US Orthodox more similar to evangelicals than to other Jews, study finds
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US Orthodox more similar to evangelicals than to other Jews, study finds

Community tracks with Christians on questions of religiosity, conservative political beliefs, according to Pew analysis of landmark 2013 survey

Illustrative photo of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. (AP/Joe Kohen)
Illustrative photo of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. (AP/Joe Kohen)

While American Jews tend to be more liberal and less religious than the general population, an analysis of Orthodox Jews in the US paints a picture of a community similar to that of white evangelical Christians, a new report said.

On questions of religious belief and political views, Orthodox Jews provided responses more like those of white evangelical Protestants than those of other Jews, according to a Pew analysis released Wednesday of a 2013 study.

On questions of religious beliefs, Orthodox Jews and white evangelicals shared many similarities. The vast majority of Orthodox Jews, 83 percent, and white evangelicals, 86%, said religion was very important in their lives. For non-Orthodox Jews, the number was 20%.

The vast majority of the two groups, 89% of Orthodox Jews and 93% of white evangelical Protestants, “believe in God with absolute certainty,” while only 28% of other Jews were certain in their belief in God.

When it was released in October 2013, the landmark Pew study showed growing disengagement from organized Jewish life by non-religious American Jews and sparked widespread hand-wringing over the future of the community.

Evangelical Christians from around the world sing and recite prayers as they attend the 2013 Jerusalem Chairman's Conference hosted by the Israel Allies Foundation, at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, on September 22, 2013. Around 3,000 Evangelical Christians from around the world attended the event, expressing their support for the Jewish state. (Flash 90)
Evangelical Christians from around the world sing and recite prayers as they attend the 2013 Jerusalem Chairman’s Conference hosted by the Israel Allies Foundation, at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, on September 22, 2013. Around 3,000 Evangelical Christians from around the world attended the event, expressing their support for the Jewish state. (Flash 90)

According to the analysis released Wednesday, Orthodox Jews were more conservative politically than the other Jews, who are largely liberal. Fifty-seven percent of Orthodox respondents “identified with or leaned toward the Republican party,” while only a small minority, 18%, of other Jews felt similarly. White evangelicals also tended to lean Republican, with 66% of respondents backing the party.

Though Orthodox Jews comprise only 10% of all American Jews, the study’s results suggest that their share of the US Jewish population is growing rapidly. Orthodox respondents were on average younger, more likely to be married and have minor children living in their home. They had at least twice as many children as non-Orthodox Jews, and close to all of them, 98%, were raising their children Jewish, compared to 78% for other Jews.

The implications are profound, hinting at a future shift in the demographics of the average American Jew.

“If the Orthodox grow as a share of US Jews, they gradually could shift the profile of American Jews in several areas, including religious beliefs and practices, social and political views and demographic characteristics,” the new study said.

The survey divided Orthodox Jews in two subsets: Haredi (or ultra-Orthodox) and Modern Orthodox, which showed some key differences– on average Modern Orthodox respondents had a stronger secular education and fewer children, and were more likely to have non-Jewish friends than ultra-Orthodox ones.

Jews across the spectrum were united, however by their pride in being Jewish. In all denominations, at least 93 percent of adherents said they were proud to be Jewish, compared to 87 percent among Jews of no denomination.

JTA contributed to this report.

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