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U.S. Jewry´s Attachment to Israel on a Decline

A comparison of three surveys in the past two years shows that the attachment of some - but not all - American Jews to Israel has decreased significantly.
First Publish: 3/9/2005, 2:40 PM / Last Update: 3/8/2005, 1:22 PM

The most recent edition of National Survey of American Jews, sponsored by the Jewish Agency's Education Department, was completed in January of this year, and shows that 26% of the respondents said they were very emotionally attached to Israel, compared with only 31% who said the same in a similar poll in 2002.

In other areas, as well, Israel declined as an important factor in the lives of American Jews. 65% said they closely follow Israel news - down from 74% two years ago. 31% said they talk about Israel frequently with friends (39% with Jewish friends), down from 43% (53%) in 2002.

Questioned on their religious denomination, 9% identified themselves as Orthodox, 36% as Conservative and 40% as Reform.

A third survey, however - less scientific, and of a different cross-section - shows different results. An Arutz-7 Readership Survey taken last month shows that 74% of those who responded "care deeply about the Land and State." About 2/3 of the readers live in the U.S.

Approximately 60% of the Arutz-7 respondents (72% of the Jews) identified themselves as Orthodox or Torah Jews. (16% are Bnei Noach or Christian).

Among American Jewry as a whole, there was no significant decline in religious observance and communal affiliation - but these were not too high to begin with.

70% held or attended a Seder last year [down from 73% in the previous poll], 59% fasted at least part of the day on Yom Kippur [no change], 57% generally attend High Holiday services, only just above a quarter attend Sabbath services at least once a month, 24% live in a household that usually lights Sabbath candles [down from 23%], and only 20% have separate dishes for meat and dairy [up from 14%].

Just 57% affirmed that "caring about Israel is a very important part of my being Jewish," compared with 73% in a similar survey in 1989, the Forward reports.

The nationwide Jewish Agency poll asked about Jews' political attitude towards Israel. Some 37% said they were "often disturbed by Israel's policies and actions," while another 30% were not sure.

It was not clear, however, what exactly about Israel's policies disturbed them, and whether the policies in question leaned too far to the right - or possibly too far to the left.

Respondents were asked whether they agreed that Israeli soldiers are often unnecessarily brutal towards Palestinian civilians (only 20% agreed), and that Israel persecutes a minority population (11%). Furthermore, only 13% agreed that Israel occupies lands that belong to another people.

The respondents did not have a chance, however, to say whether they agreed that "Israel is giving away too much too quickly," or whether "Prime Minister Sharon's disengagement plan is a reward for terrorism." To see the entire survey, click here.

Yet another study, the National Jewish Population Survey of 2000-01, found that the greater one's Jewish education, the less likely one is to intermarry. 43% of those who lacked any Jewish education intermarried, 29% among those who had one day per week of Jewish education intermarried, 23% of those who had part-time Jewish education intermarried, and only 7% of those who attended Jewish day school or yeshiva intermarried.