October 22, 2018

Liberal Judaism in Israel Represents 11 Percent of Israelis

In David Suissa’s Column “Pew Pew Pew” (February 2) he states the following:

“In terms of Jewish identity, there’s more bad news: 53 percent of American Jews identify as Reform or Conservative, compared with only 5 percent of Israeli Jews.”

David’s figures about Israeli affiliation with the Reform and Conservative Movements are based on another study by Pew in 2017 and differs from a different study as follows.

In 2017, a leading public opinion research firm headed by the respected researcher Professor Camil Fuchs was engaged by the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) to assess the Israeli Reform movement’s impact on Israeli society and how large a following of Reform Judaism currently exists in Israel. Dr. Fuchs conducted a comprehensive survey assessing the status of the Reform Movement and religious pluralism in the State of Israel, and he found the following: the number of Israelis who identify as Reform Jews has doubled since 2011 (3.5%). Today it is 7%. When that figure is added to the 4% of the Israeli Jewish population that identifies with Conservative Judaism, there are now 11% of Israelis, nearly 800,000 that identify with either Reform or Conservative Judaism in Israel. That number is equal to the number of Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox Jews) in Israel.

The reason for the increase in positive identification of Israelis with the Reform movement is that there are now 100 Israelis who have been ordained by the Reform seminary in Jerusalem, the Hebrew Union College, and those rabbis are conducting hundreds of bnai mitzvah ceremonies and weddings in Israel thus attracting hundreds of thousands of Israelis over the course of the years who have been exposed to non-Orthodox religious leaders for the first time and have found what they do and how they do it refreshing and appealing as opposed to their experience of the Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Israeli Rabbis.