October 19, 2018

New survey shows erosion among American ‘religious’ Jews

A new survey examining the religion of Americans shows an apparent shift in the way many Jews identify themselves, with the numbers of those claiming to be Reform and Conservative representing a decline while those who identify with no denomination on the rise.

The changes are reflected in a comparison of a Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) study, “America’s Changing Religious Identity,” released Sept. 6, with a 2013 survey by Pew Research Center, which examined the same issue.

The comparison suggests the number of Orthodox remained the same.

The PRRI survey found that among the 2.3 percent of Americans who identify as Jews, about a third said they were  “cultural Jews.” The others identified as “religious Jews.”

Asking Jews if they were “religious” Jews or “cultural” Jews, the study found that among those under age 30, fewer than half, 47 percent, identified as religiously Jewish while 53 percent identified as culturally Jewish. In contrast, more than three-quarters, 78 percent, of Jews 65 and older said they were religiously Jewish while 22 percent identified as culturally Jewish.

The study also reveals that among all Jews, a plurality, 28 percent, identify as Reform, compared with 14 percent Conservative, 10 percent Orthodox and 2 percent Reconstructionist. More than one-third, 37 percent, claimed to be “just Jewish.”

Only a few decades ago, Conservative was the largest denomination.

In each of four age groups among respondents who identified a specific denomination, a plurality answered Reform.