The number of Jewish Americans who claim “no religion” is growing — especially among younger Jewish Americans — and that could eventually have an impact on which issues that one of the world's oldest major religion emphasizes politically.
A recent Public Religion Research Institute study found that among Jewish Americans under 30, less than half — 47 percent — identified religiously as Jewish. Fewer than 1 in 5 American Jews consider observing Jewish law to be an essential part of what it means to be Jewish, something the majority of American Jews say they are proud to be.
Fewer than 1 in 4 Jewish Americans voted for Trump in 2016, despite his constant promises to look out for the best interests of Israel and the positive remarks Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made about him.
Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and one of his top White House advisers, has spoken of how her observant Jewish faith has shaped her worldview and values. Trump has several other high-profile advisers who are Jewish, including Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump's husband, who is overseeing the administration's efforts to negotiate peace in the Middle East, as well as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, the president's chief economic adviser.
But the president has also been accused of being slow to rebuke neo-Nazis, with nearly 6 in 10 Americans saying Trump has encouraged white supremacists, according to a Quinnipiac poll. Last week, the president doubled down on his belief that “both sides” were responsible for the deadly violence and protests in Charlottesville. As a result, hundreds of Jewish rabbis boycotted Trump's High Holy Days call last week.
Historically, it was thought that to win the Jewish vote, lawmakers had to prioritize issues impacting Israel. But it seems as though prioritizing the concerns of Israel may be less of a political priority for Jewish Americans than in years past. Fewer than half — 43 percent — of American Jews consider “caring about Israel” to be an essential part of what being Jewish means to them, according to a Pew survey. For perspective, 42 percent of Jewish Americans said “having a good sense of humor” is an essential part of what being Jewish means to them. Most — 73 percent — said remembering the Holocaust is essential to what it means to be Jewish.
During the Days of Awe, which began Wednesday at sundown with Rosh Hashanah and will conclude 10 days later with Yom Kippur, many U.S. rabbis are urging their congregations to focus on communal sins, including those currently dominating our political conversations.
Synagogues across the country are incorporating readings in their services focused on racial justice. Other rabbis are preaching sermons against xenophobia, voter suppression and hate speech, our colleague Julie Zauzmer reports for The Post.
“I think this year, there’s a sense that the America we thought we were living in is not actually the one we were living in. The one we thought we were living in last High Holy Days is not where we are now,” Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of the social justice organization T’ruah, told The Post.
“This whole holiday — Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur — is very much about doing the inward work of looking at ourselves, both individually and in the community. When we do the confession, we do it in the plural. I personally may not be responsible for every one of the sins I am confessing to, but I am living in a community in which all of these sins are happening, and I can’t be a bystander.”
These concerns appear to be consistent with what the majority of American Jews — 69 percent — say is an essential part of what it means to be Jewish, according to a recent Pew survey: “leading an ethical and moral life.”