Non-Orthodox US Jews below the age of 35 are more attached to Israel than those aged 35-44, but are skeptical about Israeli policies concerning the Palestinians, according to a recent survey.
Profs. Steven M. Cohen and Samuel Abrams conducted the survey in April and May of 2012 and based their results on a sub-sample of 888 respondents out of a total of 1,000.
The survey shows a reversal of a previously deteriorating attachment to Israel among older age groups. Those aged 55-64 are more attached than those aged 45-54, who in turn are more attached than the 35-44 year age group. However, there is an upward swing among those below the age of 35 whose attachment is comparable to those in the 45-54 age group, a phenomenon the researchers call a “Birthright Bump.”
“In all likelihood, the cumulative impact of Birthright Israel in bringing so many young Jews to Israel may be coming to the fore,” Cohen said. “While this finding is the first statistically significant result of its kind, it’s very suggestive and very policy-relevant.”
The survey, initiated by the Workmen’s Circle organization and published on Monday, excluded Orthodox and Jewish day school alumni in order to better represent those most likely to take part in a Birthright program, which brings Jews from North America on educational visits to Israel.
Since 2000, Birthright Israel has brought nearly 300,000 Jews between the ages of 18 to 26 to Israel.
“Should other evidence of a similar nature emerge, we will have mounting support for the notion of what could be called the ‘Birthright Bump,’ Cohen said. “That is, we may be seeing a bump upward in Israel attachment for an entire cohort of young people, owing to their far more frequent travel to Israel due in large part to Birthright.”
Although attachment to the Jewish state has increased among Jews under 35 compared to earlier studies, younger Jews are less likely to trust in Israeli leadership than their parents, the survey found. A scale of 0-100 to represent “Trust in Israeli Leaders” showed the under-35 group had nearly 20 points less trust in Israel’s leaders than respondents of their parents’ age.
“Apparently, while attachment to Israel and trust in Israeli leaders are correlated, they are not the same sentiment,” Abrams said, noting that the change in trends cannot be attributed to increased Jewish identity; those below the age of 35 reported that less than half their friends are Jewish, the lowest representation among all the age groups.
“In other words, they’re not more attached to Israel because they’re more attached to being Jewish,” Cohen said.
However, the majority place the failure of regional peace talks with the Palestinians, who are perceived as still seeking to destroy Israel.
An overwhelming 78% agreed with the statement “The Palestinians seek Israel’s destruction” and only four percent disagreed. As to who truly wants peace, 61% agreed that Israel does, but 71% disagreed that the Palestinians do.
The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring was founded in 1900 by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe who sought to promote values of social and economic justice through a Jewish lens.