Most Israelis approve of Reform, Conservative conversions

Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry’s survey sheds light on attitudes toward Diaspora Jewry.

September 28, 2010 02:03
4 minute read.
POTENTIAL CONVERTS attend a Jewish studies class. The conversion bill is meant to make their transit

Conversion 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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Sixty-eight percent of Israeli Jews believe intermarried Jews should be considered part of the Jewish people, 63% approve of non-Orthodox conversions, and 67% are against allowing Israelis residing abroad the right to vote in general elections, according to a survey released Monday by the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry.

The survey, commissioned to gauge Israelis’ perceptions of the Diaspora, was conducted by the Shiluv Milward Brown market research group in late August among a representative sample of 507 adult Jewish Israelis. It asked a series of questions about the Diaspora and the Israeli government’s policies toward it. A survey analysis broke the numbers down according to self-reported religious affiliation.

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When asked how important Diaspora Jewry was to the State of Israel and how important Diaspora Jews were to the participants on an individual level, the results showed that 68% of the population felt that Diaspora Jewry was either “very important” (37%) or “extremely important” (31%) to the State of Israel, but only 42% said it was important to them as individuals.

The survey revealed that in both cases, the level of importance attributed to Diaspora Jewry was higher the more religious the respondents were, with 59% of those who identified themselves as religious stating that Diaspora Jewry was very or extremely important to them on a personal level, compared to 38% among secular respondents.

When it came to the question of Israel investing funds in activities in the Diaspora, 84% of the respondents said they were aware of Israel’s investment and a total of 94% said that Israel should indeed invest money in those activities to some degree.

Sixteen percent said the investment should be “small,” 30% said the investment should be “medium,” 29% said the investment should be “large” and 13% said it should be “very large.”

In this case, too, religious people tended to be more generous, with 58% stating that the investment should be “large or “very large” compared to 39% among the secular.

On the issue of supporting Diaspora communities in the face of anti-Semitic events, a vast majority, 90%, said Israel should provide some sort of assistance, with 52% saying Israel should offer general diplomatic and advocacy measures and 38% stating that Israel should act in a more pointed way in places where the phenomenon exists. Among religious Jews, the survey found a preference for more particular actions.

When asked whether Israel should encourage aliya for Diaspora Jews living in places where anti-Semitism exists, a majority responded positively, with 38% saying Israel should make some effort to encourage immigration and 57% saying it should do everything possible to encourage it.

While Israelis seemed to be willing to invest in the relationship with world Jewry, they were less prepared to do so when it came to Israeli expatriates.

Some 57% of the respondents said that Israel should make an effort to maintain relationships with expatriates only if it didn’t require state expenditure, while only 32% said the state should invest funds in maintaining the relationship.

Sixty-seven percent of the respondents said that Israelis living abroad should not have the right to vote in general elections.

A majority of the survey participants (68%) responded positively when asked whether Jews living abroad who had married non-Jews should be considered part of the Jewish people. However the proportion of people who answered “yes” changed according to the level of religious affiliation.

Among secular respondents, the number stood at 78%, but it shrank to 57% for people who identified as traditional, and dropped down to 45% among those who described themselves as religious.

The same pattern emerged on the question of non-Orthodox conversions. When asked whether people who converted to Judaism outside of the Orthodox system should be considered part of the Jewish people, 82% of secular Jews, 42% of traditional Jews and 12% of religious Jews answered “yes.”

The survey was conducted as part of the ministry’s efforts to encourage the connection between Israelis and Diaspora Jewry and strengthen Diaspora ties to Israelis.

“The findings show that we in the political and media sphere perceive a more cynical and pessimistic picture than is reflected in the public. Israelis see the great importance in the Diaspora Jewry, are aware of the state’s investment in them and support continued investment,” said Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein.

“I find encouragement in the findings of this survey for our ministry’s activities,” he added.

“Over the last year, we have engaged in many projects aimed at strengthening the ties with world Jewry and basing the ministry as their contact point in the Israeli government.”

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