Survey Shows Quarter of US Jews Leaving Their Faith

May 12, 2015  

A new survey released Tuesday reveals some interesting data about American Jews. The Pew Research Religious Landscape Survey revealed both positive and negative findings concerning the future of United States Jewry, including the fact that – in spite of relatively low birthrates and growing intermarriage – the community’s relative size has in fact grown.

The survey polled 35,071 American adults, 847 of whom identified as Jewish.

It found that as of 2014, at 1.9% of the American population, Jews are the largest minority religious group in the US – and the largest after Christianity. In second place was the US Muslim community (0.9%), followed by Buddhists and Hindus (both 0.7%).

The figure represents a slight growth since the poll was last taken in 2007, when Jews represented 1.7% of the American population.

It is important to note, however, that the survey based its findings on those who self-identified as “Jewish,” and not those actually considered Jewish under Jewish Law (halakha).

But while Jews are the largest religious minority overall, they come in third place (at 75%) in terms of retaining members of their community to assimilation, after Hindus (80%) and Muslims (77%).

Parallel to those findings, the study showed that of those American Jews either married or living with a partner, 35% were living with or married to non-Jewish partners (11% of no religion, 9% Catholic, 8% Protestant and 4% of other faiths), compared to 65% married to or living with Jewish partners.

The study also found that the American Jewish birthrate stands at 2.0% – slightly behind the overall US average of 2.2%.

That may be explained by the breakdown of the community, of which just 14% identified as Orthodox Jews, who tend to have larger families than those belonging to more liberal and less observant corners of the community.

The largest group of US Jews identified as Reform (44%), followed by Conservative (22%). 11% said they were “unaffiliated,” while 5% said they belonged to another denomination to those listed.

Despite those relatively grim figures vis-a-vis assimilation, the American Christian community appears to be doing far worse, particularly at retaining members of their community. Coming in behind Hindus, Muslims and Jews are Evangelical Christians, who have the highest retention rate of American Christians (65%), followed by Mormons (64%), Catholics (59%), mainline Protestants (45%) and Jehova’s Witnesses (34%).

There is also some good news for American Jews.

For a start, the community is the second-most educated religious group after Hindus, with more than double the national average of college graduations (nearly 60%, compared with the national average of 27%).

And partially countering the rising rates of assimilation and intermarriage, 17% of those identifying as Jews say they were raised as members of another faith.

The full study can be read here.

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