What will the 2013 Pew Survey of American Jewry look like?

By Fredric Price on March 23, 2020

From Miranda Eisenstadt:

Q: What would a supposed 2113 Pew survey of American Jewry (A Portrait of Jewish Americans) have to say?

A: In 2013, it reported that, “American Jews overwhelmingly say they are proud to be Jewish and have a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people.” But the survey also suggests that Jewish identity is changing in America, where one-in-five Jews (22%) now describe themselves as having no religion. (See: A Portrait of Jewish Americans | Pew Research Center).

A hundred years in the future, I doubt that the American Jewish community will look demographically like it does today. Orthodoxy is on the rise, classically defined liberal groups (Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist) are not growing the way they did after World War Two (with some synagogues declining in membership or closing), and younger Jews are defining their Judaism in many different ways, from joining independent minyans to less structured organizations.

Whereas sacrifice was replaced by prayer after the fall of the Second Temple, we seem to be going through another period of experimentation in the non-Orthodox world in which social justice practices have come front and center; and while admirable, they may have the unintended consequences of divorcing these efforts from Judaism. Coupled with the higher birthrate among the Orthodox and the very high intermarriage rate of the defined liberal groups, we’re apt to see an American Judaism three to four generations hence that bears little resemblance to what exists today.

Who knows where this will lead? It doesn’t necessarily mean the disappearance of classical Judaism, but my guess is that some of the practices will change significantly. Perhaps there will emerge a new variant that springs from our tradition with vibrant shoots that grow from ancient roots. It could come from the ‘secular Judaism’ that’s found a niche in Israel. “…Israeli Jews want to practice a Judaism that authentically reflects their identity as secular Israeli Jews—without religious coercion and with the freedom to create meaningful prayer experiences. Increasingly, as secular Israeli Jews seek to celebrate their Jewishness, they are attending non-Orthodox shuls and also creating grassroots spiritual communities.” (From https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/295429/secular-synagogues-take-root-in-israel, a recent article that captures what we may begin to see here in America.)

In any event, it should be something to celebrate, not to fear.