Poll: U.S. Jews more interested in social action than religious observance

Posted: Friday, April 06, 2001

NEW YORK (AP) -- A poll of U.S. Jews suggests they're generally more interested in social action than religious matters.

In the poll, released this week, 47 percent of respondents said ''commitment to social equality'' was the ''most important'' element in their Jewish identity, compared with 24 percent who chose ''religious observance'' and 13 percent ''support for Israel.''

Steven M. Cohen of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the sociologist who directed the survey, said it's no surprise that Jews are interested in social issues, ''but that it is a leading -- if not the leading -- component of Jewish identity was not so certain.''

Asked to pick which is more important, 56 percent favored work for social justice versus 6 percent for studying the Torah; 36 percent said the two are equal. In a parallel choice, twice as many favored social justice as ''having a rich spiritual life.''

In a listing of activities judged very meaningful to being Jewish, the highest response (68 percent) went to ''making the world a better place,'' followed by believing in God (62 percent), celebrating Jewish holidays (51 percent) and helping the underprivileged (43 percent).

On specific causes given strong support, 72 percent listed the traditional one of fighting anti-Semitism, followed by abortion freedom (71 percent), affordable health care (70 percent), stronger gun control (59 percent) and protecting the environment (56 percent).

Forty-five percent of respondents reported synagogue membership.

The phone poll of 1,002 American Jews was conducted in February and March for Amos, a newly organized ''Jewish partnership for social justice.'' Survey results had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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