In the most comprehensive study of American Jews in 12 years, a strong majority said being Jewish is mostly about ancestry or culture -- not the religious practice of Judaism -- the Religion News website reports today (October 1, 2013).
"A Portrait of Jewish Americans" -- released on Tuesday (October 1, 2013) by the Pew Research Center -- shows strong secularist trends most clearly seen in one finding: 62 percent of U.S. Jews said Jewishness is largely about culture or ancestry; just 15 percent said it's about religious belief.
"Non-Jews may be stunned by it," said Alan Cooperman, co-author of the study. "Being Jewish to most Jews in America today is not a matter of religion."
Pew's new American Jewish statistics -- regarding intermarriage, raising of children, synagogue membership, and attachment to Israel -- are likely to come under intense scrutiny by Jews who are focused on the "continuity" question. That question concerns the fear -- brought into reality by the Holocaust -- that the survival of the Jewish people is tenuous. Many Jews believe that continuity depends on maintaining strong defenses -- especially against external enemies who would kill Jews and destroy Israel, and against the growing internal threat of intermarriage with its tendency to diminish the number of children who are raised as Jews.