Survey: Jewish men more likely to marry non-Jews; Wives more likely to convert to Judaism

A detailed study of non-Jewish-born spouses in mixed marriages has confirmed that Jewish men are much more likely to marry non-Jewish women than the reverse and that women are more likely to convert than men.

The study, sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, was released at a press conference here Wednesday. It also found that most non-Jewish-born partners found it easy to integrate into the Jewish community, though few had been exposed to community “outreach” efforts. But they felt that born Jews lacked understanding for the converts’ particular situation.

The study was conducted by Dr. Egon Mayer, professor of sociology at Brooklyn College, and Dr. Amy Avgar, assistant director of the AJCommittee’s William Petschek National Jewish Family Center.

They based their findings on responses to questionnaires mailed in 1985 to a nationwide sample of born non-Jews married to Jews. Of the 309 respondents, 109 had converted to Judaism and 200 had not. Mayer reported that while 74 percent of the respondents were women, a higher proportion, 86 percent of the women, were converts.


The study found that converts tended to have somewhat more education and higher income than non-converts and appeared to have been more favorably disposed toward Judaism than non-converts. Women were more likely to convert if they considered religious affiliation important to begin with and felt conversion to Judaism would be important to her husband.

About two-thirds of the converts and approximately one-third of the non-converts viewed the Jewish family into which they married as being “very” or “moderately” religious. According to Mayer, “This might imply that many of them were actively encouraged to convert to Judaism by their Jewish families.” Conversely, converts were more likely than non-converts to perceive their own parents as being “not at all” religious or “anti-religious.”

More than 70 percent of the marriages involving a convert were performed by a rabbi compared to 21 percent of those involving a non-convert. But nearly 84 percent of the converts and 45 percent of non-converts said they had approached a rabbi to officiate at their marriage.

The study found that the Jewish behavior and attitudes of converts resembled born Jews affiliated with Orthodox, Conservative or Reform Judaism in America.

More than 68 percent of the converts, compared to 34.8 percent of non-converts, described themselves as “very” or “moderately” religious. Similarly, 84 percent of converts and 44.8 percent of non-converts thought it was “important to have a religious identity”; 73.8 percent of the converts and 59.5 percent of non-converts felt a “personal need to pray”; and 78.7 percent of converts and 62.2 percent of non-converts expressed belief in supernatural forces.

AJC shows U.S. Jews split on Iran deal, back Clinton more than other candidates

An American Jewish Committee poll found U.S. Jews virtually split on the Iran nuclear deal and showed Hillary Rodham Clinton well ahead of the pack among preferred presidential candidates.

The annual AJC poll published Friday showed 50.6 percent of respondents approved of the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached in July between Iran and six major powers, and 47.2 percent disagreed with it.

That’s a virtual tie, based on the 4.7 percent margin of error. The poll of 1,035 Jews was conducted by GfK between Aug. 7 and Aug. 22. Recent general population polling has showed support for the deal plummeting to the 20s.

Asked about presidential candidates, 39.7 percent of respondents listed Clinton as their first choice, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, who is vying with Clinton for the presidential nod, came in as a second choice, with 17.8 percent. Among Republicans, billionaire Donald Trump was in the lead, with 10.2 percent, followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, with 8.7 percent.

The poll suggested gains for Republicans, who have struggled for years to top 30 percent among Jewish voters: Overall, Democratic candidates garnered 58.5 percent of support while Republicans added up to 37.4 percent.

On the Iran deal, the AJC pollsters went for a straightforward question: “Recently, the U.S., along with five other countries, reached a deal on Iran’s nuclear program. Do you approve or disapprove of this agreement?”

A range of other polls of U.S. Jews on the Iran issue have been accused of bias because of questions that attempted to contextualize or explain the deal.

In a follow-up question, the AJC respondents showed a lack of confidence in the ability of the deal to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Those who replied “very confident” numbered just 4.9 percent, while “somewhat confident” were at 30.7 percent; The “not so confident” came in at 30.1 percent and the “not at all confident” were at 33.2 percent. Overall, that showed 35.6 percent expressing confidence in the deal and 64.3 percent expressing a lack of confidence.

The White House and other backers of the deal have lobbied the Jewish community hard for its support, as have the deal’s opponents, including congressional Republicans, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Respondents were slightly likelier than not to believe that ties between the United States and Israel were strained. Asked if U.S.-Israel ties were getting better or worse, 4.7 percent said “better” and 42.2 percent said they were the same, while 51.9 percent said they were worse.

Respondents were culled from a pool of 55,000 people who had been asked through a system of random selection to participate in such surveys. They responded via email.

Traditional pollsters prefer cold-calling, saying that self-selection — in this case, by agreeing to be part of a survey pool —inevitably skews results, leaving out respondents who might otherwise not have prepared themselves for polling. However, with the advent of cell phones, cold-call surveys have become for some groups prohibitively expensive, and an increasing number of polls are conducted through email among respondents who have expressed a willingness to be surveyed.

Survey: Arabs and Jews share Israeli pride, shaky faith in gov’t

Both Jews and Arabs are proud to be Israeli, but neither has great faith in the government, an annual poll showed.

Some 86 percent of Jewish citizens and 65 percent of Arab citizens are “proud” or “quite proud” to be Israelis, according to the survey released Sunday by the Israel Democracy Institute. In 2013, some 40 percent of Arab-Israelis described themselves as “proud to be Israelis.”

But the institute’s Israeli Democracy Index shows just 37 percent of Jewish-Israelis having trust in the government, a drop from 58 percent last year, and 43 percent of Arab-Israelis with that view, a rise of 10 percent over the 2013 poll.

The index focuses on the views of the Israeli public regarding the country’s socioeconomic situation and its effect on Israeli democracy.

The survey of 1,007 adults was conducted by the Dialog Institute in phone interviews between April 28 and May 29, prior to Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

Among government institutions, those with the highest trust among Jewish-Israelis are the Israel Defense Forces, at 88 percent; the president of Israel, 71 percent; and the Supreme Court, 62 percent. Along with the government, institutions on the lower end of the trust scale are the Israel Police, 45 percent, and the media, 28 percent.

Among Arab-Israelis, the institutions that fare best include the Supreme Court, 60 percent; the police, 57 percent; the president, 56 percent, and the IDF, 51 percent. On the lower end, along with the government, are the media, 37 percent, and the Knesset, 36 percent.

The poll also found that 75 percent of all Israelis – 78 percent of Jews and 59 percent of Arabs  – feel a part of the State of Israel and its problems. Some 19 percent of Jewish-Israelis and 38 percent of Arab-Israelis do not feel a part of the state and its problems.

Some 61 percent of Jewish-Israelis believe that crucial decisions regarding governance, economy or society should be made by a Jewish majority, while 35 percent disagree that a Jewish majority should be required.

The survey was presented to President Reuven Rivlin by the institute’s president, Yohanan Plesner, and Tamar Hermann, academic director of its Center for Surveys.

“I was not surprised to see that the Index presents a decrease in the public’s trust in the country’s system of leadership and governance,” Rivlin said. ” I suspect the system has warranted as much. A lack of faith in public services and the system of governance constitutes a potentially fatal blow to democracy.”

A total of 148 respondents were interviewed in Arabic and 59 in Russian, according to the institute. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.2 percent.



Making an Orthodox sense of an unorthodox census

The Pew survey, reported last week in major news outlets, inadvertently mischaracterizes Orthodox demographic trends quite dramatically and necessarily undercounts us significantly, for the same reason that other random-digit-dialing and surveying techniques do.  I previously have analyzed these statistical phenomena at such places as:

Two very brief examples:

1.  Prior generations — older people — who never really were Orthodox will tell pollsters, in all innocence, that they were Orthodox but later became Conservative or Reform, or that they were Orthodox but their children became less pious and perhaps intermarried.  Similarly, their children will so report about themselves and their parents.  That self-reporting advises fair-minded pollsters that Orthodox Jews have a reduced retention rate, marked by Orthodoxy’s presumed significant losses over a generation to non-Orthodoxy.  Pollsters therefore project “continued” Orthodox losses in the future based on those “past trends.”  However, a great number of non-Orthodox respondents who self-report to pollsters that they (or their parents) once were Orthodox in fact mischaracterize and erroneously denominate themselves.  They may have thought they were Orthodox because they affiliated with an Orthodox shul for a while or once had attended an Orthodox cheider.  But profoundly large numbers of self-reporters never lived a life that even remotely resembled Orthodoxy.  Maybe they went to an Orthodox shul for Yizkor, and maybe they had an Orthodox rabbi bury their deceased or went to the Orthodox shul’s bingo game or casino night.  But they never were Orthodox. 

I have learned and encountered this phenomenon repeatedly during the thirty years since I began practicing as a congregational rabbi. Individuals would meet me for pastoral counseling or to begin reciting kaddish to mark a parent’s passing, and they would describe their deceased parent as having been Orthodox.  As we would talk a bit more, I would learn that the parent’s kitchen had only one set of dishes, that the family never ate at kosher restaurants, that they never observed Shabbat, that the children never had heard of Shavuot or Shmini Atzeret or even a “Lulav and Etrog.”  Somehow, they had internalized self-reporting as Orthodox, even as their children, reared in decidedly non-Orthodox homes, grew to be non-Orthodox and even to intermarry.

As the years have moved on, a new — accurately denominated — Orthodox community has arisen, one defined by Orthodox education and self-awareness, inculcated in Orthodox practice and values at yeshiva day schools and at Orthodox summer camps, and in youth programs like NCSY, where I was a rabbinic advisor for a decade and where all four of my children participated actively.  Thus, those who now self-report to pollsters that they are “Orthodox” in fact are profoundly more likely to be Orthodox.  At the same time, increased advocacy and identification by Reform- and Conservative-Judaism institutional leaders has educated people who are not Orthodox that they are not, but rather are Reform-or-Conservative-denominated.  As their children have proceeded to intermarry, now at a rate well exceeding 50%, even as their birthrates have dropped dramatically and as their children have delayed marrying and starting families later than ever before, the demographic advance of the Orthodox community has become ubiquitous both here and in Israel. 

(Perhaps the last remnant of the innocently confused are those particular immigrants to America from South Africa and from other British Empire redoubts who innocently tell people that they are Orthodox even though they eat outright forbidden foods, observe nothing of Shabbat and the like — but do “affiliate Orthodox” and attend Orthodox on Yom Kippur, as an atavistic carryover from having grown in a society where Orthodoxy essentially was the only institution at hand.  Their children predictably show consistent signs of being profoundly non-Orthodox, and their intermarriage rates closely parallel those of their non-Orthodox peers. 

In sum, although a fair-minded pollster will interpret from self-reporting that Orthodoxy follows the same attrition trends as Reform and Conservativism, the more sophisticated observer better understands that Orthodox retention and replication rates in fact are dramatically higher.

2.  Intermarried non-Jews who convert outside of Orthodoxy often are eager or comfortable recounting their “Jew-by-Choice” journeys.  They often affiliate with temples that primarily service such populations.  By contrast, Orthodox converts are more discreet and less comfortable discussing their non-Orthodox origins, for a variety of reasons extraneous to the instant analysis.  Meanwhile, other Orthodox Jews adamantly refuse to accommodate census takers because their Orthodox teaching forbids them from allowing themselves to be counted.  (See, e.g., 2 Samuel 24.)  Other numerous Orthodox Jewish enclaves — in their tens of thousands — reared with xenophobic tendencies that inhere in their utmost demographic insularity, bear intense suspicion of “goyim” who phone them to ask about their Judaism, and they disproportionately refuse to engage their callers.  And then there are the obvious additional contributors to undercounting the Orthodox: Families with larger numbers of children, a demographic reality found more predominantly among Orthodox Jews, are less inclined to answer 30-or-more minutes of telephone questions.  Moreover, the best time to get someone willing to “sit on the phone” for 30-plus minutes is over the weekend, but Orthodox Jews are forbidden from taking phone calls for half of each weekend, and they find themselves needing to crunch into Sunday what they could not do secularly on Friday evening and night, and all-day Saturday.  Therefore, despite the best of professional intentions, Orthodox Jews are inherently undercounted in telephone-based polls that are premised on random-digit-dialing and other efforts to find and poll Jews by phone.

As a further striking reflection of the Pew survey’s clear misunderstanding of the Orthodox community and the survey’s failure to tabulate aspects of Orthodox demographics with precision, the poll “found” that (only) 76 percent of “ultra-Orthodox” Jews do not handle money on Shabbat.  (Pages 77-78) To the survey reporters, that number was striking for how large a number of Orthodox Jews do not handle money on Shabbat, but informed observers of the community immediately recognize that the survey number clearly is flawed, whether in the tabulating, the interviewing, or the wording of the underlying question.  There are exceptions to every rule and among individuals within every community, but the reported statistic that one in four “ultra-Orthodox” Jews handles money on the Shabbat is beyond any definition of professional failure.

My interest in the subject of how Jewish surveys dramatically undercount the Orthodox and underestimate future Orthodox demographic trends started 25 years ago when the Jewish Federation sponsored a census in Los Angeles, emerging with projected numbers and trends paralleling last week’s reported Pew numbers and trends.  I was fascinated: the pollsters reported finding that Orthodoxy was not reproducing in Los Angeles and that Orthodox percentages among Jewish Angelenos had remained stangnant over ten years, but my eyes saw something so very different:  Virtually every Orthodox shul and yeshiva day school throughout all of Los Angeles — virtually without exception — had conducted its own respective major expansion during the prior ten years.  Beth Jacob of Beverly Hills, Young Israel of Century City, Shaarey Zedek in Valley Village, Emek Hebrew Academy, Yavneh, Maimonides, Hillel Hebrew Academy, Beit Hamidrash of Woodland Hills (where I then was rabbi, and where we had grown from 9 families to more than 60 families in under than three years, also launching the West Valley Hebrew Academy yeshiva day school with seventy children by its third year).  Virtually none had reduced or closed, while lots more yeshivot and synagogues had opened: Shalhevet yeshiva high school, Maimonides Day School, Ohr Eliyahu in Culver City, the Streisand School in Venice.   Kosher pizza stores had doubled or tripled, and kosher pizza stores do not lie. (A line that I should have copyrighted.)  Likewise, kosher restaurants nearly had tripled.  So I returned to immerse myself in the poll’s internal methodologies, while thinking about the challenges facing fair-minded pollsters who are not intimately conversant with the quirks of Orthodox Jews, the xenophobic insularity of many, how so many innocently mischaracterize prior generations’ denominations — indeed, whether we even will cooperate with being counted.  The same challenges marked last week’s Pew results.

Although Orthodox Jews are reported as comprising 10 percent of the population counted by Pew, in fact we are undercounted by pollsters accumulating the samples from which they project their results. We thus comprise probably 20-25 percent of American Jewry today, and our much-better-than-projected replication rates (despite acknowledged losses, too) probably assure that our numbers and percentages, under current trends, will have us in the majority of American Jewry quite a bit sooner than Pew imagines. Strikingly, the more recent New York Federation census validates those expectations of an emerging Orthodox majority in the Jewish community, not merely a plurality, as do recent polls published in Israel.

This is not about Orthodox triumphalism.  If anything, it is more about the heart-rending and tragic disappearance of a million and more Jews outside Orthodoxy.  We once were 6 million among 200,000,000 Americans, comprising 3 percent of the country’s population. By contrast, today our proportion has dropped by 50 percent in the United States, as we number fewer than 5 million among 300,000,000 Americans. The policy ramifications of the real numbers are enormous for us as Jews, as our influence inexorably wanes with continued declines marching towards disappearance, offset by increased percentages of Orthodox Jews en route to becoming the American Jewish majority within, say, thirty-to-fifty years.  As those realities set in,  a new symbiosis between American Orthodoxy and local Jewish Federations will have to be recalibrated on both sides.

Rabbi Dov Fischer, formerly Chief Articles Editor of UCLA Law Review and an adjunct professor of law at Loyola Law School, is founding spiritual leader of Young Israel of Orange County and is author of Jews for Nothing:  On Cults, Assimilation and Intermarriage.  He blogs at

Survey: Israeli parents give children cell phones for peace of mind

One in four Israeli children between the ages of 6 and 8 has their own cell phone, a new survey found.

The number increases to one in three children for ages 9 to 11, and 91 percent for children ages 12-14, the survey by the Israeli cell phone company Pelephone found.

The survey of 920 Israeli mothers of children ages 6-14, representative of the general population, took place at the end of July.

Some 93 percent of the mothers said they gave their children cell phones so that they can have peace of mind, and be able to contact them when they want.

Ninety-two percent of the children with cell phones use them to send text messages. Seventy-five percent use apps, according to the survey.

Survey: 27 percent of Americans see God’s hand in sports

Fewer than three in 10 Americans believe that God plays a role in determining sports outcomes, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.

That 27 percent believed in divine intervention in athletic competition was among the findings of the January Religion and Politics Tracking Survey, which also found that 53 percent of Americans believe that God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success.

Among the survey’s other findings were that 26 percent of Americans are more likely to be in church than watching football, compared to 17 percent who said the opposite.

Half of the survey’s 1,033 respondents approved of athletes expressing their faith publicly by thanking God during or after a sporting event, and 76 percent agree that public high schools should be allowed to sponsor prayer before football games.

According to the survey, about two-thirds of Americans are very (44 percent) or somewhat (22 percent) likely to watch Sunday's Super Bowl between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers.

The website of the Washington-based institute, which was founded in 2009, says it is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education organization that conducts public opinion surveys and research “to help journalists, opinion leaders, scholars, clergy, and the general public better understand debates on public policy issues and the role of religion in American public life.”

Why counting counts: Who knows who L.A.’s Jews are?

Susan Goldberg, rabbi of Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock, grew up in nearby Echo Park.

“There were no Jewish families around when I was growing up,” Goldberg, 38, said. Now that these neighborhoods are being gentrified, and a young, creative crowd is moving in, the Jews are coming, too.

Some five years ago, Temple Beth Israel, a nearly 90-year-old congregation, counted 30 individual members. Today, she said, “We’re bursting at the seams with young families, parents in their 30s and 40s who are living here, in Mount Washington, in Highland Park, in Eagle Rock,” Goldberg said.

But for all the anecdotal evidence that Jews are moving eastward, no one knows exactly how many Jews comprise this trend.

“We know they’re out there, because when we have events, they come,” Goldberg said. “But it would be so, so tremendously helpful to know where they are, who they are, how many there are.”

Los Angeles hasn’t done a Jewish community survey since 1997, and with nothing concrete in the works, organizations are “flying blind,” in the words of one demographer.

“No other large Jewish community has been without a study for such a long period of time,” said Jacob Ukeles, president of Ukeles Associates Inc., a firm that helped conduct New York’s recently released survey.

And that can have serious implications for how effectively a community responds to needs.

“We need to know who lives where, what they do Jewishly, what diversity exists among Jews, what needs they have, what resources they have and what they think on a variety of issues,” said Sarah Bunin Benor, associate professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Los Angeles. “That’s my take on it, from the perspective of somebody who wants to help Jews have a better life.”

Jay Sanderson, president and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said conducting such a study is “rising to the top of our agenda.”

“We really need to do it. We know we need to do it, and I believe we will do it. We have to figure out the resources and how we’re going to pay for it,” Sanderson said in an interview.

A study of Los Angeles’ Jews, who are believed to number between 500,000 and 600,000, would likely cost somewhere around $1 million. In most cities with large and medium-sized Jewish populations, Federation pays for a survey once a decade. Los Angeles conducted community surveys in 1950, 1958, 1968, 1979 and 1997.

When Sanderson took office in 2010, no study was in the pipeline, and he said he had initially hoped to launch one quickly. But as the impact of the recession became more severe, Sanderson said, funds continued to be redirected to such programs as the Emergency Cash Grants, which has provided more than $2.6 million in relief to 5,350 recipients since 2009.

“Now, with everything we’re doing, we’re still trying to put a survey on the front burner,” Sanderson said.

Federation hopes to launch the process in the next year, Sanderson said — if he can figure out where the money will come from.

But the more time that goes by without a survey, the less efficiently the community is spending its dollars, demographers say.

“If you have a Federation that says they are the planning body of the community, where are they getting their information?” asked Pini Herman, a principal at Phillips and Herman Demographic Research. Herman was the L.A. Federation’s research coordinator for the 1997 survey; he has also worked on surveys in San Francisco, Houston and Seattle.

“The longer you don’t have a survey, the more you have to guess, and basically you’re snatching ideas and data out of thin air. And without any community study, there is no way to confirm or refute what they say,” Herman said.

Community leaders say they are eager to have current data.

“Synagogues call all the time, wanting to know where the Jews are moving. Are they moving into our area? Out of our area? Are we losing members because Jews are leaving this area, or for some other reason?” said Bruce Phillips, a principal, with Pini Herman, at Phillips and Herman Demographic Research and a professor of sociology and Jewish communal studies at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles. Phillips has conducted or published research on more than 20 Jewish community surveys.

Other questions in Los Angeles also need answering. How many Iranian Jews live here, and what is there economic profile? Their Jewish identity? Their integration patterns?

What areas are people moving to and away from? Are nearby cities that are experiencing growth, such as San Francisco, Phoenix and Las Vegas, doing so at the expense of Los Angeles, or along with Los Angeles? How many French and Latin American Jews have moved into the area, and are they being served? Has the Orthodox population increased, and if so, in what sectors?

Anecdotal evidence about subpopulations can be deceiving, Phillips said, as it’s easier to count visible Jews who are frequent users of community resources — for instance, the Orthodox, or immigrant populations. The unaffiliated are more likely to go undetected if you rely on visibility or data from Jewish organizations.

A topic open to debate is how many Israelis are in Los Angeles. While some estimate there are hundreds of thousands of Israelis in Los Angeles, Herman says his own research points to a number closer to a maximum of 25,000, a figure corroborated by the official Israeli count of how many people have left their country.

The Los Angeles Jewish population, once concentrated on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley, is migrating toward the East Side and north to areas such as the Conejo, Santa Clarita and Simi Valleys.

Several organizations are investing both money and resources in the East Side, including Federation, which has funded a new staff person at East Side Jews, a nondenominational Jewish community that has attracted hundreds of young, hip Jews to its irreverent monthly holiday celebrations and social events. East Side Jews recently became part of the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center, an organization that is on a short list to receive significant Federation funding for a renovation and expansion project.

At the same time, Temple Beth Israel’s Goldberg said, Jews in the area remain underserved. When she needs to refer people for social services, she is often told that Jewish agencies don’t extend out to her part of town. In addition to leading Temple Beth Israel, Goldberg serves as rabbi-in-residence for East Side Jews, a position co-supported by Wilshire Boulevard Temple, which is also interested in being part of the East Side Jewish renaissance.

Indeed, Wilshire Boulevard Temple is in the middle of a $150 million project to restore and revitalize its historic sanctuary and campus in Koreatown. Before embarking on that project, the congregation commissioned its own demographic study of the area — roughly from West Hollywood on the west to Eagle Rock and Pasadena on the East, stretching from Adams Boulevard on the South up to Studio City and Glendale.

“I intuitively felt that young Jews were moving eastward, but intuition is not always right,” Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Rabbi Steven Leder said.

Their study, which cost them about $25,000, found around 30 percent growth in the area over the last 10 years, with the most significant increases in the population of childbearing and -rearing age. That information convinced the synagogue’s leadership to buy up the rest of their square block to make room for more parking, an expanded day school, religious school and social service center.

Having data has also made it easier to approach donors, Leder said.

“It’s important to know that there is hard data to support your assumptions when you’re trying to raise money,” he said.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s study was based on Jewish surnames in voter registration listings — a method that may have left out Jews who have a non-Jewish parent or who are married to non-Jews, a population that, anecdotally at least, accounts for much of the growth on the East Side.

Israelis divided on U.S. role in peace process, survey finds

Israeli Jews have mixed feelings about the success of the role of the United States in the Middle East peace process, a survey found.

According to the seventh annual B’nai B’rith World Center Survey on Contemporary Israeli Attitudes Toward Diaspora Jewry, one-third of the respondents said the U.S. had impeded the peace process over the past few years and another third said it had promoted progress. The other third did not know whether the U.S. had impeded or promoted progress.

In addition to questions about the U.S. role in the peace process, the respondents—507 Israeli Jews aged 18 or older—were asked about other issues, including how to promote relations between Israel and the Diaspora, as well as whether American Jews should support a boycott of Israeli settlements.

The survey found that 76 percent of Israelis disagreed with a boycott of settlements, while 13 percent supported such a boycott. 

Some 56 percent of respondents support creating a “Jewish Parliament” that would represent Diaspora Jews, with 23 percent opposing the idea. Eighteen percent would give the body the right to propose legislation to the Knesset and 25 percent would give it mandatory consultative status, while 40 percent favor the body having only voluntary consultative status.

Some 63 percent of respondents said they opposed allowing Diaspora Jews to elect “a few” Knesset members to represent their interests, with 21 percent supporting the idea

Israelis also strongly opposed allowing citizens living outside of Israel to elect Knesset members: 51 percent were against the idea and 29 percent supported it.

B’nai B’rith World Center director Alan Schneider emphasized that the survey showed a connection between Israelis and Diaspora Jews.

“This survey has demonstrated the enduring connection between Israelis and Diaspora Jews,” Schneider said in a statement. “Clearly, Israelis are committed to finding a vehicle for including and expanding the opinions and participation of Diaspora Jews in Israel.”

The survey was conducted by KEEVOON Research on June 20; it has a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

Survey: Israel losing ground with Germans

A new survey suggests that Germans have lost some love for Israel over the past three years.

In the poll of 1,002 citizens, 36 percent said they liked Israel, down from 59 percent in a similar survey conducted in January 2009. Also, only 21 percent believe that Israel cares about human rights, down from 31 percent in the earlier study.

Seventy percent of those polled May 15-16 said that Israel pursues its own interest without consideration for other peoples—11 points higher than the ‘09 survey. Fifty-nine percent of respondents find Israel to be “aggressive,” up from 49 percent in 2009.

The number of those who outright challenge Israel’s right to exist—13 percent—has remained steady.

The survey revealed that 60 percent of Germans feel their country has no particular responsibility toward Israel 67 years after the end of World War II. Thirty-three percent believed, however, that Germany still has a special duty to stand by Israel because of the Holocaust.

On the Palestinians, 65 percent of Germans want their government to recognize a Palestinian state, while 18 percent think now is not the right time for such a move.

The survey was conducted by the Forsa research institute for Stern magazine ahead of next week’s Middle East visit by German President Joachim Gauck.

Survey: Jewish voters want Obama back, see economy as top concern

Jewish registered voters see the economy as the most important issue, and nearly two-thirds support President Barack Obama’s re-election, according to a new survey.

The 62 percent of Jewish voters backing Obama’s return was more than twice the number who said they would prefer a Republican candidate, according to the survey released April 3 at a National Press Club briefing. The poll of 1,004 American Jews was conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute.

Mitt Romney, at 58 percent, had the greatest support among Jews who would vote Republican. Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul trail with 15 percent, 13 percent and 12 percent, respectively. Seven percent of Jews who voted for Obama in 2008 said they would prefer a Republican candidate in 2012.

The survey looked at how Jewish values, experiences and identity are shaping political beliefs and behavior, as well as influencing social action in the Jewish community.

Some 51 percent of Jewish voters said the economy would be most important to their vote for the next president. Fifteen percent cited the gap between rich and the poor, 10 percent said health care, and 7 percent saw the federal deficit as being important to their vote.  

The survey also found 84 percent saying that pursuing justice and 80 percent saying that caring for the widow and orphan are somewhat or very important values that inform their political beliefs and activities.

Evangelical Protestants sympathize with Israel, survey finds

Evangelical Protestant leaders from around the world said they sympathize more with Israel than with the Palestinians, although a small majority said they sympathize with both sides equally, a survey found.

Thirty-four percent of respondents in a new Pew Research Center global survey released Wednesday said they sympathize more with Israel, compared to 11 percent who sympathize more with the Palestinians. Some 39 percent said they sympathize with Israel and the Palestinians the same amount.

Sympathy for the Palestinians was strongest among leaders from the Middle East and North Africa, and strongest for Israel among leaders from sub-Saharan Africa. In the United States, 30 percent said they sympathized more with Israel, 13 percent said the Palestinians and 49 percent said both sides equally.

Regarding leaders’ views on other religious traditions, Judaism ranked the most favorable among non-Christian groups, with 75 percent of respondents saying they have a favorable opinion, compared to just 33 percent who said they have a favorable view of Muslims, or 30 percent who said they have a favorable view of atheists.

On their views regarding evangelization, 22 percent viewed Jews as a “top priority” for evangelizing, compared to 73 percent who said the non-religious are a priority and 59 percent who said Muslims are a priority.

Meet with critical Jewish groups, Israelis tell survey

A majority of Israelis believe that their government representatives should meet with Diaspora Jewish groups that criticize their policies, a new survey found.

Some 71 percent of those responding to the sixth annual Survey of Contemporary Israeli Attitudes Toward Diaspora Jewry commissioned by the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem agreed that their government representatives should meet with groups critical of Israeli policies, with 20 percent saying that the government should refuse to meet the organizations.

Seventy-five percent of those interviewed agreed that the American Jewish community should actively advocate for the release of jailed spy Jonathan Pollard, with 12 percent saying the community should not work for his release and 13 percent refusing to answer. In addition, 79 percent of Israelis polled believed that efforts so far by American Jewry on behalf of Pollard merit a rating of six or less on a scale of 1-10.

The survey found that Israelis have a strong and personal connection to Diaspora Jewry.

Sixty-five percent of Israelis responding to the survey said they have relatives living outside of Israel.

Among those who have relatives living abroad, 46 percent responded that those relatives were born in the Diaspora, while 39 percent said their relatives were born in Israel, and 15 percent of the respondents who have relatives abroad have both Israel-born and Diaspora-born relatives. When looking at religious identification, Israelis identifying as “national religious” or “religious” were most likely to have Diaspora-born relatives with 62 percent and 55 percent respectively.

Slightly more than half, or 51 percent, of Israelis surveyed, opposed allowing Israelis living abroad to vote in Israeli elections, with 42 percent supporting the idea. Of those who support the idea, 72 percent said Israelis living abroad should be able to vote like all Israelis for Knesset lists, and 18 percent believe they should vote for a designated representative or a representative reserved for Israelis living abroad.

The telephone survey of 500 Israeli Jews over the age of 18 was conducted June 13-16, and has a margin of error of 4.5 percent.  The survey was conducted by Keevoon Research.

New survey: U.S. has more Jews than believed

The American Jewish population is larger than suspected, according to new estimates compiled by Brandeis University.

The suburban Boston university’s Steinhardt Social Research Institute is estimating that there are some 6.5 million people in the United States who are either Jewish by religion or who self-identify as Jewish. The figure represents a 20 percent increase in the number of Jews since 1990.

The numbers were drawn from a synthesis of data from more than 150 nationwide surveys conducted by the U.S. government and other agencies, as well as from national polling organizations.

They refute information gathered in the last National Jewish Population Survey, a census-like study that had been conducted every decade by the Jewish federation system before being discontinued this year. The final survey showed that between 1990 and 2000-01, the population dropped from 5.5 million to 5.2 million.

A parallel polling by Brandeis of 1,400 Jews revealed that more than 80 percent of respondents who indicated that they are Jewish identify as such by religion, while the rest identify as Jewish by some other criteria.

According to the study, 1.27 million Jews who identify by religion are younger than 18. The Steinhardt center has not yet broken down other demographic data from the survey, but will roll out more information about demographics, socioeconomic status and other areas over the course of the next year, the center’s director, Len Saxe, told JTA.

Standing in the polls

Jewish researchers dispute some Pew religion survey data

American Jews are adopting and discarding their Jewish identities with increasing rapidity in a country that is becoming less white and less Christian, according to a new study of religious affiliation in the United States.

But just hours after the study’s publication Monday, Jewish demographers already were disputing some of the findings on Jews, contending that the sample is too small to draw meaningful conclusions.

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, shows how Jews fit into a national religious mosaic that is shifting at ever-increasing speed.

It shows that more than one-quarter — 28 percent — of Americans have left the faith in which they were raised and either joined a different faith or profess no faith at all.

Some of the findings about Jews, including the high income and educational levels, came as no surprise, as they mirror the results of earlier Jewish-only population studies.

The Pew study is the largest, most in-depth survey of American religious beliefs and behaviors, putting numbers to what religious experts have long believed was happening, Pew officials say. The last time the U.S. Census asked questions about religion was in 1957.

More than 35,000 of America’s 225 million adults were interviewed, including 682 Jews. A second report based on the same data, describing America’s religious practices and beliefs, will be released in late April, followed by a third report on social and political views later in the summer.

Leading Jewish demographers, including those who worked on the National Jewish Population Studies (NJPS) of 1990 and 2000-2001, dispute some of the Pew data relating to American Jewry, particularly the figures about converts to and from Judaism.

“While we can learn a lot from this kind of survey in a general sense, in terms of Jews per se we have to be cautious because they’re such a small part of the sample,” said Jonathon Ament, assistant director of research at the United Jewish Communities and senior project adviser on the 2000-2001 NJPS. The NJPS survey included 4,523 respondents.

With fewer than 700 Jewish respondents and a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 points that Ament calls “quite high,” he said the Pew report should be “taken with a grain of salt” when it comes to its conclusions about American Jewish adults.

Pew researchers take umbrage at that suggestion, saying the sample size is statistically sound.

“From a purely statistical viewpoint, the study should be taken seriously,” said John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum. “We have every confidence that the Jews in our study are representative of Jews nationwide.”

Finding the total number of Jews has often been a source of controversy within the Jewish community. The Pew study arrives at its own numbers, suggesting the continuing difficulty of defining who is a Jew.

Pew counted an estimated 3.8 million Jews, or 1.7 percent of the total American adult population. The NJPS counted 4.1 million Jewish adults out of a total Jewish population of 5.2 million.

Some thought the NJPS underestimated the Jewish population, including Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, which offered its own estimate of 6 million to 6.4 million.

But it was the findings on converts to and from Judaism, which involve controversial definitions — including “who is a Jew” — that drew the most skepticism among Jewish demographers.

According to the Pew study, 15 percent of America’s nearly 4 million Jewish adults were not raised as Jews. That means, Pew researchers said, they either converted to Judaism or embraced the Judaism of one of their parents or grandparents.

The study also reports that 9 percent of adults who were raised Jewish now profess another faith. Four percent of those former Jews are now Protestant, about half of them evangelicals; 1 percent are Catholic, and nearly 5 percent belong to a non-Christian faith, ranging from Islam to Buddhism to a new age religion.

Still, the report found that Jews and Hindus are the most successful at retaining their people.

More than 84 percent of those who were raised Hindu still identify as Hindu, followed by 76 percent of those raised Jewish who say they are Jewish today; 14 percent of those raised Jewish now identify with no organized religion.

Judaism, Catholicism and Hinduism are the three faith groups filled with the highest percentage of born followers. Eighty-five percent of today’s Jewish adults were raised as Jews vs. the 15 percent of today’s Jews who have joined the community. Ninety percent of today’s Hindu adults were born and raised Hindu, along with 89 percent of Catholics.

Other highlights of the Pew report include:

  • Jews are tied with Mormons as the sixth-largest faith group, each claiming 1.7 percent of the country’s adult population.
  • The largest faith group is evangelical Protestants (26.3 percent), followed by Catholics (23.9 percent), mainline Protestants (18.1 percent), unaffiliated (16.1 percent) and members of historically black churches (6.9 percent).
  • There are twice as many adult Jews as adult Muslims.
  • Jews rank fourth among religious groups most likely to marry in the faith. According to Pew, 69 percent of married Jews are married to another Jew — the same figure reported by the 2000 NJPS. Of the 31 percent of Jews married to someone of a different faith or no faith, the largest percentage, 12 percent, are married to Catholics. The faith groups most likely to marry their own are Hindus, Mormons and Catholics.
  • America’s slim Protestant majority of 51 percent will soon disappear as the country continues to become less white and less Christian.
  • Those who say they are unaffiliated comprise the fastest growing “faith” group today, followed by nondenominational Protestants, who are largely evangelicals.
  • The faith communities most heavily comprised of people who have switched affiliation include the unaffiliated, Buddhists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and members of other faiths and nontraditional Christian sects.
  • The most highly educated faith communities are Hindus (48 percent with post-graduate degrees), followed by Jews (35 percent), compared to the national average of 10 percent.
  • Two percent of America’s 1.57 million Buddhists were raised Jewish.

    When it comes to drawing a Jewish picture from the Pew study, it’s difficult to compare the results to the National Jewish Population Study because it is rare to find the exact same questions or categories in both studies.

In addition, the NJPS and other Jewish-sponsored population studies use a combination of self-identification and behavioral questions to arrive at a nuanced understanding of who is a Jew, whereas the Pew report allowed respondents to declare their own religious identity.

The conversion figures offered by the Pew study differ from those of other Jewish studies. The 1990 NJPS showed that 180,000 people had converted to Judaism, comprising 3 percent of the total Jewish population. The 2000-2001 NJPS did not report the number of converts to Judaism, so it’s impossible to make comparison with the Pew report’s statement that 15 percent of today’s Jewish adults were not raised Jewish.

“What does ‘raised Jewish’ mean?” asks demographer Bruce Phillips of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, who worked on the 2000-2001 NJPS. “To you and me it might mean someone went to Hebrew school,” but the respondents answering the Pew study were not asked to elaborate.

Similarly, the 1990 NJPS showed that 210,000 Jews had converted out of Judaism, representing nearly 4 percent of American Jewry. By the time of the 2000-2001 NJPS, that figure had risen to just above 5 percent, along with an additional 7.6 percent who said they had left Judaism for no religion.

The NJPS total of 12.6 percent is less than the 23 percent of Jews who told Pew researchers that they now professed no religion or had joined another faith. But some of that difference can be ascribed to definitions used by the study organizers.

Pew researchers acknowledge these “definitional issues,” said Green, a senior researcher on the project.

But that was not the focus of the Pew study.

“Our purpose was to look at religion in America quite broadly,” Green said.

The study was concerned with measuring how much movement there is into and out of faith groups, rather than in describing exactly what those faith-shifters are discarding and adopting or why.

“We’re not really measuring conversion,” Green said, “we’re measuring change.”

New reports expose rampant anti-Semitic attacks in Western Europe

Briefs: Survey to catalog landmark Boyle Heights buildings to prevent destruction; Chabad expands on

Survey to catalog landmark Boyle Heights buildings to prevent destruction

A survey of historic landmark buildings in Boyle Heights will start shortly, spurred in part by the mysterious demolition of a former Jewish Community Center last year.

To prevent such thoughtless destruction in the future, City Councilman Jose Huizar announced funding of a survey to identify “sites of cultural and historic significance, enabling the city and community to proactively protect these cultural treasures.”

Huizar emphasized that “after the Boyle Heights community lost the Jewish Community Center at Soto and Michigan — and The Jewish Journal reported the tragic loss — I redoubled my efforts to catalogue and preserve our cultural landmarks.”

In the 1930s and ’40s, Boyle Heights was the oldest and largest Jewish enclave in Los Angeles, with approximately 35,000 to 40,000 Jews living in 10,000 homes. It was dotted with small Jewish stores and such impressive houses of worship as the Breed Street Shul, currently being renovated and converted into a joint Latino-Jewish center.

The early Jewish, African American and Asian residents have now been largely replaced by Latinos, but, said Huizar, “Boyle Heights is filled with Victorian homes, stately synagogues and other precious remnants of our shared history, and we must protect them.”

The survey will focus on the Adelante Eastside Project Area in Boyle heights, containing some of the oldest buildings in Los Angeles.Encompassing 2,200 acres with 2,800 separate parcels of land, the project area is roughly bounded by Indiana Street on the west, the Los Angeles River on the east, Valley Boulevard on the north and Washington Boulevard on the south.

The survey will be largely funded and conducted by a partnership of three municipal entities: Huizar’s office, the Community Redevelopment Agency and the Office of Historic Preservation.

The razed Jewish Community Center was an outstanding example of the architectural style known as California Modernism and was designed in the late 1930s by Raphael Soriano, a Sephardic native of Rhodes.

One year ago, The Journal first reported that the building had been hastily demolished without a permit and without notification to the appropriate city department or neighborhood organizations. An investigation by The Journal found that the culprit was the federal government, which acquired the property to erect a Social Security regional office.

After protests by the Los Angeles Conservancy and Jewish Historical Society, a U.S. government spokesman apologized and promised to take steps to avoid the razing of historical buildings in the future.Huizar said that the survey is expected to begin this spring and should be completed within 12 months.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Chabad expanding West Coast operation

Chabad-Lubavitch, the Chasidic organization known in the Jewish world for its success in outreach, is redoubling its efforts on the West Coast. At its 42nd annual West Coast convention last month, the organization announced that the coming year will see an additional 36 new shluchim, or emissaries. This is in addition to the 220 emissaries already on the West Coast, operating some 150 centers, as well as summer camps, university locales and operational centers.

The Feb. 17-19 convention in Glendale, attended by 212 shluchim from California and Nevada as well as supporters, hosted workshops and presentations designed to better help the rabbis perform outreach in their communities.

Sessions focused on the financial (“Managing Your Finances,” “Making the Dream a Reality: How to build a Chabad Center”), youth (two parts on both “Engaging Your Students” and “Harnessing the Power of Student Participation”) and negotiating in the non-Chabad world (“Resolving Conflicts and Managing Differences,” “Walking on Eggshells: How to Discuss Sensitive Issues”).

“This is one of the most inspiring events of the year for Chabad,” said Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, the head of West Coast Chabad-Lubavitch. “It’s a gathering of people who dedicate themselves every day to helping those in need — whether it’s at hospitals, shelters, preschools, senior centers or on college campuses.”

Unveiled at the conference were the prototypes of the new “Chabad-mobile,” a fleet of mobile mitzvah units that will drive through the streets, attend Jewish events — both Chabad and non-Chabad — to offer passersby the opportunity to do mitzvahs, study and get involved with Chabad. There will be 20 new Chabad mobiles to start, although, as with everything Chabad, they hope to increase the number soon. The new colorful design, by artist Marc Lumer, features a businesswoman holding a cup of coffee, a surfer, a “Fiddler on the Roof” character, a Chabad rabbi and more.

“They needed a facelift,” Rabbi Chaim Cunin, communications director of Chabad said of the fleet. “We wanted to make it represent what Chabad is really about: A place where everyone feels completely at home — both in the centers and in the mobiles.”

— Amy Klein, Religion Editor

Rabbis and doctors gather at Brandeis for Jewish healing conclave

In January, the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health held its fourth biennial Partner Gathering at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute. The event drew more than 100 rabbis, physicians, social workers and others from the United States, Israel and Brazil whose work or interest involves Judaism’s role in healing.

Tom Cole, director of the Center for Health, Humanities and the Human Spirit at the University of Texas, delivered the keynote address on “Aging and the Changing Nature of the Human.” He spoke about modern medicine’s potential to dramatically increase the human life span, and the implications of such longevity. “Judaism lacks a vision of the good life for our elder years,” said Cole. “We need to create authentically Jewish visions of later life.”

The gathering allowed participants to “learn, network and recharge,” said Associate Director Michele Prince. “Themes of memory and aging were explored during this retreat, and will influence the ways the Kalsman Partners work with one another, their patients, congregants and students.”

“A special element of the Kalsman Gatherings,” she added, “is that we, as a department of the Reform movement seminary, are able to bring together leaders from across the spectrum of Jewish life — from secular Israeli to modern Orthodox. This transdenominational effort is more than symbolic, and it gave us great pleasure as we davened, learned, networked and recharged together.”

At an evening reception, Rabbi Richard Address, director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns, was honored with the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Sherut L’Am Award for “revolutionary work in Jewish congregational life.”

Address has been instrumental in creating congregational programs dealing with such issues as the changing nature of the Jewish family, bioethics, aging and illness.

— Nancy Sokoler Steiner, Contributing Writer

New study finds 1 million more Jews in U.S.

A new study gives fairly concrete evidence that the American Jewish population could be more than 1 million people larger than believed — but if so, it means efforts to engage them may have been less successful than the community realized.

The United Jewish Communities’ (UJC) National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01 (NJPS) was widely viewed as flawed. Still, the Jewish community held to the survey’s estimate that there were 5.2 million American Jews.

But even using the same criteria as UJC did to define who is Jewish, it’s more likely that there are 6 million to 6.4 million American Jews, according to a Undressed up

Marriage Conversion Rate Proves Low

Low conversion rates among intermarried Jewish families continue to plague those working to reverse the demographic downtrends in American Jewry.

Fewer than one-fifth of non-Jews who marry Jews convert to Judaism, according to a new study distributed by the American Jewish Committee.

The “Choosing Jewish” report, which interviewed 94 mixed-marriage couples and nine Jewish professionals in the Boston and Atlanta areas, also painted a bleak picture of Jewish involvement for those who do convert.

Many converted Jews — 40 percent — are described as “accommodating Jews-by-Choice.” They come to Judaism because they are asked to do so, and allow others to determine their level of Jewish observance, the report said. Jews in this category often have profiles of Jewish involvement similar to moderately affiliated born Jews.

Another 30 percent of converted Jews are identified as ambivalent Jews — they continue to express doubts about their conversion and feel guilty about beliefs or holidays left behind, according to the report. Their children mirror this ambivalence by thinking of themselves as half-Jews.

The report qualified only 30 percent of converted spouses as “activist Jews,” or those who identify deeply with the Jewish people and Israel. These Jews often are more committed to Jewish practice than are born Jews, and their children are virtually indistinguishable from children whose parents were born Jewish.

The findings, compiled by Brandeis University professor Sylvia Barack Fishman, have widespread implications for a community grappling with the reality of mixed marriages.

According to both the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey and surveys by Gary Tobin, president of the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish & Community Research, the U.S. Jewish intermarriage rate is between 40 percent and 50 percent.

The American Jewis Committee (AJCommittee) hopes the new data will create a road map for greater Jewish involvement among converts and intermarried families.

The breakdown of converted Jews by category shows that we should “not treat converts as an undifferentiated mass,” said Steven Bayme, the AJCommittee’s director of contemporary Jewish life.

Instead, he envisioned a sliding scale of Jewish involvement, ranging from those with a low level of affiliation to those who are highly involved.

“We should not see conversion as the end of the story,” he said. “What we’re really aiming for is converts who enrich the Jewish community through Jewish activism. We need to enlarge the pool of activist converts.”

But that requires a proactive approach.

First and foremost, Jews need to “wave the banner of inmarriage,” advocating Jewish partners whenever possible, he said. In cases of intermarriage, Bayme described conversion as “the single best outcome.”

“We need to be up front about our preference for conversion,” he said.

To that end, he talked about the role of rabbi as the “nurturer of would-be converts” and the need for Jewish family members to “be clear about values and objectives.”

In addition, Bayme advocated raising children in an exclusively Jewish household, because attempting to combine religions would be “a disaster Jewishly.”

Edmund Case, publisher of, which encourages Jewish connections in the interfaith community, took issue with several of these premises.

“I think there is a real danger in promoting conversion too aggressively,” he said. “If we stand at the door, a lot of people might not come in.”

Case said that accepting intermarried non-Jews who don’t convert — not just those who do — should be paramount.

“The way to have more Jewish children is for interfaith couples to get involved in Jewish life,” he said. “It’s important to see intermarriage as an opportunity and not as a negative or a loss.

“I think its important to communicate a message of welcome,” he continued. “The message we need to send to [intermarried] non-Jews is, ‘We’re grateful to you and happy to have you just as you are.'”

Case criticized the lack of money allocated to such interfaith outreach — less than $3 million a year between Jewish federations and family foundations, he said.

Bayme said “it’s a bit premature” for the AJCommittee to recommend any policy changes based on the report but that the group will discuss the findings at several upcoming meetings.


Huizar Proposal Would Close Razing Loophole

An order to investigate the demolition of a historic Jewish Community Center (JCC) building in Boyle Heights is now on the agenda of the Los Angeles City Council.

Under a motion introduced March 22 by Councilmember Jose Huizar, whose district includes Boyle Heights, municipal departments would be ordered to explain why they greenlighted the razing of the structure without requiring a demolition permit notifying neighborhood organizations and officials.

The motion would also require the city’s Planning Department and the Department of Building and Safety to review current ordinances and close any loopholes to prevent a similar fate for other cultural and historical landmarks.

At an outdoor news conference Wednesday, adjoining the historic Breed Street Shul in Boyle Heights, Huizar said, “I am deeply concerned by the loss of the Jewish Community Center, and I am here today to call for action that will help ensure that this community — and this city — protect what remains of our cultural heritage.”

Huizar said he would instruct the appropriate departments to survey all of Los Angeles to identify similar sites that may not have been officially designated as historic landmarks. Currently, some 800 such landmarks are registered.

The new burst of activity was triggered by a report in The Journal that the former Soto-Michigan JCC building, later known as the Eastside JCC, had been razed by a developer without public notice or demolition permit.

The building was of architectural, as well as historical, significance. It was designed by Raphael Soriano, who helped pioneer the architectural style known as California Modernism.

Dedicated in 1939 to keep Jewish kids off the street and away from “potentially demoralizing influences,” the building became the All Nations’ Center in 1958, as the community became increasingly Latino.

After the structure was razed in late February by a private San Diego developer, The Journal learned that the developer would erect a new structure to be leased to the U.S. government for a Social Security office.

The federal government does not have to comply with city regulations, such as obtaining a demolition permit. However, one gray area Huizar intends to probe is whether the exemption rule applies when a private company takes over and then leases the property to a federal entity.

Huizar was joined at the news conference by Latino community leaders and by Tzivia Schwartz-Getzug, senior vice president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; Stephen Sass, president of the regional Jewish Historical Society; and Ken Bernstein, director of preservation with the Los Angeles Conservancy.

The JCC and similar sites are “a reflection of what was, and what can be again, an opportunity for our diverse citizens to create a future that intersects in meaningful ways,” Schwart-Getzug said.

Sass, who was instrumental in preventing the destruction of the Breed Street Shul in 1988, said that efforts are under way to renovate the impressive shul’s structure as a multicultural community center.

Bernstein pointed out that only 15 percent of Los Angeles has been surveyed for possible cultural and historic landmarks.

“Some 85 percent of the city is a blank slate,” he said.

Also on hand was Rosalie Turrola, a high school counselor and lifelong Boyle Heights resident, who told The Journal that she recalled her former Jewish neighbors fondly.

“I remember everyone lighting candles on Friday nights, and I loved the potato pancakes,” she said. ” I had a nice neighbor who always called me a ‘shayne maidele’ [pretty girl].

“In those days, I used to be a Mexican-American, now I’ve turned into a Chicana.”


Style and Substance

What can the 2003 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) tell us that TheNew York Times wedding announcements can’t?

I read both this weekend, pretty much one after the other, and I can tellyou that the nuptial notices make up in pretty portraits what they lack inhard data.

As for the NJPS, it makes up in hard data what it lacks in sober analysis.

I’m not the first to point out that the usual dire headlines thataccompanied the survey’s release are overripe. “Where have all the Jewishpeople gone?” read one news release. “Jewish Population Declining” screameda newspaper headline. Even comedian Bill Maher chimed in on his HBO show:With fewer Jews, he asked, “Who will write all those sitcoms about Latinoand African American families?”

The survey, funded for $6 million by the federation umbrella group UnitedJewish Communities, reported that the nation’s population of 5.2 millionJews represented a decline of 2 percent from the 1990 survey, which reported5.5 million Jews.

But critics have pointed out that the survey’s numbers are well within themargin of error. Beyond that, barring direct evidence of a decline, the NJPSactually states in its methodological appendix that, “many researchersbelieve that the methodologies of survey research may yield undercounts ofthe Jewish population.” That decline you’ve been reading about all week? Itmay in fact be a slight rise.

As for intermarriage, the survey reported a national intermarriage rateamong all married couples involving a Jew at 43 percent. Hardly shocking, asany weekend reading of Times wedding announcements would seem to indicate.This week, for instance, I saw that Dana Sacher, daughter of Susan and JoelSacher of Springfield, N.J., married John Thomas Rollins, a son of Claireand Paul Rollins of Venice, Fla. A Methodist minister officiated, the paperreported, while Michele Lazerow of the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center inTisbury, Mass., “took part in the service.”

There were similar nuptials listed, and, taking a hazardous guess, I’d sayThe Times intermarriage rate for Sunday, Sept. 14, 2003, may be close to the43 percent the NJPS reported.

That number, by the way, is down from the 52 percent rate reported in the1990 survey. You remember how the OVER-HALF-OF-ALL-JEWS-INTERMARRY!statistic became an article of faith among rabbis and Jewish professionalspredicting the imminent end of the Jewish people. It was the number thatlaunched a thousand outreach programs, many of them worthwhile, and, asother numbers in the survey demonstrate, remarkably effective at deepeninglevels of Jewish education.

But it turns out the number itself was wrong. The new survey acknowledgesthat in their zeal to be as inclusive as possible, researchers counted asintermarried people who no longer considered themselves Jews. This time theydefined intermarriage as “the marriage of someone who is Jewish to someonewho is non-Jewish at the time of the survey.”

The result of this stroke of brilliant reasoning is a reduction in the rateof intermarriage in as many as 39 communities to 26 percent or lower.

Taking this into consideration, those dire headlines should instead bedownright inspiring. At a time when Jews can move unhindered up and down andacross the social ladder and marry anyone they want, many still place apremium on retaining their attachment to Judaism.

Among those who do intermarry, the survey found that one-third of theirchildren are being raised Jewish; that their children were three times morelikely to marry non-Jews themselves; that by the common measures of Jewishlife (synagogue affiliation, JCC membership, charitable contribution, homerituals) intermarried couples were much less Jewish.

But once again, don’t think for a second these numbers tell the whole story,or even the most important part of it. Jewish life is not a snapshot, it’s amovie. People’s feelings about their religion change depending, among otherthings, on how others within the faith treat them. Not surprisingly, thesurvey shows the number of Reform and Reconstructionist Jews increasing,while the number of Conservative Jews declining. Guess which denomination ismore welcoming to intermarried couples?

If this survey – and those handsome faces in the wedding announcements – donothing else, they should encourage us to redefine intermarriage not as anonus, but as an opportunity.

There’s More to Us

All this week there’s been some strange goings-on at the intersection of Us and Them.

Pop diva Whitney Houston spent a few days in Israel among the black Hebrews. “It’s home,” she said about Israel. “It’s a friendship I’ve never had with any other country.”

Meanwhile, Madonna donated $6 million to buy a building in London that will become the new West End headquarters of the Kaballah Center.

Closer to home, “The Producers” opened at the Pantages Theatre, deservedly regaling crowds with the adventures of Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, two Jews who lie, cheat and backstab and yet somehow emerge lovable and heroic (see p. 25).

At the same time, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) was in town last week accepting the endorsement of Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamente. He’s finding that he is gaining support as a result of being an observant Jew.

All this is happening in the real world, which is why I am having an increasingly difficult time following the hand-wringing and oy-veying of the unreal world, which I will call, the Jewish community.

In that world, experts, professors, bureaucrats and rabbis are bemoaning the imminent demise of the Jewish people. They marshal statistics, most recently from the 2000 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS), to support their predictions that American Jews, like bluefin tuna and North Atlantic cod, are disappearing. Intermarriage is at 51 percent. Jewish women in their childbearing years are having only 1.8 children, while the replacement level to ensure population growth is 2.1 children. More Jews are dying than are being born, and unless we go out and have another .3 children, the Tribe is toast. As Leo Bloom moans in Act Two, “No way out, no way out, no way out.”

In the face of these numbers, the Jewish professional world has put forth a variety of sometimes useful and often very expensive programs designed to encourage Jewish identity.

But none of these solutions, undertaken as a response to the 1990 NJPS, has drastically improved the numbers of the 2000 survey. And I suspect that if we invest in similar programs and solutions starting now, the 2010 survey will look even worse.

So why is it that Jewish influence is expanding in popular culture while our actual numbers seem doomed to decline? Are we, like the burst of a summer firework, burning brightest the instant before our descent?

Or are these solutions bound to fail because we have, all along, wrongly defined the problem?

We are worried that there are too few Jews, instead of worrying that too few people are Jewish. The former is a problem. The latter is an opportunity.

Judaism has insights into the most profound questions we humans ask: What is the meaning of life? How can I be happy? Why do the innocent suffer? How do I raise good kids?

Judaism has commandments, laws and rituals that provide the discipline and tools we need to act upon these insights: to make the world a better place, to offer hope and comfort, to bring peace.

Judaism has much to recommend it. When was the last time you recommended it to someone? My guess is, never. Because the truth is, too many Jews can’t make a convincing argument for being Jewish even to their children, much less to strangers.

This week as we celebrate Shavuot, we read the story of Ruth, who, drawn to the faith of her mother-in-law, becomes Jewish. It is a story we should take to heart. Some forward-thinking mainstream rabbis are doing the same, like Harold Schulweis at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino. He realized long ago that Jews should actively engage intermarried couples and share the wisdom and beauty of Judaism with non-Jews. Call it marketing. Call it proselytizing. Call it good sense. As Ulla, the blonde bombshell in “The Producers,” sings, “If you got it, flaunt it.”

Judaism has got it, but we don’t flaunt it. “Rarely has there been a moment when the Jewish world view was so widely needed,” wrote Dr. Lawrence J. Epstein recently. “There is a genuine desire to learn about Judaism.”

There are currently about 200,000 converts to Judaism in the United States. Our first task is to make sure these Jews feel as welcome in our hearts and homes as your favorite uncle or aunt. We must also support rabbis and organizations who conduct responsible outreach to intermarried families, non-Jews and, of course, marginally affiliated Jews.

Rabbi Irwin Kula’s new public television program, “SimpleWisdom,” is one attempt to bring Jewish teachings into the public marketplace ina serious yet accessible way. “Judaism is used to make Jews more Jewish,” Kulatold The Forward about his program, which is produced by the L.A.-based JewishTelevision Network. “But what if that’s a too narrow definition for a3,500-year-old tradition? When Judaism is not about making Jews Jewish but aJewish response to human questions, what do you say?” One thing I say is, callNancy Rishagen, senior vice president for development at KCET, and urge her toair “Simple Wisdom” in a popular time slot: (323) 953-5300 or .

The historian Salo Baron wrote in “Encyclopaedia Judaica” that from 586 B.C.E. to 100 C.E., the Jews grew from 150,000 to more than 8 million, mostly through unforced conversion. I’m sure the community experts weren’t bemoaning the Jewish Population Survey of 100 C.E. Our future, too, can be one of growth and strength. “There’s more to me than just me,” Leo Bloom says in “The Producers.” And there can be more to us than just us.

Jewish Survey Missing Data

Much-anticipated parts of the National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) will not be released as expected next week because some of the data has been lost.

The United Jewish Communities (UJC), which is funding the $6 million study, is canceling all events pertaining to the 2000-01 NJPS at the Philadelphia gathering of its General Assembly, which begins next Wednesday.

And the UJC, the umbrella of the North American federation system, is launching an independent investigation into the lost data, JTA has learned.

“It is true we are delaying the release of the study,” Stephen Hoffman, UJC’s president and chief executive officer, said on Wednesday. “The reason is there have been some questions raised that I don’t believe we have adequate time to get answers to.”

The revelations could cast doubt on the entire NJPS, the most extensive and costliest demographic study ever conducted of the American Jewish community. The lost data apparently concerned methodological details about who was surveyed, rather than their responses to survey questions.

“Some people with serious reputations believe the study is sound and it could have gone forward and will stand up to the test of time,” Hoffman said. “That could be the case — but I didn’t feel comfortable with these questions to go forward [with releasing further NJPS data next week as planned].”

Last month, the UJC released initial findings from the NJPS, showing the American Jewish population declined 5 percent to 5.2 million since the last study in 1990, and that birth rates were dropping and the community was aging.

Hoffman said that had he known of the missing data before the release of that information, he would not have approved the release of those initial conclusions.

“There may be aspects of it [that are inaccurate],” he said, referring to the initial data released. “I don’t know.”

Hoffman said he only learned of the missing data Tuesday, one week before the information from the NJPS about Jewish identity and intermarriage was due to get released at the annual UJC gathering, which brings together much of the organized American Jewish world.

“I feel it would be irresponsible to go ahead and release the study while these questions are still unresolved,” Hoffman said.

“There will be some people who will be disappointed,” Hoffman said of the implications for the General Assembly. “I’m personally disappointed.”

But there “are other things in Jewish life,” he said that delegates will focus on.

At the heart of the mystery was that Hoffman only learned Tuesday that the firm conducting research for the NJPS, Roper Audits & Surveys Worldwide, lost some data for the study two years ago during initial telephone calls.

Meanwhile, “other issues like that have been coming up in recent days,” he added, though he declined to elaborate.

One source familiar with the NJPS said the missing data concerned lists of those people telephoned for the survey, their phone numbers and how often they were called.

Two-thirds of that data was lost, according to the source.

But the source maintained that while this information was important in determining the accuracy of the survey’s methodology, he did not think that it would undermine the ultimate conclusions, specifically those relating to Jews and Jewish identity.

“I don’t know how much has been lost,” Hoffman said. “The issue is 29 hours old. All I’ve had time to do is make the decision to not have the data be released.”

However, Hoffman said that Jim Schwartz, UJC’s director of research for NJPS, “was aware” of the missing data at some earlier point, though Hoffman said he hadn’t spoken directly with Schwartz yet about the matter. There were no plans affecting Schwartz’s position at this point, he added.

“It would be unfair to jump to conclusions about anybody’s particular role,” he said. “I’m not casting any aspersions at the moment.”

Schwartz could not be reached Wednesday for comment, despite several attempts.

After the General Assembly, the UJC will secure “an outsider” who is “totally objective” to launch an investigation into the missing information. The investigative team might include UJC staffers as well, Hoffman said. Such a probe would presumably attempt to learn exactly what information is missing, how it got lost, how significant it is, who knew about the missing information and why they did not inform senior UJC officials.

“I want to know if there are any other issues they haven’t told me about, either from staff or the technical team” or Roper researchers, Hoffman said.

June Wallach, a spokeswoman for Roper, said the company would have no comment at this time.

Hoffman said he had no idea whether the UJC would take action against Roper, which apparently lost the information from its computer system.

Several lead members of the National Technical Advisory Committee of demographers and social scientists that consulted with UJC’s staffers working on the NJPS said they were participating in a conference call Wednesday about the survey, though they declined to comment further.

Hoffman said he did not know if the co-chairs of the advisory panel, Vivian Klaff of the University of Delaware and Frank Mott of Ohio State University, knew about the missing data. Reached Wednesday, Klaff would only say he would be joining the conference call on the NJPS. Mott did not return calls.

Egon Mayer, director of the North American Jewish Data Bank at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, said he had heard about the delay this week though he didn’t know the reasons for it.

“I think some very important conclusions were reached by the UJC management that led them to this decision, which I’m sure they reached very reluctantly,” he said.

Stephen Bayme, national director of contemporary Jewish life for the American Jewish Committee, said he had heard of the delay but preferred waiting until the UJC got to the bottom of the issue.

“I’d rather not have the data than have data that is mistaken,” Bayme said.

Safety in Numbers

The immediate effect of a new, painstaking, multiyear, $6 million population survey of American Jewry has been to convince Jewish professionals that whatever they’ve been doing is the best thing for American Jewry.

The National Jewish Population Survey 2000-2001 (NJPS), just released on Tuesday, says there are 5.2 million Jews in America, a 5 percent decline since 1990, when the last survey was done. The latest NJPS may not evoke the calls for alarm of the 1990 study, whose reports of a 55 percent intermarriage rate spurred what Rabbi Irwin Kula calls "the Jewish continuity industry."

John Fishel, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles noted, "I don’t think anybody involved in Jewish life will be surprised [by the initial figures]."

Those figures (the ones for intermarriage will be released in November) show U.S. Jewry trending downward. The American Jewish population has fallen by just over 5 percent at a time when the general population has increased. Jewish women have an average of 1.8 children, which is below the replacement level of 2.1, and the Jewish population is getting older (thanks for reminding us) with the median age of American Jews going from 37 in 1990 to 41 in 2000.

Reactions to these semi-dire numbers, at least according to press accounts, were predictable. Orthodox rabbis said the figures proved that more money was needed for Jewish education and that Orthodox practice is the best safeguard against assimilation. Those involved in Jewish senior care say the numbers prove that we are overinvesting finite dollars in Jewish continuity and neglecting the needs of our aging population. People who’ve been saying for years that Jewish life is too expensive say the numbers would be better if the cost of Jewish involvement were cheaper. The Jewish continuity experts, their programs by now firmly entrenched, said the declining numbers prove that their programs are needed now more than ever.

The point is, all of us concerned about the health of American Jewry want to believe we’re part of the cure. And we are — all of us have our hands on part of the elephant. "By almost any measure we’re doing better than ever," David Lehrer told me. If you head a Jewish defense or lobbying organization and you believe there is strength in numbers, then the downward trend in population might be worrisome, said Lehrer, former regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. But if you look at Jewish political and cultural influence, Jewish wealth and success, the utter fecundity of Jewish expression just in this city alone, you’d have to be a committed pessimist to worry. Lehrer reminded me of Simon Rawidowicz’s description of Jews as "the ever-dying people" and warned that too often we see an existential crisis where there is none.

What there is, is opportunity.

Two weeks before the NJPS was released, Gary Tobin, president of the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish & Community Research, released another survey that found an American Jewish population increasing to 6.7 million. The difference in the numbers is, at root, a debate over this opportunity. Tobin’s methodology defined Jewish involvement more broadly and, therefore, came up with more Jews. Demographer Pini Herman derided the Tobin approach as a "marketing ploy" and said he thinks the NJPS numbers are more sound.

That may be. But both surveys have in common a larger and more expansive approach to "Who is a Jew?" than what Jewish law, or even previous surveys, have traditionally advanced. Both surveys counted thousands of people on what could be considered the fringes of organized Jewish life. The Tobin survey extended the criteria even beyond that.

Many people believe that there are even more circles that can be drawn into a meaningful expression of Jewish life, its traditions and its values. Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino told me that we have to do a better job of reaching out to intermarried couples and their families. He and others have long argued that it is time to set aside the taboo against proselytizing and demonstrate to non-Jews what Jewish faith and culture have to offer. There might be something to that. We have been managing our religion like some exclusive country club. We fret that our members are aging or have quit showing up, even as we pride ourselves on the barriers to entry. With the proper outreach, we could have tens of thousands of more Jews by 2010, not thousands less.

None of this is new. In a remarkable book, "The Beginnings of Jewishness" (University of California Press, 2001), Shaye J.D. Cohen documents a period in antiquity (around the beginning of the first millennium) when it wasn’t at all clear who was a Jew and who wasn’t.

"The uncertainty of Jewishness in antiquity curiously prefigures the uncertainty of Jewishness in modern times," Cohen writes. "Then as now, individual Jews are not easily recognizable; they simply are part of the general population."

I called Cohen, a Harvard professor, at his home near Boston to ask him why it is that we Jews are, 2,000 years later, still arguing over our definition.

Assimilation, he said. Jews living in what was then ancient Greece needed a way to mark themselves off from a culture in which they were almost fully immersed.

For us, today, the immersion is even greater. We have more intermarriage and our society is far more open. In such a society, the loss of the sense of "other," of "them," challenges our notion of "we."

"The issue is not intermarriage," he told me, "the issue is theloss of the sense of ‘otherness.’" The difference between the Jews of antiquity and ourselves, Cohen said, is that, "they had a clear sense of what they were about."

The question is, do we?

Surveying ‘America’s Jewish Freshmen’

When Adam Bergman researched colleges toward the end of his senior year at Milken High School, he looked very closely at the quality of their soccer teams and not so closely at the size of their Jewish populations.

"I don’t consider myself religious at all. I have never chosen a faith," said Bergman, the son of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. As he approaches his freshman year on the soccer team at UC Santa Cruz, Bergman is not looking to have a Jewish experience.

Bergman, however, is not alone in his religious neutrality. "America’s Jewish Freshmen," a survey recently released by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute, reveals a surprisingly low level of Jewish identification among students raised in interreligious families. The study, which asked incoming college freshmen to identify their religious preference, found that 40.2 percent of students raised in families where only the mother was Jewish identified their religion as "none," and 40 percent raised in families where only the father was Jewish identified their religion as "none." Of the students who were raised by two Jewish parents, only 6.2 percent claimed "none" as their religious preference.

"America’s Jewish Freshmen" profiles this rapidly growing segment of the student population who, like Bergman, have never chosen a faith, but have at least one Jewish parent. The study labels this category of students NR/JP (no religious preference/at least one Jewish parent), and compares them to self-identified Jewish students in areas such as their academic and family backgrounds, degree and career aspirations, and leisure activities. The study also compares Jewish and non-Jewish students in the same categories.

Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life sponsored "America’s Jewish Freshmen," in hopes of assisting Jewish educators to address student needs.

The study was conducted by Linda J. Sax, director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) at UCLA, and is based on data from CIRP’s Freshmen Survey, which has tracked more than 10 million students at more than 1,600 baccalaureate institutions for the past three decades. "America’s Jewish Freshmen" represents the first analysis of the CIRP survey’s Jewish sample, both by analyzing the 1999 CIRP Freshmen Survey and comparing it to the past 30 years of data.

"There’s a lot of stereotypes about Jewish students, but I wanted to see in reality how they compare," Sax said.

The study compares the responses of 8,000 Jewish students, 232,000 non-Jewish students, and 2,000 NR/JP students. It gives insight into one finding of the CIRP Freshmen Survey, which shows that while 5.4 percent of the student population identified themselves as Jewish in 1970, the figure dropped to 2.6 percent in 2001.

Among other things, "America’s Jewish Freshmen" found that NR/JP students were more often raised in homes where their parents were divorced or separated, compared to Jewish students. NR/JP students were also more likely to earn B averages in high school and less likely to earn A averages. They were more likely to aspire toward doctorate or masters in education degrees, but were less likely to aspire toward medical degrees.

"This is one category that Hillel will try to engage on campus," said Jay Rubin, executive vice president of Hillel. Rubin emphasized the importance of Jewish Campus Service Corps fellows reaching out to this group of students in particular, rather than waiting for them to come to Hillel. The survey notes that "although NR/JP claim to have no religious affiliation, Hillel looks to engage them in Jewish campus life because they have at least one Jewish parent and have not affiliated with any other religion." Additionally, despite differences, NR/JP students typically resembled Jewish students more than they resembled non-Jews.

"These students lack a traditional Jewish home life. We have an important opportunity, maybe an obligation, to provide them with the Jewish experiences that they failed to get at home and to provide them with a warm environment that will inspire them Jewishly…. We have to create programming with that in mind," said Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, director of UCLA Hillel.

"We’re at the beginning stages of learning what the research tells us," Rubin said. He does, however, offer several suggestions for program implementation based on some of the statistics, which he derives mainly from the part of the survey comparing Jewish and non-Jewish students. For instance, Jewish students have a stronger intention to participate in community service while in college. Rubin suggests "alternative spring breaks," such as one where students from USC Hillel helped build health clinics in Uruguay and Buenos Aires.

Additionally, the study found that Jews are more likely than non-Jews to be interested in business, medicine, law and the arts. Rubin suggests Hillel internship and mentor programs and highlights several arts programs, including an a capella choir.

While the survey will undoubtedly be a valuable tool in aiding efforts of Jewish educators, Sax emphasizes that the data does not represent college students, but rather students who are about to enter college. She hopes that the study is a steppingstone to follow-up studies. "The ultimate goal is to see how they [Jewish students] develop throughout college," Sax said.

Poll: College Kids Back Israel

U.S. college students back Israel over the Palestinians by a 4-1 margin, according to a new survey.

The mid-July survey of 300 students found that 43 percent of respondents called themselves supporters of Israel, while only 11 percent backed the Palestinians. Another 29 percent did not take either side in the conflict, however, and 10 percent said the United States should stand behind both sides equally, according to the poll taken by Washington pollster Stanley Greenberg.

Half of the students also favored the creation of a Palestinian state while 31 percent opposed it. Some 55 percent said the United States should use military force if Israel came under attack.

Officials of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), which underwrote the survey — part of a larger study of American attitudes toward Israel — said it showed that American students largely support Israel despite recent flare-ups of anti-Israel activity on campuses such as UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University.

"While several highly publicized anti-Israel demonstrations on the West Coast this spring gave the impression that campuses were unfriendly, the truth is that support for Israel among students is about the same as in the general population," said David Harris, AJC’s executive director.

But the results sparked some debate about just how closely they measured student attitudes, with one critic saying the study distorts the real picture on campus.

Gary Tobin, president of the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research, said the poll was "absolutely not" reflective of prevailing campus attitudes about the Mideast.

"On college campuses, the overwhelming sentiment is about justice for the Palestinians with the solution of a Palestinian state," he said. Tobin also said the ethnic and religious makeup of the sample — 4 percent of whom were Jews, and 40 percent of whom refused to disclose their background — skewed the results.

One observer who agreed with the poll’s findings was Larry Sternberg, associate director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. Sternberg said the survey was "consistent" with other polls showing most Americans in general, and students in particular, support Israel. Campuses such as Berkeley and San Francisco State "are exceptions, not the rule," he said.

Sternberg, however, said earlier surveys have shown that students back Israel over the Palestinians by a margin of about 3-1 or 4-1, reflecting American views in general.

Among the results of the latest poll:

Asked whom they supported in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 11 percent of students said they were "strong" Israel supporters; 32 percent called themselves supporters of Israel; 9 percent said they supported the Palestinians and 2 percent were "strong" Palestinian supporters.

Asked if they oppose or favor the establishment of a Palestinian state in "the current situation," 29 percent said they "somewhat" favor one; 21 percent "strongly" backed one; 23 percent were "somewhat" opposed; and 8 percent were "strongly" opposed.

89 percent of the students agreed with the statement, "the final goal, at the end of any negotiations, must be two states — Israel and Palestine — which accept each other’s right to exist and live in peace."

Tobin dismissed the survey as a "whitewash."

"This doesn’t help the Jewish community and the college community deal with the growing level of coarseness, hate speech and rising anti-intellectualism on many campuses," he said.

A more revealing poll would have compared the attitudes of Jewish with those of non-Jewish students and should have covered a larger sampling of about 1,000 students, Tobin said.

In fact, "the only near unanimous opinion is that nearly 9 of 10 respondents said they support a two-state solution," Tobin said.

Tobin is conducting his own survey of student attitudes that he will release in the fall. The results show "unequivocally" that U.S. college campuses are tilted toward pro-Palestinian opinion, he said.

But an AJC spokesman, Kenneth Bandler, defended the latest survey, saying it accurately reflected broad student support of Israel, despite the recent focus on anti-Israel activities.

"It’s hard for people to accept results that disprove a widely held perception," Bandler said.

Perhaps the most important finding in the poll, Sternberg said, was that many students are undecided about where they stand on the Mideast conflict. To shape this undecided group, he added, Jewish and pro-Israel groups "want to continue to advocate effectively on Israel’s behalf."

Courting the 5th District

Jews may provide the swing vote in next week’s tight race for the City Council’s 5th District between the well-known Tom Hayden and newcomer Jack Weiss.

Comprising roughly one-third of likely voters in the district, Jewish voters are evenly split between the two candidates, a recent survey conducted by Paul Goodwin of GLS Research found.

The district, which encompasses parts of Van Nuys and Sherman Oaks, and runs south through Bel Air to Westwood and the Fairfax district, has for decades fielded a Jewish representative to the City Council seat.

The current candidates for the seat, both Democrats, differ little in terms of issues affecting the 5th District. Both are in support of strong neighborhood councils and the federal consent decree to reform the LAPD, and both devote significant campaign resources to issues of traffic, real estate development and improving public schools.

Rather, the contest is more one of personality and style, with Hayden likely to attract the media spotlight and engage matters of broader scope, Weiss likely to focus more on local issues. Each candidate has the ardent support of some prominent members of Los Angeles’ Jewish community.

Rabbi Allen Freeling of University Synagogue supports his long-time friend Hayden, pointing to the 61-year-old former state senator’s leadership in Sacramento to secure restitution for Holocaust victims, along with his support for Israel and efforts in fighting poverty. “I’ve always found Tom to be determined to better the human condition in every segment of our society. From the intellectual and emotional points of view, Tom has always been allied with the Jewish community.” Public endorsements from other prominent Los Angeles Jews include talk-show host Phil Blazer, Russian community activist Si Frumkin, Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg and Stanley Sheinbaum.

For Weiss, the 36-year-old former federal prosecutor who lacks the legislative experience and name recognition Hayden enjoys, Jewish community support may be even more vital, and he has earned the approval of a long list of Jewish notables to bolster high-profile endorsements from the Los Angeles Times and Daily News. Congressmen Howard Berman and Henry Waxman, former Congressman Mel Levine, Marvin Braude, Steve Soboroff and Eli Broad all endorse Weiss, and Ed Edelman has pegged Weiss to fill his old council seat. Former Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee board member David Abel describes Weiss as “more in the tradition of the [5th District] candidates of the past 20 years — a practical idealist.”

With an average household income of $73, 238 and over 60 percent of the voters registered Democrats, the 5th district is known for its progressive political tradition.

But according to political analyst Joel Kotkin, as Jewish 5th District voters have become more financially and culturally secure, they have become politically “less Jewish than ideologically whatever they are.” Thus, Hayden’s history of progressive activism trumps any need for one-of-us representation among similarly liberal Jews.

Yet another trend in the district is for the underdog to unseat better-known candidates.

Weiss, like Michael Feuer, Zev Yaroslavsky and Ed Edelman before him, is a young Jewish lawyer running against a better-known opponent. District history obviously buoys Weiss’ campaign spirits, with mailers sent to voters’ homes offering photos of Weiss with Waxman and Yaroslavsky over the line “Now, another strong young Democrat is ready to join this tradition.”

Weiss, with a wealth of more centrist political support, attracts Jewish support as a pragmatist, rather than as a Jew, Kotkin says.

Kotkin adds: “Zev [Yaroslavsky] was a Yiddishkayt candidate when he started. You don’t see that anywhere in L.A. anymore.”


In September, vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman came under fire from many Jewish organizations for telling a radio talk show host that there is no Jewish prohibition against intermarriage.But according to a survey released this week, Lieberman’s comments reflect the beliefs of the majority of American Jews. In short, according to the survey, “the Jewish taboo on mixed marriage has clearly collapsed.”

More than half of American Jews disagree with the statement, “It would pain me if my child married a gentile,” and 50 percent agree that “it is racist to oppose Jewish-gentile marriages,” according to the American Jewish Committee’s (AJCommittee) 2000 Survey of American Jewish Opinion.

It was the first time the annual phone survey of 1,010 Jews – which tracks Jewish attitudes about Israel, anti-Semitism and political issues – asked for attitudes about intermarriage.

Findings on Israel and political matters were consistent with recent years – showing strong attachments to Israel, concern about anti-Semitism and generally liberal political views, with 75 percent reporting they planned to vote for Al Gore for president.

On intermarriage, 78 percent of respondents said they favor rabbinic officiation at Jewish-gentile marriages “in some form and under some circumstances,” while only 15 percent are opposed to this.

But the majority of American rabbis do not officiate at intermarriages: Conservative and Orthodox rabbis are forbidden to do so, while an estimated half of Reform rabbis refuse to officiate.

Only the Orthodox, among the various groupings of American Jews in the survey, maintain strong opposition to mixed marriage – and they do so by a large majority. Eighty-four percent of the Orthodox surveyed said they would be pained if their child intermarried, compared to 57 percent of Conservative Jews, 27 percent of Reform Jews and 19 percent of those who said they are “just Jewish.”

The denominations are self-identified and do not mean the respondents are actually affiliated with synagogues belonging to that movement.

In 1991, shock waves rippled through the American Jewish world when the National Jewish Population Survey reported that 52 percent of Jews who had married between 1985 and 1990 had wed non-Jews. That number was disputed as too high by some sociologists, but most agreed that intermarriage rates were still significant.

David Singer, who as the AJCommittee’s director of research oversees the annual survey, called the findings “very, very dramatic.”

“This is the amcha speaking, and what we hear is rather eye-opening,” he said, using the Hebrew expression for the grass roots. “This constitutes a tremendous challenge to people and groups that want to maintain the opposition to mixed marriage.”

The AJCommittee has issued statements opposing intermarriage.

Rabbi Alan Silverstein, who has written several books for the Conservative movement on how to respond to intermarriage, said he is disturbed, but not surprised, by the survey’s findings.

But he noted that statistics on intermarriage can be misleading because there are such sharply divergent attitudes in the Jewish community. Unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, of which there are a growing number, are far less likely to oppose intermarriage, he said.

That obscures, he said, the fact that the majority of synagogue-affiliated Jews – particularly Conservative and Orthodox ones – remain opposed to intermarriage, even if they would not disown their children for marrying gentiles.

“On something in which there’s such a split between demographic sectors of the population, one overall number is not helpful,” said Silverstein.

But on the basis of the survey findings, he predicted his Reform colleagues will face increasing pressures to officiate at intermarriages of their congregants.

Already, a number of Reform rabbis say it is difficult to find a pulpit job if one is unwilling to perform a wedding for a Jew and non-Jew.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Reform movement’s Union of American Hebrew Congregations, said the survey illustrates the need for the Jewish community to welcome intermarried families, something his movement does.

“We can’t pretend it’s a reality different from what it is,” said Yoffie, adding: “In the unique climate of this wonderful, diverse, democratic, open culture of ours, there’s going to be intermarriage.”

But he said the survey should not be read as a sign that the American Jewish community is just assimilating. While there may be widespread acceptance of intermarriage, there is “also a revival of religious life at every level,” Yoffie pointed out.

Kenneth Hain, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, an organization of Orthodox rabbis, said he is “saddened,” but not surprised, by the survey. “From an Orthodox perspective, it really does affirm our resolve to try to do more to make Jewish tradition meaningful to people,” he said.

The finding reaffirms the need for more Jewish education, said Hain. “To appeal to Jews on ethnic grounds, or simply sentimental grounds, or even family attachment grounds” not to marry gentiles is “generally to no avail.”

Ed Case, the publisher of, an Internet magazine, or Webzine, serving approximately 12,000 readers, said he is pleased to learn of the widespread acceptance among Jews for the intermarried.”Rather than bemoaning intermarriage, which is just going to be increasingly common, the smart and productive thing for the Jewish community to do is to reach out,” said Case, who is himself intermarried.”One of the things our readers say that puts them off is that they have had hostile, unwelcoming reactions from individual Jews or Jewish organizations,” said Case. He said he hopes the survey encourages Jewish organizations to be more inclusive of intermarried Jews.

Flawed Methodology

No one seems to believe what Pini Herman does. While all observers – particularly outside of the Orthodox community – take for granted the phenomenal growth of the Orthodox, he continues to stand behind the seriously flawed methods he used in the Los Angeles Jewish Population Survey of 1997. That’s the one that no one can believe, the one that claims that Orthodox numbers have actually declined in L.A. When his office stonewalled several requests from the Orthodox community to examine the raw data, a little skullduggery on our part turned up what really happened. The L.A. survey was not a census, but a survey of a smaller number of households, whose results are then extrapolated statistically. For that to work, you have to sample the community according to its actual composition. If 30 percent of your respondents call themselves Conservative, then you assume that the larger population also has 30 percent Conservative Jews. If your sample is off, so are your results.

That is precisely what happened. Those who made the calls got their phone numbers from two sources: random-number calls and the Federation list.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see why the Orthodox were seriously undercounted. Neither of the two methods used by the census-takers accurately measures Orthodox demographics. The first fails because the Orthodox are not uniformly spread throughout Jewish Los Angeles. They are heavily concentrated in a handful of neighborhoods. Taking a random sample from all neighborhoods seriously undercounts us.

The second sampling list – drawn from Federation sources – is even more problematic. Orthodox Jews give charitably to scores of recipient agencies, far beyond the per capita giving of other parts of the Jewish population. But Federation is not one of their favorite causes, for a variety of reasons. Using any Federation list for a general census, then, is a guarantee for undercounting the Orthodox community. And the sample takers reported that there was much greater responsiveness to their questions from members of the Federation list than the other!

Additionally, the phone method relies on the willingness of people to answer a series of questions over the phone. Ask yourself who is more willing to answer those questions on a Friday afternoon – a member of a Reform household with 1.4 children, or a mother of eight, frantically trying to finish her Shabbat preparations?

If the U.S. Census Bureau employed methods as unscientific to downgrade African American strength, there would be a congressional inquiry. Luckily for Pini Herman, it’s only Federation money he’s using.

We Jews are eJews

If you can read this, you can Web surf. That’s the conclusion of a recent survey conducted by Mediamark Research, Inc., for the Joseph Jacobs Organization’s Jewish Publications Network. The survey found that people who read Jewish newspapers (that’s you, now) are more likely than not to own a computer and surf the Web. Here’s the facts:By the way, you can read this same story online at our Web site: www.

colorPercentage of American adults who own a computer: 44.5

colorPercentage of people who read a Jewish publication and own a computer: 69

colorPercentage of people who read their local Jewish publication who own a computer: 73

colorPercentage of American adults who have used the Internet within the past month: 34

colorPercentage of people who read a Jewish publication who have used the Internet within the past month: 61