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  • Cited by 3
  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: May 2006

9 - The place of Judaism in American Jewish identity

from Section 2 - Identity and Community

Summary

  • More Jews than most other Americans respond “None,” when asked “What is your religion, if any?”
  • More Jews than members of most other American religious groups think of themselves as “secular” rather than as “religious.”
  • Fewer Jews than members of most other American religious groups belong to a temple, synagogue or any other religious institution.
  • Fewer Jews than members of most other American religious groups agree with the essential proposition of religious belief that “God exists.”

These items were taken from one of the most recent studies on religious identity in the United States among contemporary Jews. Compared with other Americans, it appears that American Jews “are not a very religious lot.” The survey further reveals the following:

Vast numbers of Americans who regard themselves as Jewish or who are of Jewish parentage and upbringing simply have no faith in the conventional religious sense of that term. They adhere to an identity that is rooted in an ancient faith. But their claim to that identity implies little or no commitment to its religious roots.

The task of this chapter is to move beyond the survey data themselves to explore how social scientists come to their interpretative findings of the data. While doing so, we will discover that statements about religiosity and religion in the lives of contemporary Jews are not as straightforward as they might first appear.