23 american judaism in the twenty-first in american judaism, nathan glazer noted the trend toward...

Download 23 American Judaism in the twenty-first In American judaism, Nathan Glazer noted the trend toward religious

If you can't read please download the document

Post on 29-Jun-2020




0 download

Embed Size (px)


  • Section 5: Thefuture

    23 American Judaism in the twenty-first century BRUCE PHILLIPS

    The three classic works on American Judaism in the twentieth century appeared just after midcentury, all echoing the theme of Jews "fitting in" America and reflecting the rapid upward social mobility of American Jews. In American judaism, Nathan Glazer noted the trend toward religious identi- fication among Jewsas a way to fit in as an ethnic group by using a religious framework. 1 Even though America at midcentury was hostile to ethnicity, it was open to religiosity. In Conservativejudaism, Marshall Sklare observed that this most mainstream of the three movements differed from Ortho-

    doxy in terms of decorum.2 While the core beliefs and practices of Con- servative Judaism mirrored Orthodoxy, the former emphasized decorum in worship that was congruent with American religious life. In jewish Iden- tity on the Suburban Frontier, Sklare found that the Jews in the Midwest- ern suburb of Lakeville were ambivalent about Jewish particularism.3 The midcentury perspective tended to appreciate American Judaism in terms of assimilation. Adaptations to Americ~n life were most readily visible in re- ligious behaviors. TJlis perspective has continued to inform more recent studies such as Steven M. Cohen's jewish Identity and American Moder- nity, which used religious observance to gauge assimilation.4 Beginning in the 1980s, American sociologists of religion introduced two new per- spectives that have informed the understanding of contemporary American Judaism. In Habits 0/the Heart, Robert Bellah introduced the notion of reli- gious privatization and the sovereignty of the individual in making religious decisions.s While churches and seminaries may proscribe belief and prac- tice, individuals decide for themselves what is most meaningful to them. Arnold Eisen and Steven M. Cohen took Bellah's research into the Jewish

    community and found that Jews, like other Americans, insisted on discov-

    ering religious meaning. on their own without worrying about what was or was not "kosher."6 The second new approach, often referred to as the "new paradigm," was to understand American religion as part of a "religious marketplace." Researchers using the new paradigm emphasized the role of "rational choice" in religious behavior. Most recently, this perspective has

  • , . 398 Bruce Phillips

    Table 1. Current religious identification of a// adult Jews

    Current religious identification % of adult Jews

    Born Jewish; religion Judaism Formally converted to Judaism Jewish by religion without conversion Secular Jew -"no religion" Jew practicing an Eastern religion Christian Jew TOTAL

    62.0 2.2



    3.5 17.6


    informed the analysis in Jewish Choices by Lazerwitz, Winter,Dashefsky, and Tabory.7

    At the dawn of the twenty-first century, there are many trends at work within American Judaism and its major denominations. The goal of this dis- cussion, based on the Year 2000 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS), is to provide a sense of what Judaism will be like in the United States.s

    Therefore, this chapter is focused not on Jewish thought or issues of denom- inational doctrine, but on the religious beliefs and practices of persons who identify themselves as Jews in some way.



    Perhaps the most important phenomenon emerging in the twenty-first cen- tury is the declining number of Jews whose religion is Judaism. Largely as a result of intermarriage, the once seamless overlap between Jewish ethnic- ity and Judaism has begun to unravel. Writing in the late 1960s, Marshall Sklare9 observed that American Judaism was a special case of the "ethnic church" in which all members of the ethnic group (Jews)professed the same religion (Judaism) and all members of the religion shared the same ethnic- ity. This is no longer the case, as evidenced in Table 1, which presents the religious identification of all adult Jews. Two out of five Jewish adults did not identify Judaism as their religion. Instead they identified themselves either as secular (meaning that they had no religious identification) or as Christian Jews. Christian Jews are individuals who identify themselves as

    Jewsby ethnicity but are at least nominally Christian. They are the offspring of mixed marriages and were not counted as part of the Jewish population in the report issued by the United Jewish Communities. I include them in this

    analysis because they are essential for an understanding of the contemporary American Jewish reality.

    American Judaism in the twentyjlrst century 399

    Table 2. Current religious identification by Jewish parentage (a// adult Jews)

    Adults who were identified as Christian Jews in the NJPS 2000 were not converts to Christianity but rather the offspring of mixed marriages. Table 2 compares the religious identification of Jewishadults of three kinds of Jewish parentage: two Jewish parents, one Jewish (and one non-Jewish) parent, and no Jewish parents. Individuals with no Jewish parents had at least one Jewish grandparent and identified themselves as Jewish by ethnicity or ancestry. Adults of Jewish parentage overwhelmingly identified themselves as Jews by religion (86 percent). Jewish adults with a non-Jewish parent were twice as likelyto identifythemselvesas a Christianby religion(41percent)10 than as a Jew by religion (22 percent). Adults with no Jewish parents identified themselves either as Christians or as practicing an Eastern religion.

    The number of adherents to Judaism will decline as the twenty-first century progresses. This numerical decline can be anticipated from parents/ answers to how their children are being raised. Fewer than half of all Jewish children are being rais~d as Jews.Table 3shows how children are being raised according to the religious composition of the family. Endogamous couples almost universally raise thei1"children as Jews,but mixed-married couples do not. Among the mixed-married couples, Jewsmarried to secular non-Jews are the most likely to raise their children in Judaism, but less than two-thirds do so (61 percent). Mixed-married couples in which both the Jewish parent and the non-Jewishparent are completely secular predominantly raise their children in no religion at all (79 percent). A dual-religion couple is made up of a Jewby religion married to a Christian. Only one-quarter of the children in dual-religion couples are being raised as Jews, and almost one-third are being raised as Christians. Although the parents identify with two different religions, less than one-tenth of the children are being raised in two religions. Christian Jewsoverwhelmingly are raising their children as Christians.

    On the basis of the Jewish parentage of the child, Table 4 projects ad- herence to Judaism into the future. Almost all (98 percent) of the children with two Jewish parents are being raised as Jews. If one of the two Jewish

    Two Jewish One Jewish Jewish grandparent Current religious identification parents (%) parent (%) only(%)

    Born Jewish, religion Judaism 87.0 23.3 4.5 Secular Jew 8.4 25.5 16.3 Jew practicing an Eastern religion 0.8 8.5 13.3 Christian Jew 3.8 42.7 65.9 TOTAL 100.0 100.0 100.0

  • ~ ~ § ~ ~

    ~ ~ i::: .~ 8 %,..... i::: ~'... ~.a .~ ~I.;: ~

    ~ ~ ~ ~ 8 \..) \:j

    ~ ~ l~

    ~ .~ ~

    ~ \:j

    ~ :§s -§ ~

    ~ r-A

    Q):c ~

    ....c Q)

    ~ cf2. 0..Q)~

    ..c: bo 1:'" C Q) .~ .~ ....:i: '" «I~.~ 0..

    C .£1'"

    ] :i: ~ u~~

    I C

    "'0 >- § .~ Q)


    .D .~ 1;) .~ ". b.O'~


    ~ ~a3 u ..c:

    8 .... "'0

    ~ .~ "'0

    8 C Q) «I. .... "":i: «I rei Q):i:"'3 ~ - Q) U C ..c:..-Q) Q) C '"0 0 Q) ~ i:O C ~

    .... «I

    "'3 U Q) ~


    >- C :i: .D ,S: Q) :i: .~6 ~~ g

    ~"'O «I .~'" ....

    .... C «I

    ~ 8 ~«I C 0p.. .~

    :9 .:a b.O U C ". .~ "'0 ;> Q) Q)o.D '" :r: .~ '§

    American Judaism in the twentyfi'rst century 4°1

    ~0 Table 4. Long-rangeimpact a/intermarriage on childrenor-.."",° °~~oi~g ....- a3 > ';;j ;j '"

    "2 C § fa Q) 0 '5'0'';::

    8 :[o~ .;:: .~ a3 ""..c: «I 0 u ~

    ]o~«I is- c '" 0..5..5..5< I-

  • . . 4°2 Bruce Phillips

    Table 5. Children raised Jewish by intermarriage of Jewish parent

    Gender and Jewish status of parents

    The parent of the child is

    lnmarried Mixed Single (%) m

  • 4°4 Bruce Phillips

    The shift from Judaism into no denomination observed among re- spondants of Jewish parentage has a parallel among respondents of mixed parentage: a shift away from Christian identification into the "no religion" category. Three-quarters of the respondents raised in mixed marriages were raised as Christians (64 percent) or in an Eastern religion (13 percent). As adults, however, only 41 percent identified as Christians or with an Eastern religion. Only 6 percent reported being raised in no religion, but as adults, 38 percent identified themselves either as secular or as nondenominational Jews. They have moved to the neutral territory of no religion. A similar pattern is evident among respondents of Jewish ancestry only; 8S percent

    .reportedbeing raisedas Christiansor in an Easternreligion.Asadults,only S2 percent identified themselves in this way. By contrast, only 11 percent were raised in no religion, but as adults, 28 percent identified as secular or nondenominational Jews. There has been much speculation in denomina- tional circles regarding the rise in "postdenominational" Judaism and the Jewish Renewal movement. Th


View more >