yeshua are no longer Jewish is a man made teaching meant to intimidate the Jewish people. It is certainly not the way that G-d sees it, in fact, it is just the opposite. Shalom

    October 27, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • counselor39@hotmail.com

      JOSH –
      1. You are right, it doesnt make you any less Jewish – it just makes your sins all the greater.
      2. Your belief in Jesus as the Moshiach belies the "one G-d" edict. Or, do you think that you would be able to order 3 pieces of pie at a restaurant and be charged for only one because they're from the same pie ? YOU pray to Jesus...THAT is not what the 10 commandments teaches us. ONE G-D...not ONE G-d made up of 3 pieces.
      3. That YOU feel fulfilled is of no moment – how YOU feel is irrelevant vis-a-vis Judaism.
      And, it's SO nice that you profess to speak FOR G-d.

      October 29, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
      • Josh

        Just I said above. Such teachings are of men. All the information you have just provided is also from men, it is NOT from G-d. Tanach provides the truth: Genesis 1:26: "Let US make man in OUR image according to OUR likeness." Why the plural usage? and No, G-d is not referring to angels, since the angels did NOT create anything. Genesis 11:7 "Let US go down and confuse their language." Again, why is the plural used here? The Son of G-d appears at times throughout Tanack: "The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre." It is true the Father does NOT take on a human body, but the Son sometimes does, as we see here. Also in Genesis 3:7 "They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden.." Shalom

        November 3, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
        • counselor39@hotmail.com

          "I am the Lord thy G-d" (I, not "we')
          'The Lord our G-d, the Lord is ONE"

          November 6, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
        • Josh

          Counselor, listen I think you are stating what you believe to be right. I give you credit for that. It looks as though you are making referernce to the Shema, that is Deuteronomy chapter 6: "Hear Oh Israel, the Lord, Our G-d, the Lord is one". While this verse is the number one source cited by Monotheists, that is G-d the Father only, in this very verse the Name of G-d is invoked three times. Why is that? Awesome, we see even here that G-d is revealing to us (for those who have eyes to see) His pluraliy, that is The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, they are all one in agreement, One in essence, or divinity. What is concealed in the Old Covenenat is Revealed in the New. We see glimpses of this clarity in the old, but in the new it is made clear. His revelation to mankind has always been a progressive revelation. Shalom

          November 11, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
      • Josh

        More references to the plurality of G-d. That is The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Genesis 18:1 "Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven." This is clear. The Lord (Son of G-d) had just appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, and now the Father in heaven is working here with the Son. This coninues in Psalms: 110:1 "The Lord said to My Lord; sit at My right handuntil I make Your enemies Your footstool." Yeshua acribed this Psalm to Himself as David's Lord. We can go on and on throughout Tanakh, but lets look at one more for now in Isaiah 48:16: "..and now the Lord G-d, and His Spirit has sent me." Here we see the Holy Spirit of G-d referred to. Shalom

        November 3, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
  5. Yuck

    Peace,love unity and most of all Respect...."we can never forget the holocaust"those that follow hitlers ideology is practicing BLACK MAGIC

    October 22, 2013 at 12:16 am |
  6. rosenberg

    The issue is that in most Orthodox synagogues Shabbat and Yom Tov attendance pack the synagogues with multiple minyanim. Home practice and observance as a family in addition to regular service attendance sets the tone. Most Jews do not attend services because they have other priorities such as sports events, dance recitals etc. They feel it is more important for their children to be active sports participants on Shabbat than to attend regular services. How many post Bar and Bat Mitzvah students attend services on a regular basis? Many synagogues are bar and bat mitzvah mills where parents drop membership after the last bar or bat mitzvah or just do not attend except for the High Holy Days.RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG

    October 17, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • counselor39@hotmail.com

      Rosenberg:
      I dont know how to put this in a more genteel fashion. (lol, NOT "gentile")
      Those Jews, the "lox & bagel" Jews, will not be the ones who save "Judaism". Rather, it will be the orthodox and Chasiddim.
      Sure, the amount of Conservative, Reform, conservodox, reconstruction, etc., etc. will FAR outnumber the Ortho/Chassids – HOWEVER ( and this is....everything), what those reform, etc. Jews will be practicing in, say, 100 years, will be unrecognizable as "Judaism", whereas, in 100 years, you will still find Ortho/Chassids practicing the same Judaism as they do today.
      Thus, if we're talking about he survival of Judaism, it will NOT come from superior NUMBERS, but, rather, superior PRACTICE.

      November 6, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
  7. GOOD NEWS

    What King David prophesied in Psalms (=118/22-26)
    has absolutely come true now!
    Jewish Messiah is about to appear!

    http://www.holy-19-harvest.com
    UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES

    October 7, 2013 at 4:39 am |
  8. Shoshana

    Human nature is human nature, and there are positive and negative people in all walks of life. It don't allow myself to react anymore to the hostility of the ignorant or the hostility of the educated. I love G-d and our way of life (married and Orthodox) so I'm not interested in people seeking to destroy it. If it is hatred and menace in one's heart, it is no longer a heart. Although I am very learned in Judaism and the deeper meanings beneath it, and I find it scientifically and Divinely the truth, I'd rather be happy in my situation than out there fighting over a topic with people who don't care about the topic. Hating someone for their beliefs alone is the primitive position of a miserable human being. I've never seen the point in forbidding Jews to be Jews, Christians to be Christians, Buddhists to be Buddhists, etc. Violence spews from humans, not ideologies, because as humans we always have the freedom of choice to resist the opportunity to harm others. Shalom and kul tov.

    October 6, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • WestNorthWest

      Religion and gods also spring entirely from humans.

      October 6, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • Sharon

      There is no god, nothing happens when you die, Humans have no soul. Get it?

      ...life wasted 😦

      November 5, 2013 at 10:36 pm |
  9. Sue

    @Ron, since you keep dumping invalid "prophecy" on us, consider the following carefully. Prophecies that don't include dates are generally B-S. Anyone can say e.g. "bad stuff is gonna happen", and enough stuff happens over time that eventually it will. That is not valid prophecy. It is simply bullshit.

    Present a prophecy with an actual predicted date in it, and then show how the predicted date later happened on that date, or else we can safely conclude that your posts about prophecy are complete bullshit. So far, given your pathetic posts, that conclusion is fully accurate.

    October 5, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  10. Leigh Anne

    I wonder if any of the Ultra-Orthodox who spit on the little girls trying to go to school asked to be whipped for THAT behavior?

    October 4, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  11. Doc Vestibule

    For all of their differences, one thing on which religions agree is that they all fear the decline of religion.

    'People will no longer have any religion to which they can turn for solace or liberation: the doctrines of materialism will overwhelm their minds and drive them to struggle for their own selfish ends. The lust for power and wealth will prevail over teachings of compassion and truth'
    – The prophecy of Shambala – Buddhist (circa 700CE)

    'The time is near in which nothing will remain of Islam but its name, and of the Qur'an but its mere appearance, and the mosques of Muslims will be dest.itute of knowledge and worship; and the learned men will be the worst people under the heavens; and contention and strife will issue from them, and it will return upon themselves. '
    – Hadith – Islam

    ' The age of evil has come to the world . Everyone steals and hoards great wealth, and sensual sin rules the day. The end of the world is at hand – yet men are hard and cruel, and listen not to the doom that is coming . No one heeds the cries of his neighbour, or lifts a hand to save. '
    – The Ragnarok – Norse – (circa 1000 CE)

    'Before the coming of the Maitreya, the holy religion will decline. How will it occur? After my decease, first will occur the five disappearances. And what are the five disappearances? The disappearance of attainments, the disappearance of the method, the disappearance of learning, the disappearance of symbols, the disappearance of the relics. These are the five disappearances that are to occur. '
    – Anagatavamsa – Buddhist

    ' Whenever there is a falling away from the true law and an upsurge of unlawfulness, then I emit myself. I come into being age after age, to protect the virtuous and to destroy evil-doers, to establish a firm basis for the true law. '
    – Bhagavad Gita 4:7-8 – Hindu

    October 4, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • Lisa

      Expecting anything else would be like expecting weapons makers to call for peace. You might as well wish for religions to call for an end to poverty.

      October 4, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Youtube - The Origin of Religion

      I would agree with that. If the religions did not teach immoralities and were just spiritual instead of supernatural, I don't think I'd have any concerns. With people going to services, teaching and reinforcement occur, and the draw to return is partially the social environment. Many of these people are not inclined to explore philosophy and morality on their own, nor are the facilities readily available to do that throughout the world (e.g., libraries). As the saying goes, be careful what you ask for, you may get it.

      October 4, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • james

      doc & lisa; you do not know how accurate you are. The nations will claim "peace and security" and all false religion spoken of as "babylon the great" in Rev ch 17,18 that have been living off "the kings of the earth and the traveling merchants" will come to their downfall when those she has been "committing fornication" with turn on her and completely "burn her with fire" (total destruction) not hellfire and she will never exist again. during "great tribulation that has not occurred before and will never again" Matt.24:21. check it out.

      October 4, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
      • james

        Oh, I forgot, there is hope, "get out of her if you do not want to share is her sins" and learn what the Bible really teaches.

        October 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        You kinda missed the point there, bud.
        Some of those religions pre-date Christianity.
        They all fear the decline of their OWN religion and proclaim that the world will end when THEIR belief system wanes.
        You can wait on tenterhooks all you like for 7 headed dragons to snack on pregnant women just like the Vikings were waiting for the great serpent Jörmungandr to emerge from the sea.
        As prophecies go, they're equally likely...

        October 4, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
        • Youtube - The Origin of Religion

          Agree. And that's why we have seen Christianity evolve over time: The Bible is completely true; the earth is no longer the center of the universe; the earth is older than 6000 years; evolution is true ... it's a constant adaptation in view of the truths via science. If it does survive, I suspect it will evolve into a philosophical belief the way Thomas Jefferson had come to see the Bible.

          October 4, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
        • Joe Jones

          I suspect it will evolve into a philosophical belief the way Thomas Jefferson had come to see the Bible.

          October 5, 2013 at 2:16 am |
        • james

          doc, I said nothing about christianity or judaism (though included) but all false religion no matter how old and if you keep bowing down to the evolution "theory" god you are as easily misled as the catholics and make no mistake there is and was a creator and do not be misled he will not be mocked for much longer (no, no one knows how much longer) but that is where true faith in the true God comes in. No amount of money will help nor anyone who asks for it but with the right heart motivation you can learn what the Bible really teaches and do not be misled there is real truth in that book that has not been polluted.

          October 4, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
        • james

          I forgot, we do not fear this end to religion we pray for it and look forward to it.

          October 4, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
        • Youtube - The Origin of Religion

          ... and that's what makes religion scary – anyone praying for things to come to an end. That would explain why the religious tend to be uninterested in climate change.

          October 4, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
        • james

          so sorry you do not understand what needs to be done to clean this earth of the violence and immorality but it will be done and only to the praise of the true God and his Kingdom. All should pray for it.

          October 5, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
  12. Harumph

    Seems like this site is getting turned over to lolly(gag) earlier every evening. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    October 4, 2013 at 12:12 am |
  13. Youtube - The Origin of Religion

    Religion & Origin[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88GTUXvp-50&w=640&h=390]

    October 3, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • james

      the ruler of this world is the creator of all false religion and everyone should know who Jesus said was the "ruler of the world" "the god of this system of things" and this guy plays with him. see above for outcome and the truth of what happens to all false religion. j

      October 4, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  14. Douglas

    As the Bible foretold,

    "Only a remnant will remain".

    Amen!

    October 3, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
    • ed

      Douglas thinks he has a swatch to end all swatches.

      October 3, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
      • sam stone

        yeah, doogie is god's spokesperson, for sure

        October 4, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Jericho

      And you won't be one of them, Dougie, so..............?

      October 4, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
  15. Lionly Lamb

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hP0ix86uA8&w=640&h=360]

    October 3, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
  16. Ben

    Ron
    "In the City of God there will be a great thunder,
    Two brothers torn apart by Chaos,
    while the fortress endures, the great leader will succu.mb",
    The third big war will begin when the big city is burning"

    – Nostradamus 1654

    There are people who "clearly see" this as a prophecy of the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers, even though that would imply that New York is the "City of God". This, like bible prophecy, is just testament to people's ability to see what they want to see, and find reason to believe what they want to believe.

    October 3, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • Topher

      And of, of course, if this "prophet" is found to be less than 100 percent accurate, you shouldn't trust him.

      October 3, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
      • HotAirAce

        Topher, identify a so-called prophet that has been proven – proven, not claimed – to be more accurate than random chance.

        October 3, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
        • Topher

          I can't, outside the Bible. That's why I think "psychics" are flim-flam artists.

          October 3, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Which so-called prophet in The Babble has been proven – proven, not claimed – to be more accurate than random chance. If you cannot identify one, with supporting evidence, then you must conclude The Babble is just a tool of film-flam artists.

          October 3, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
        • Topher

          HotAirAce

          "Which so-called prophet in The Bible has been proven – proven, not claimed – to be more accurate than random chance."

          In the Bible? All of them. Because they were all accurate 100 percent. That would be better than random chance.

          October 3, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          You've reiterated an unfounded claim. Where're your evidence and proof. No evidence or proof means your claim is false, and that you are mentally ill or a liar. What's it going to be? It's up to you. Please don't disappoint.

          October 3, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
        • Topher

          HotAirAce

          "You've reiterated an unfounded claim."

          According to you.

          "Where're your evidence and proof."

          I don't need to prove Him to you. You already know He exists.

          "No evidence or proof means your claim is false, and that you are mentally ill or a liar."

          It means no such thing.

          October 3, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          No, Topher, I do not know that any alleged god exists, and neither do you. You have once again been caught making outrageous claims that you never provide even the most basic evidence for. Your beliefs are no better than astrology.

          October 3, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
      • Ben

        You seem to be implying that the bible prophets were 100% accurate, where they were not. At least we can be sure that Nostradamus made predictions long before the things his fans say they refer to, but with Bible prophets there isn't a single one of them that has been proven to have been written before anything they imply predicting. They're both too cryptic for me to find any actual use in them, but at least the Nostradamus fans can claim actual predictions.

        October 4, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • Topher

      Without knowing anything else about the above quote, and thus don't have any context to it ... that could easily be seen as talking about Armageddon.

      October 3, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Just as most religions have an afterlife myth, so do many have End of Days prophecies.
        For the Norse people, Ragnarok would be heralded by the decline of civilization.
        ' The age of evil has come to the world . Everyone steals and hoards great wealth, and sensual sin rules the day. The end of the world is at hand – yet men are hard and cruel, and listen not to the doom that is coming . No one heeds the cries of his neighbour, or lifts a hand to save. '

        October 4, 2013 at 8:20 am |
      • Ben

        Topher
        How likely is Armageddon really? Armies on horseback, and Jesus swinging a bloody big sword? If the devil were a tiny fraction as smart as believers claim he is he would have made different, more secret plans.

        October 4, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • Ron

      Ben, I don't pay attention to false prophets.

      October 3, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
      • Ben

        This prediction is at least as "accurate" as any bible claim, so why do you think he was a false prophet?

        October 4, 2013 at 8:10 am |
        • Ron

          The prophets of God are included in the books contained in the Holy Scriptures. Be very careful if you are looking outside of them my friend.

          October 4, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
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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.