American survey shows secularism on rise

A survey by the Pew Research Centre has shown that Jewish secularism is on the rise in America.

The first major survey of US Jews in ten years found that more than a fifth identify as Jewish without being religious.

The poll of nearly 3,500 Jews showed a rise in the number of those marrying outside the faith. The intermarriage rate this year hit a high of 58 per cent for all Jews and 71 per cent when the Orthodox are excluded. This marks a huge change from 1970 when only 17 per cent of Jews married outside the faith.

Now, two-thirds of Jews in the US do not belong to a shul; a quarter do not believe in god; and one third had a Christmas tree in their home last year.

Despite the reported decline in religious observance and religious identity, the research also showed that American Jews have a “strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people”.

More than half of those surveyed — 69 per cent — said they had an emotional attachment to Israel, and 40 per cent believed that it was “given to the Jewish people by God”.

The survey’s definition of who is a Jew has been much debated. It included Jews who describethemselves as having no religion but identify themselves as Jewish by culture or ethnicity because they had a Jewish parent or were raised Jewish.

Jack Wertheimer, professor of American Jewish history, said: “It’s a very grim portrait of the health of the American Jewish population in terms of their Jewish identification.”

Alan Cooperman, deputy director of the Pew religion project, said: “Older Jews are Jews by religion. Younger Jews are Jews of no religion.”

Last updated: 5:45pm, October 3 2013