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The new four children of American Judaism

TJI Pick
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A new survey finds American Jews fall into four types: alienated, ambivalent, affiliated, and active.

A new, large-scale survey has found American Jews are splitting along new lines.

“The number of self-identifying Jews is up but so many of these are barely active and only nominally committed Jews,” the survey reported.

Intermarriage between Jews and non-Jewish spouses continues to drive down Jewish communal engagement outside the Orthodox community, the composition of Jewish households but it is one of several factors diminishing the number of American Jews actively involved in communal life.

The ongoing contraction of both Reform and Conservative congregations and the intensifying politicalisation of formerly apolitical Jewish social organisations are sharpening the decline.

The survey found 41% of American Jews believe religious organisations in America do more harm than good and a sixth consider the cost of community engagement to be a barrier.

In their orientation toward Jewish identity and established communal life, respondents appear to break down into four new descriptive categories: Active, Affiliated, Ambivalent and Alienated.

Active Jews, some 16% of the American Jewish population, are those who centre Jewish communal and religious life; Affiliated Jews, constituting 34%, have strong Jewish identities even if traditional or communal practice plays a less central role in their lives; Ambivalent Jews, again 34% of the American Jewish community, straddle the line between interest and avoidance; Alienated Jews, representing 16% of respondents, are those with little Jewish connection at all.

The Four Children: A new survey captures the changing landscape of American Judaism (Tablet)

Image: The Marx Brothers as The Four Sons by Dick Codor (richardcodor.com)

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