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June 07, 1991 - Image 11

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-06-07

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

UP FRONT

New Study Shows Drop
In Jews' Religious Identity

IRA RIFKIN

Special to The Jewish News

A

new study of Ameri-
can Jewry has con-
cluded that culture
and ethnicity have replaced
religion as the prevailing
basis for self-identification
with Jewish communal life.
The study — which was
released this week by the
Council of Jewish Federa-
tions — found that 90 per-
cent of the approximately
5.5 million Americans who
were either born Jewish or
converted to Judaism define
being Jewish as belonging to
a particular cultural or eth-
nic group.
Less than 5 percent con-
sidered being Jewish solely
in terms of belonging to a re-
ligious group. 11
While no directly com-
parable earlier statistics ex-
ist, Barry A. Kosmin, who
coordinated the study, said
the new findings appear to
statistically confirm the
widely held opinion that
American Jewry is becoming
ever-more secularized — and
ever-more assimilated.

Ira Rifkin is assistant editor of
the Baltimore Jewish Times.

The survey, Mr. Kosmin
concluded, does not bode
well for the future of a clear-
ly defined, cohesive Jewish
community.
"No clear-cut boundaries
exist anymore between Jews
and gentiles," said Mr.
Kosmin, who directs the
North American Jewish
Data Bank of the City Uni-

Clear-cut
boundaries
between the
Jewish and gentile
worlds have largely
disappeared.

versity of New York.
"Going-to-shul Judaism is
declining and the 'my-
grandparents-were-Jewish'
kind of Jew is on the rise."
Perhaps the strongest in-
dicator of this trend, he said
during a telephone inter-
view from New York, is the
increasing acceptance of
intermarriage.
The study — based on in-
formation collected in 1990
and said to be the most com-
prehensive investigation of
American Jewry ever at-
tempted — found that half of
all those who were born

Jews have married non-
Jews. Less than 5 percent of
the non-Jewish spouses have
converted to Judaism, the
study also said.
"As a result, since 1985,
twice as many mixed couples
(born Jew with gentile
spouse) have been created as
Jewish couples (Jewish, with
Jewish spouse)," the study
noted.
This figure probably
underestimates the actual
total because it does not in-
clude born Jews who are
divorced or separated from a
non-Jewish spouse, or Jewish-
gentile unmarried couples
who live together, the study
added.

Mr. Kosmin said his
understanding of the
survey's findings on inter-
marriage is that "a majority
of the American Jewish
public doesn't regard this as
tragic. They seem to be sup-
porting marriage more than
identity," he said.

He noted that 79 percent of
those surveyed who reported
their current religion as
Judaism would either sup-
port or accept intermarriage
for their children. That fig-
ure jumps to 96 percent for
those who were born Jewish

Distribution of All Household Members
by Region and Jewish Identity

(Total Percent = 100.0)

Total Population = 8.100,000

Midwest
5.8% 1.8% 2.6% 2.3%

West
10.7% 6.1% 4.3% 4.3%

Jewish by Religion

Born Jewish, Convert Out
and Jewish Background with
Other Current Religion

%
%

Jewish, No Religion

Northeast
24.9% 4.2% 4.6% 6.1%

South
11.6% 2.8% 4.9% 4%

Gentiles

but can now be classified as
secularists, those who call
themselves atheists or
agnostics or simply state
"none" when asked what is
their religion.
The CJF findings are in
line with two studies releas-
ed last year by researcher
Egon Mayer. Mr. Mayer,
who directs the Jewish
Outreach Institute, found
that, above all, Jewish
parents want their children
to marry — even if it means
accepting intermarriage.
"This is a very emotional
issue for people and they are
anguished by what is hap-
pening in their families,"
Mr. Mayer said. "It strikes
home and they feel it's
better to be more inclusive

then to hold to rules."
In addition, the CJF study
also appears in line with a
recent Brandeis University -
Cohn Center for Modern
Jewish Studies survey that
found spousal conversions to
Judaism on the wane as
mixed marriages gain in-
creased acceptance.
"The old assumptions are
falling away," Mr. Kosmin
said. "Perhaps the most
significant finding of the
survey is that the American
Jewish population has
become so diverse. It's
become difficult to draw
lines around it anymore be-
cause it's become so jelly-
like."
However, despite their re-
jection of "traditional Jew-

city will lower its flags to
half-mast and public prayers
will be held by all religious
organizations. Yad Vashem,
Israel's national Holocaust
memorial institution, will
sponsor an academic con-
ference in Kiev, and the
Ukrainian government will
erect a memorial complex on
the execution site.
Participants in the pro-
gram will include WJC Pres-
ident Edgar Bronfman, au-
thor Elie Wiesel and Soviet
poet Yevgeni Yevtushenko.
Mr. Yevtushenko in 1961
wrote a poem recalling the
tragedy of Babi Yar, which
begins with the lines, "No
gravestone stands on Babi
Yar; Only coarse earth
heaped roughly on the gash.
Such dread comes over me."

be used by new o/im, immi-
grants.

ROUND UP

Tass To Open
Israeli Bureau

Tel Aviv (JTA) — Tass, the
official Soviet news agency,
plans to open a bureau in
Israel, the Israel Govern-
ment Press Office has an-
nounced.
The opening is part of a re-
ciprocal arrangement in
which Israel Radio cor-
respondents will be based in
Moscow, and Israel Televi-
sion personnel will be allow-
ed to operate on assignment
in the Soviet capital.
It is not yet known
whether the Tass bureau
will be based in Tel Aviv or
Jerusalem.

Ukrainians Set
Babi Yar Memorial

A half-century after the
Nazis and their Ukrainian
collaborators murdered tens
of thousands of Jews at Babi
Yar in Kiev, the Ukrainian
government will officially
commemorate the tragedy

and acknowledge the Jewish
dimension of the Nazi
persecution.
In a meeting last week
with World Jewish Congress
leaders in New York,
Ukrainian Deputy Prime
Minister Sergy Komissar-
kenko announced that from
Sept. 29 to Oct. 6, a wide
range of memorial programs
will be held in Kiev in com-
memoration of Babi Yar..

Babi Yar is a ravine in the
northwestern part of Kiev,
where the Jews of the
Ukrainian capital were
systematically massacred
following the German oc-
cupation of the region in
1941.

On Sept. 29, 1941, German
SS units with Ukrainian
collaborators rounded up the
Jews of the city and brought
them to a ravine where they
were gunned down. In the
course of two days, 33,771
Jews were murdered.
Over the next two years,
Babi Yar served as a slaugh-

Lighting candles for Holocaust
survivors: Commemorations
planned at Babi Yar.

terhouse for Jews and non-
Jews, including Gypsies and
Soviet prisoners of war. It is
believed the ravine even-
tually became a mass grave
for more than 100,000 men,
women and children.
To mark the Babi Yar
commemoration, the Kiev
City Council has declared
Sept. 29 an official Day of
Memory and Sorrow. The

ICJW Appeals
To Travelers

The International Council
of Jewish Women (ICJW) is
appealing to all tourists to
Israel to bring eyeglasses to

The glasses should be
delivered to Aliya Kedem,
chairman of Open Door, Bet
Hachavera 10, Shalom
Aleichem St., Jerusalem,
92148. Open Door is a group
work facility in Rehavia that
serves retired persons.
Volunteers will pick up the
gifts if tourists are unable to
arrange a stop at Open Door.
The Israel phone number is
972-663-141.
The ICJW's Soviet Jewry
committee in London is en-
couraging visitors to Israel
to bring used clothing in
good shape suitable for men,
women and children of all
ages and sizes. The clothes
may be delivered to Ulpan
Yosef Tal, Rehov Kehilah
Huston 3 PHEGE Petah
Tikva, c/o Miri Gur, prin-
cipal. Or call 03-922-1038 for
volunteer pick-up service.

Compiled by
Elizabeth Applebaum

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

11

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