The picture of Jewish life in the United States is changing, a new analysis shows, and Orthodox Jews seem to be at the forefront of that change.
In fact, that new Pew Research Center analysis concludes that Orthodox Jews behave much more like evangelical Christians than they do like Jews from other branches of Judaism.
“If the Orthodox grow as a share of U.S. 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 report says.
And, in fact, the Pew analysis concludes that "a variety of demographic measures in the survey suggest that Orthodox Jews probably are growing, both in absolute number and as a percentage of the U.S. Jewish community."
As for ways in which the Orthodox resemble evangelical Christians, Pew notes that ". . .similarly large majorities of Orthodox Jews (83%) and white evangelicals (86%) say that religion is very important in their lives, while only about one-fifth of other Jewish Americans (20%) say the same. Roughly three-quarters of both Orthodox Jews (74%) and white evangelicals (75%) report that they attend religious services at least once a month. And eight-in-ten or more Orthodox Jews (84%) and white evangelicals (82%) say that Israel was given to the Jewish people by God – more than twice the share of other American Jews (35%) who express this belief."
A topic for another day perhaps is how other branches of Judaism -- Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist -- are faring. From what I have picked up in an unscientific, anecdotal way, the Conservative movement is suffering the most losses, it being representative of neither a reforming mentality nor a strict by-the-rules approach.
The other reality among American Jews is that many of them -- almost certainly a majority -- would not describe themselves as religious, or Torah-observant. Rather, they would describe themselves as secular Jews who continue to honor and observe many cultural aspects of Judaism while ignoring synagogue life.
Every faith community in all parts of the world experiences change and evolution in demographics and practice. Charting such changes keeps scholars and researchers employed and many of the rest of us intrigued.
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I'VE STARTED ONE FOR YOU
There's a new "Joke with the Pope" digital campaign for charity. Make up and submit an appropriate (and funny) joke and your charity choice might get $10,000. How about one that begins with the title of my new book, Jesus, Pope Francis and a Protestant Walk into a Bar? You take it from there.