More than half of US Jews say they are less safe than five years ago

Findings of largest survey of biggest diaspora community show rising perception of antisemitism


Over half of American Jews feel less safe than they did five years ago amid rising concern about antisemitism, according to a major survey of the diaspora’s largest community published on Tuesday. 

Three-quarters of USA Jews felt there was more antisemitism in the country than five years ago, the 2020 Pew Survey found. 

However, of the 53 per cent who felt less safe as “a Jewish person” only one in ten said this had stopped them from attending a Jewish event or observing a Jewish practice. 

The new report has identified widening divergence among Jews under the age of 30, with a rising proportion of religiously and politically conservative Orthodox Jews at one end and a growing segment of those who said they were Jews with no religion at the other. 

Whereas the 2013 Pew Survey had calculated the American Jewish population to be 6.7 million, the new survey now puts it at 7.5 million – at 2.4 per cent a “remarkably stable” percentage of the overall American population. 

Reform are the largest stream at 37 per cent, followed by those with no religion, 32 percent; Conservative, 17 per cent; Orthodox, nine per cent: and other, four per cent. 

But among under-30s, 17 per cent are Orthodox while those who are atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” amount to 41 per cent.  

“Among young Jewish adults, however, two sharply divergent expressions of Jewishness appear to be gaining ground – one involving religion deeply enmeshed in every aspect of life, and the other involving little or no religion at all,” the report says. 

Younger Jews appear more ethnically diverse, with 15 per cent identifying as other than white, compared with eight per cent of American Jewry overall. 

There were also sharp political divisions on religious lines. In the run-up to the 2020 presidential elections, 71 per cent of American Jews leant towards the Democrats and 26 per cent to the Republicans. 

But while 75 per cent of Orthodox Jews backed the Republicans and only 20 per cent the Democratics, the opposite was true of Reform Jews, 80 per cent of whom were pro-Democrat compared to just 18 per cent in favour of the Republicans. 

American Jews are “far less religious than American adults as a whole,” the report said. 

While most Americans believe in the God of the Bible – 56 per cent – only a quarter of US Jews do – 26 per cent - although a further 50 per cent believe in a “higher power”. 

Only 12 per cent of Jews attend religious services weekly, compared with 27 per cent of Americans overall. And Jews are almost half as likely to say religion is “very important” in their lives as Americans overall – 21 per cent compared to 41 per cent. 

On average, Jews are “older, have higher levels of education, earn higher incomes, and are more geographically concentrated in the North-east than Americans overall”. 

Among Jews who got married in the past decade, six out of 10 had a non-Jewish partner – compared to 18 per cent who married before 1980. 

Just under half of American Jewish adults under 30 have some emotional attachment to Israel – 48 per cent – compared with two-thirds of the over-65s. 





Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive