Let’s Stand Up And Count
10/18/2012 - 12:56
Helen Chernikoff
Taking a census is inconvenient, but it's necessary. Getty Images
Taking a census is inconvenient, but it's necessary. Getty Images

At this point, most folks who care know that the nones are on the rise.

A record one in all five adults – and almost a third of adults under 30 – have no religious affiliation, according to a Pew Research Center poll released Oct. 9.

This finding was amplified, in the Jewish world, by a telephone study sponsored by the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring that came out the next day. It found that one in six of the six million American Jews fall into the category of engaged and congregationally unaffiliated.

(The studies are different – the Workmen Circle Jews may well but religiously affiliated, even if they are not shul-goers – but they both make the point that the power of traditional religion is at an historical low.)

But more importantly, I would like to thank the Workmen’s Circle for stepping up, in their own way, to the task of census keeping.

Because on closer examination, the Pew study revealed an emphasis on Christianity – Protestant, Catholic, Mormon and Orthodox – and the unaffiliated atheist, agnostic and nothing in particular. These are, of course, the country’s most significant religious groups by numbers, so it makes statistical sense.

In fact, the absence of Jews and other small groups is of necessity common in such national studies simply because there are so few of us, a lovely man at the Association of Religious Data Archives told me this week.

Can’t argue with that. But it’s important for we minorities to also understand that although headline-grabbing, high-quality research like Pew’s purports to be about “Americans,” if you’re Jewish or Muslim or Hindu it’s not really about you, regardless of your citizenship.

This makes it all the more distressing that the American Jewish community hasn’t counted itself for almost 13 years, when it conducted the National Jewish Population Survey. Even in the desert, as Jewish Week Editor and Publisher Gary Rosenblatt points out in his column this week, the Israelites contributed a  half-shekel each for sanctuary maintenance and census keeping.

We can’t expect the majority culture to do this for us. But we can, and should, do it ourselves.

Comments

I am all for such a study in the Washington Metropolitan area. What do you suggest I do? Where to start?

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