Workmen's Circle Study Finds A New Kind of Jew

One in six American Jews are engaged and unaffiliated, look outside synagogue for Judaism

10/10/12
Staff Writer
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About a million of the six million American Jews say being Jewish is very important to them, but that they find their Jewish engagement outside of a synagogue, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The survey shows that there is a third way to be Jewish, its sponsor, the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring, wrote in a press release. A person can be an observant Jew, who attends synagogue; a cultural Jew, who enjoys Jewish humor or an “engaged and congregationally unaffiliated” Jew.

“These Jews represent an opportunity for engagement. Their interests and distinctiveness make them candidates for a deeper involvement in Jewish life, while their social profile explains some of their tendencies to distance themselves from conventional religious life,” said Professor Steven M. Cohen of New York University.

Cohen, with Samuel J. Abrams of Sarah Lawrence College and Stanford University, conducted the Internet study of 1,000 American Jews from April 19 to May 3.

As many as 40 percent of the 1 million engaged and unaffiliated Jews are under the age of 35, the Workmen’s Circle study showed. Three in five fast on Yom Kippur; almost half say they have a special Friday night meal “at least sometimes” and 56 percent see themselves as very attached to Israel.

Just under half of the group are married, with 18 percent intermarried and 22 percent married to other Jews. Slightly more than half identify as liberals.

This group is part of a broader trend. One in five Americans do not identify as part of any specific denomination, although many of these unaffiliated still say they pray and believe in God, according to a Pew Research Center study released Oct. 9.

helenatjewishweek@gmail.com; @thesimplechild

Last Update:

12/24/2012 - 20:13

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I think the larger, recently released demographic study contradicts these statments. Overall, these -affiliated Jews are less affiliated, and tend to donate exclusively to non-Jewish causes, feel less connected to Israel, are marginally active in Jewish organizations, tend to intermarry more, and view intermarriage more favorably. By any measure, they are not the future of Jewish life.

I certainly am one of these engaged and unaffliated jews. I am gay and am legally blind and hearing impaired. I tend not to fit into a congregational community. I have tried but it doesn't work. I pray at home,either using an internet Siddur or my Kindle. I keep up with what is happenig in the Jewish world via the internet. If I were to identify with a denomination I'd say I'm Conservative, but really I don'f ift in anyone's box. I think there will be more unaffliated Jews as time goes on. Traditional synagoge life isn't keeping up with modern culturs.

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