The first major survey of American Jews in more than 10 years finds a significant rise in those who are not religious, marry outside the faith and are not raising their children Jewish — resulting in rapid assimilation that is sweeping through every branch of Judaism except the Orthodox.
The intermarriage rate has reached a high of 58 percent for all Jews, and 71 percent for non-Orthodox Jews — a huge change from before 1970 when only 17 percent of Jews married outside the faith. Two-thirds of Jews do not belong to a synagogue, one-fourth do not believe in God and one-third had a Christmas tree in their home last year.
"It's a very grim portrait of the health of the American Jewish population in terms of their Jewish identification," said Jack Wertheimer, a professor of American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.
The survey, by the Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project, found that despite the declines in religious identity and participation, American Jews say they are proud to be Jewish and have a "strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people."
While 69 percent say they feel an emotional attachment to Israel, and 40 percent believe the land that is now Israel was "given to the Jewish people by God," only 17 percent think that the continued building of settlements in the West Bank is helpful to Israel's security.
The survey estimates there are 5.3 million Jewish adults as well as 1.3 million children being raised at least partly Jewish.
Steven Cohen, a sociologist of American Jewry at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, and a paid consultant on the poll, said the report foretold "a sharply declining non-Orthodox population in the second half of the 21st century, and a rising fraction of Jews who are Orthodox."
The survey also portends "growing polarization" between religious and nonreligious Jews, said Laurence Kotler-Berkowitz, senior director of research and analysis at the Jewish Federations of North America.
The 3,475 respondents were interviewed on landlines and cellphones from Feb. 20 to June 13. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points.