British Jewish demand “Zero Tolerance for Anti-Semitism” at a London rally / Getty Images
There it was on Wednesday, on the front page of The Independent. “The new anti-Semitism,” the headline read, and beneath it: “Majority of British Jews feel they have no future in the UK.”
My interest was immediately piqued, not least because the idea that a majority of British Jews are without hope bears no relation to my own experience of Jewish life in this country.
It turned out that the source of this headline statistic was a poll conducted by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, a pressure group which, tapping into communal discontent with established institutions, staged a very successful, cross-communal rally promoting zero-tolerance of anti-Semitism last summer in London. Their report did indeed conclude that, from a sample of 2,230 British Jews, 45% are concerned that Jews may not have a long-term future in Britain.
Not to dismiss the concerns of those respondents, but there’s good reason to question the findings of the specific section of the poll that surveyed members of the Jewish community in Britain. Mostly, that’s because of the methodology used by the CAA, which conducted the poll independently without help from a recognized polling organization:
Tikkun Olam. Repair the world.
If you’re anything like me, the mere mention of the phrase is enough to make you cringe.
Not because we don’t want to do our part for a better world. But for many in my generation, brought up with the idea that you wouldn’t get into college or get a job unless you spent three months building houses in Uganda or took a selfie meditating with the Dalai Lama, the concept has all but lost its meaning.
Millenials have a bad reputation when it comes to engagement. We are “lazy,” “nihilistic,” and “apathetic.”
Unlike our parents, who came of age protesting against the Vietnam War, or working to free Jews from Soviet oppression, we don’t have a uniting cause. We’re the social media generation, who would rather casually “like” or retweet a plea to #BringBackOurGirls than actually get up and do.
In the Jewish world, the recent Pew survey showed a significant rise in Jews of no religion, who are less likely to be involved in Jewish causes or communities. Still, the same survey showed that 94% of us are proud to be Jewish.
In the end, actions speak louder than words. In an October editorial in response to the Pew survey, Jane Eisner wrote: “A Jew is what a Jew does.”
All across the country, young Jews are working to improve their communities. We want to find those people and share their stories.
We’re looking for The Do-ers.
We’re looking for young Jews between the ages of 16 to 26 who are impacting their community in a significant way. This can be a geographic community, ethnic community, religious community, identity-based community, etc.
Whether it’s launching an after-school program in an underserved neighborhood, creating a Torah-themed comic strip or striving to document recipes from the Old Country, the work they’re doing must be informed by their Jewish identity. Nominations close June 7.
Ever since Pew published its new study of American Jews last week, we’ve been hearing a lot about what Jews aren’t.
Jews aren’t as religious as they used to be. They don’t go to synagogue as often. Jews aren’t marrying other Jews or raising their kids Jewish or affiliating with the Conservative movement.
Here at the Forward, we think that what’s been missing from the conversation is an exploration of what Jews are. Ninety-four percent of all Jews are proud of being Jewish. Even among demographic groups that don’t send their kids to Jewish summer camps or attend Passover Seders in overwhelming numbers, the vast majority says they’re proud of their Judaism. Only 24% of Jewish 18 to 29 year olds say they always or usually light Shabbat candles; 96% of that young demographic say they are proud to be Jewish.
So what does it mean to be proud to be Jewish if you don’t light Shabbat candles? You tell us.
We’re looking for Jews who have their own real connection with Jewish life.
The mom who struggles to bring her kids up Jewish in the age of Miley Cyrus. The guy who doesn’t celebrate Hanukkah, but plays Klezmer-influenced hip-hop at a go-go bar in Queens. The woman who sees her Palestinian solidarity activism as an extension of her Jewish background. The old-timer whose Texan synagogue needs him to make a minyan. For the teenager obsessed with artisanal gefilte fish even though she’s never set foot on Orchard Street.
Help us find the 94%. Tell us the stories of today’s proud American Jews. Tell us who they are, describe what they do that’s important to all of us and we may feature them in an upcoming issue of the Forward.
Let us know your name, your email, and the name and story of the person you are submitting in the form below.
Almost two thirds of Palestinians think that a third intifada is round the corner if the current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks fail, according to a new poll.
The Palestinian Center for Public Opinion asked Arab residents of the West Bank and Gaza whether they “anticipate the outbreak of a third Intifada in case the peace process ends in failure” and found that 58.4% do. Only 26% said no, and the remaining 15.6% declined to answer.
The results of this poll are noteworthy not only because they underscore that the Palestinian public sees the negotiations as a high-stake exercise, but also because they point to a gulf between the declared position of the leadership and the public. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said repeatedly that there will be no third intifada as long as he is in power.
It’s unclear from the poll whether the 58.4% that foresees an intifada if talks fail think that Abbas would break his word, or believe that the breakdown of negotiations would discredit Abbas and force him to resign.
There’s a classic story in my family about the time many years ago when we sat around the table at Aunt Sarah’s house loudly debating what it meant to be a Jew in America. Bubbe Esther, my husband’s grandmother, sat quietly in the corner until someone thought to ask her.
How do you define being a Jew, Bubbe?
I’ll never forget her answer: A Jew is what a Jew does.
For the religiously observant, Yiddish-speaking immigrants of her generation, the outlines of what “doing Jewish” meant were clear and defined. But no such clarity existed for my generation, and my children’s. Ever since I became editor of the Forward in 2008, I became more and more convinced that too many people claimed to speak for American Jews politically, religiously and culturally without much proof for their assertions. The surveys that existed were suspect. The last major one, the 2000 National Jewish Population Survey, was so rife with problems that the version expected in 2010 was cancelled.
There’s a reason why this was a long, complicated and expensive undertaking: Jews comprise such a small percentage of the American population but are so diverse and dispersed that surveyors must reach out to an incredible number of people just to ascertain a representative sample. An even larger task was deciding how to categorize Jews. Are we a religion? An ethnic group? A modern tribe? All of the above?
That’s when I approached some folks I knew at the Pew Research Center with the idea of conducting one of their trademark national surveys on a group they’d never researched in the past in such detail — American Jews. Or, as Pew refers to us, Jewish Americans.
It isn’t news that American Jews overwhelmingly support legalizing gay marriage. But a new survey out today puts that level of support at 81%, a few notches higher than previous polls.
An older survey conducted last May by the same polling group, the Public Religion Research Institute, pegged American Jewish support for same-sex marriage at 76%.
About half of all Americans support same-sex marriage.
“I was struck that the numbers were that high nationally, but I’m not shocked by them,” said Idit Klein, executive director of Keshet, a gay and lesbian Jewish advocacy group, said of the new survey.
Marriages between gay and lesbian Jews are increasingly accepted by Jewish religious groups. Reform Judaism officially announced its support for gay marriage 1990s, and Conservative Judaism in 2006. No Orthodox groups accept same sex marriage, though the issue of homosexuality has been the subject of increased debate among the Modern Orthodox.